In a legal battle that’s making headlines, Terence Thomas, known as Master Tee, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit related to the legendary track ‘Dear Mama’ by the late rapper Tupac. In an article featured on Xttrawave, Tupac is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, and his song, released 28 years ago, ‘Dear Mama’ remains a timeless classic, but it’s now at the center of a legal dispute.
Master Tee, credited as a producer on the track, alleges a conspiracy involving producer Tony D. Pizarro, record label Interscope, and parent company Universal Music Group (UMG) to obscure his role in creating the song. This alleged conspiracy has deprived Master Tee of his rightful publishing royalties as a co-writer.
Master Tee’s complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 18, accuses Pizarro, Interscope, and UMG of misappropriating his publishing copyright and master recording copyright for ‘Dear Mama.’
‘Dear Mama,’ the lead single from Tupac’s third studio album ‘Me Against The World,’ is a triple-platinum hip-hop classic. It’s one of only three hip-hop tracks to be inducted into the Library of Congress registry, praised for its moving tribute to Tupac’s own mother and all mothers facing challenges like addiction, poverty, and societal indifference.
The song gained renewed attention this year as the inspiration for a five-part docuseries, ‘Dear Mama,’ exploring Tupac’s relationship with his mother, Afeni Shakur. The series, available for streaming on Hulu, even earned Tupac a Grammy nomination in the best music film category.
The lawsuit involves additional defendants, including The Walt Disney Company, Hulu, Fox Entertainment, FX Networks, NBC Universal, and entertainment company El Matador, due to their involvement in the docuseries. Allen Hughes, the series’ director, and Joshua’s Dream Music, the publishing company for Tupac Shakur’s estate, are also named defendants.
Master Tee, a New York City bus driver for 26 years, claims he only recently realized the shortfall in his royalties after watching the ‘Dear Mama’ series. The complaint argues that the three-year limit on filing a copyright infringement claim should not apply in this case since Master Tee learned of the alleged infringement this year.
The complaint provides evidence of Master Tee’s involvement in creating ‘Dear Mama,’ including a 1996 interview where Tupac stated that “Master Tee gave me the beat” for the song. A handwritten note from Tupac and a demo of ‘Dear Mama’ also support Master Tee’s claims.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Master Tee is a co-writer and co-publisher of ‘Dear Mama,’ an injunction preventing defendants from collecting royalties until the case is resolved, an accounting of the money owed to Master Tee, and damages for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and theft of intellectual property.
This legal battle adds a new chapter to the enduring legacy of ‘Dear Mama’ and highlights the complexities of the music industry when it comes to recognizing and compensating all contributors to iconic songs.