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Chris Brown accused of ripping off dancehall track on Privacy

By | Published on Thursday 8 July 2021

Chris Brown

UK-based music firm Greensleeves has sued Chris Brown claiming that his 2017 single ‘Privacy’ pretty much lifted a line from the 1997 dancehall track ‘Tight Up Skirt’, which was recorded by Red Rat and which Greensleeves publishes.

In the lawsuit, filed with the courts in New York, which also names Brown’s label Sony Music as a defendant, Greensleeves writes: “With the participation and resources of Sony, and pursuant to the agreements between [Brown] and Sony, [Brown] wrote, performed and recorded a musical work entitled ‘Privacy’, the infringing work. In creating the infringing work, [Brown] took the core musical feature of ‘Tight Up Skirt’ and used it prominently in the infringing work without permission”.

Providing more detail about the “core musical feature” that the two songs have in common, the lawsuit continues: “‘Tight Up Skirt’ and the infringing work share a similar primary identifying feature. In both songs, this is a melody containing the lyrics ‘hey your girl inna di tight upskirt’ and ‘hey you girl without a tight upskirt’, respectively. This similar melody begins each chorus section in both songs. This shared structural placement is significant and adds to the prominence of the similar melody in both songs”.

The fact that both tracks share the similar line has been noted before, including by Red Rat himself. As DancehallMag notes, he told the Jamaica Observer in 2017: “Ever since Chris Brown was in the studio recording the song ‘Privacy’ and posted it on social media, I have been getting many calls left and right from many people asking me about my thoughts regarding him sampling ‘Tight Up Skirt’, and all I can say is, ‘give God all the glory'”.

“I think that”, he went on, “Chris Brown, who is one of the biggest pop stars globally, feeling the need to sample a piece of ‘Tight Up Skirt’, only shows how much he loves and respects Red Rat and [the] catalogue. It also shows how much of a fan he is to the music”.

So it doesn’t sound much like Red Rat had a problem with Brown borrowing his ‘Tight Up Skirt’ lyric. Interestingly, Red Rat isn’t mentioned once in the Greensleeves lawsuit, nor is the original track’s producer Andrew Bradford.

Traditionally in the Jamaican music industry, the country’s studio producers also basically acted as the labels signing up the rights in the music they produced. Although many of those producers would then enter into deals with the likes of VP Records and Greensleeves – which ultimately merged – in order to distribute their recordings into the US and Europe.

Asked by DancehallMag about ‘Tight Up Skirt’ and the new lawsuit against Brown, Bradford said: “I did license it to VP and Greensleeves dem time de. At that time, they were two separate companies. Couple years ago, Rat called me about the tune, and Rat told me that VP owned the master rights, but as far as I know, in the 90s, we producers never used to license exclusively to Greensleeves and VP. I have to get a lawyer and go through the contracts and know what is what”.

So, that could be an interesting sideshow as the Greensleeves litigation goes through the motions. The publisher is seeking at least $1.5 million in damages from Brown and his label.

For Brown, the Greensleeves litigation itself will possibly be a sideshow, given that his lawyers are already busy dealing with another lawsuit just filed by the musician’s former housekeeper over allegations she was violently attacked by his dog while working at his Californian home last December.