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Childish Gambino accused of ripping off earlier track on This Is America

By | Published on Friday 7 May 2021

Childish Gambino

A Miami-based rapper called Kidd Wes – real name Emelike Nwosuocha – has sued Childish Gambino – or Donald Glover if you prefer – claiming that the latter’s 2018 hit ‘This Is America’ ripped off his earlier track ‘Made In America’.

Nwosuocha released his track on SoundCloud and YouTube in 2016, registering it with the US Copyright Office the following year. Then in 2018, Glover released his much acclaimed record, accompanied by a similarly acclaimed video.

Glover’s hit, Nwosuocha’s new lawsuit states, “is centered on a chorus, or ‘hook’, wherein defendant Glover recorded his vocal performance of the rapping of the chorus’s lyrics while employing a distinct and unique vocal cadence, delivery, rhythm, timing, phrasing, meter and/or pattern – or a ‘flow’, as the various elements making up a vocal performance are known and referred to in the realm of hip hop music”.

“The distinctive flow employed in defendant Glover’s recorded performance”, it then claims, “is unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical, to the distinct and unique flow that was employed by Nwosuocha in recording his vocal performance of his rapping of the hook to his copyrighted work”.

“The lyrical theme, content, and structure of the identically-performed choruses are also glaringly similar”, the lawsuit adds. “The unmissable substantial similarity of the two flows used in the songs’ respective hooks, as augmented by the two hooks’ substantially similar structure and lyrical content, is striking to an extent beyond coincidence and is accordingly audible to the average lay person who listens to both songs”.

Seeking to prove that latter point, the lawsuit then quotes some online comments made on both SoundCloud and YouTube by listeners remarking on how similar Glover’s record is to Nwosuocha’s earlier work.

And, of course, that’s then backed up by one of those musicologists who says that, not only are there “distinct similarities in melodic contour” and the “rhythmic triplet flow in each performance”, but both songs – and their accompanying videos – also have similar themes and make use of similar imagery. “These similarities are likely not coincidences”, the musicologist concludes.

Although the lawsuit doesn’t propose a specific explanation for how Glover and his collaborators might have accessed the earlier track, it points out that it was available on SoundCloud and YouTube while they were making their record. It then stresses again that key allegation that the similarities between the two tracks are too striking to be a mere coincidence.

Nwosuocha is suing Glover and his collaborators and business partners for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.