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6 YEARS

All Eyez on Tupac: Late Rapper's Lyrics Cited in 9th Circuit Review of Malicious Prosecution Case

Tupac Profane lyrics written by the late Tupac Shakur feature prominently in a 9th Circuit decision released Friday, with a three-judge panel disagreeing over whether they are evidence that two record labels maliciously prosecuted the late anti-"gangsta rap" crusader DeLores Tucker.

We won't quote verbatim from the lyrics to the songs "How Do U Want It" and "U Wonda Why They Call U Bitch" on Tupac's 1996 album "All Eyez on Me" (the curious can find them here and here) but suffice to say that they address Tucker directly. Tupac recorded the album for Death Row Records and Interscope Records distributed it.

According to Tucker's estate, the lyrics show Death Row and Interscope had a malicious intent when they both sued her in 1995 for interfering in their contractual relationship. Tucker, who died in 2005, filed a malicious prosecution case against both labels shortly after they dismissed their suits.

But in upholding a trial judge's dismissal of Tucker's suit, a 2-1 majority of the 9th Circuit said the lyrics were "simply not probative of either [label's] subjective intent in filing the underlying litigation" and "calling out an individual in lyrics -- even if done so in a shocking and degrading way -- does not present any of the 'hallmark[s]' of a lawsuit brought for an improper purpose."

In a partial dissent, Judge John T. Noonan read the lyrics differently:

The two songs made by Tupac under the Death Row record label during the litigation demonstrate the strongest antipathy to Tucker, who is assailed in vile language. A jury could well conclude, If this evidence does not exhibit malice, what would?