5 Legendary Feuds Between Artists and Record Labels
Prince changed his name, Neil Young sued for millions — and that's just the beginning.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Prince vs. Warner Bros.
In 1993, matters between Prince and his label nearly came to legal blows, as he changed his name to a glyph in an attempt to escape his contract. The engagement continued tumultuously until he finally fulfilled his release obligations with 1996's Chaos and Disorder. Winner: Draw
Neil Young vs. Geffen
After the failure of Young's Everybody's Rockin' in 1983, David Geffen sued Young for $3.3 million, saying that the album and its predecessor were not "commercial." The rocker countersued for $21 million, Geffen apologized, both suits were dropped. And in 1988, Young returned to Geffen's label. Winner: Neil Young
Dr. Dre vs. Death Row Records
A founder of Death Row Records, Dr. Dre left the label in 1996, concerned with its direction. Years later, following his bankruptcy, Dre successfully sued the label in 2011 for a failure to pay royalties on his work there, including his influential debut solo album, The Chronic. Winner: Dre
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Nas vs. Def Jam
In an email with the subject "PUT MY SHIT OUT!" Nas scorned Def Jam in 2010 for not releasing the follow-up to his 2002 compilation The Lost Tapes. "Nas is NOBODY's slave," he wrote. "Stop being your own worst enemy. Let's get money!" While Lost Tapes Vol. 2 hasn't been released, Nas' Life Is Good, his last album for the label, bowed last year. Winner: Def Jam
George Michael vs. Epic
Michael accused his label of failing to vigorously promote his second solo release. He wanted out of his contract and brought a class-action suit that tried to shake the industry's foundation of multirecord deals. Michael called his situation "professional slavery," but a judge in 1994 decided otherwise. Winner: Epic