Last year, hip-hop superstar Drake released a song, “Marvin’s Room,” that quickly went viral and prompted various remixes by fellow artists intrigued by the depiction of a young woman on a phone call as the rapper drunkenly croons, “You could do better.”
Now, Ericka Lee, revealing herself to be Drake’s ex-girlfriend, has stepped up, saying she was the voice on the other end of the phone call. The woman is now suing Drake for excluding her from sharing co-writer royalties on one of his biggest recent hits.
Lee filed the lawsuit on Thursday in California federal court claiming the two had a romantic and business partnership between early 2010 and mid-2011. During the relationship, the two are said to have traded poems and song lyrics and discussed joint creative projects.
Last year, Drake allegedly agreed to work with Lee on “Marvin’s Room” and split the proceeds. Lee says she was asked to record the song’s “hook” as well as the opening monologue that would serve as the thematic framework for a song about Drake’s yearning for an ex-girlfriend and how his fame interfered with his love life. “Plaintiff’s contribution is highly significant to the overall work,” says the complaint.
Drake supposedly acknowledged Lee’s contributions in text messages sent to her. One read, “U basically made that song.” Another read, “It’s s–t without you.”
Drake purportedly gave Lee credit as a “vocalist” on the song as “Syren Lyric Muse.” Additionally, the parties are said to have registered the sound recording at the U.S. Copyright Office. On July 11, Lee made a claim there, saying, “My works and voice are used on this work.” About six weeks later, Drake’s label, Cash Money Records made its own claim, saying that the song author was an “employer for hire.”
Lee reports that after the song was released, their relationship ended and got ugly fast. The two discussed meeting in Los Angeles, but it never happened. According to the complaint, Drake later sent a text message to Lee that offered her 2 percent of “publishing royalties.”
By November, Lee hired a lawyer, which allegedly caused Drake to make threatening phone calls. “What the f— is your problem?” he said to her, according to the complaint, then offering her “4-5%” of publishing monies plus a $50,000 payout to go away.
Instead, Lee has filed a lawsuit over “Marvin’s Room,” which has been viewed more than 39 million times on YouTube. She demands a judge declare her as co-writer of the song. She’s also seeking damages and disgorgement of profits on allegations of breach of fiduciary duties and unjust enrichment. Lee is represented by Neville Johnson, who previously filed a lawsuit against Drake on behalf of Playboy Enterprises for sampling an unauthorized sound recording it owned on “Best I Ever Had.”
Drake’s reps gave us this comment:
“This claim is entirely without merit and our client has not engaged in any wrongful conduct. Ericka Lee consented to the use of her voice in the song ‘Marvin’s Room’ prior to its release. Lee asked only for the credit she received as ‘Syren Lyric Muse,’ and she did not ask for any compensation. It was only after she retained a lawyer that there was a demand for payment. Drake tried for months to resolve the matter amicably, and he now looks forward to being vindicated in court.”
Here’s the video to “Marvin’s Room”: