Being a celebrity isn’t always a pleasant experience. One issue that arises is how to deal with acquaintances who predate the fame. For Iggy Azalea, that means battling a former boyfriend who has brought forward her unreleased music and word of a purported sex tape. She’s now choosing to combat this nightmare situation by unleashing legal fury on him.
The story begins in March 2008, when the pop superstar, born Amethyst Kelly, was a 17-year-old Australian living at a hotel in Houston, Texas. According to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in California federal court, she was working on her music at the time when she met an older man named Maurice Williams (aka rapper Jefe Wine), who said he was a partner in an oil company. He soon put Azalea up in an apartment, says the complaint. What Azalea didn’t know then, she says, was that Williams was already married with children.
Williams followed Azalea when she moved to Atlanta in 2009, according to the lawsuit, and he moved into her house. Around that time, “Williams downloaded the entire contents of Azalea’s personal computer,” including unreleased master recordings.
Flash-forward to July 24, 2014, when a press release hit the wire announcing a joint venture among Primco, ESMG, Top Sail and Wine Enterprises, Inc., claiming that they had “secured the rights” to release an EP by Azalea titled Inizio. The press release quoted Williams as saying, “We believe the merger will be monumental because the projects that we have coming down the pipeline are going to shock the world!”
According to Azalea’s lawsuit, the music derived from her unreleased masters and constitutes violations of her copyright, trademark, name and likeness. She’s also alleging conversion of stolen information from her computer.
In August, just as Azalea was experiencing new stardom from “Fancy,” the summer’s hottest single, songs from I” began appearing on iTunes, the Google Play store, Pandora, Spotify and elsewhere.
The pop musician and Universal Music reacted by sending out cease-and-desist letters. The retailers bowed to the demand for removal, but suddenly the situation became even more troublesome.
Although Azalea’s lawsuit is silent on the subject of a sex tape, TMZ began making noise last week about one allegedly featuring Azalea. Carefully, the tabloid site didn’t say it had actually obtained such a sex tape. Instead, TMZ quoted Vivid’s Steven Hirsch as having seen it. Later, TMZ hedged about whether it was really her, and finally, TMZ quoted Williams as saying he had an agreement that gave him exclusive rights to “manufacture, sell, distribute and advertise ‘any’ recording embodying visual images” of Azalea’s.
Azalea has a retort — it’s a forgery.
The complaint obtained by The Hollywood Reporter explains that around the time that Williams was living with Azalea in Atlanta, he introduced her to a man named Kareem Chapman as a potential manager. Shortly thereafter, Azalea signed an artist management agreement with Chapman’s firm. Williams allegedly kept Azalea’s copy.
That old agreement has allegedly been transformed into a “music recording and composition agreement” with sly finger work on Williams’ part.
“The Forged Agreement contains tell-tale signs that it is not genuine,” states the lawsuit. “For example, it includes mismatched fonts on the signature page, paragraph numbers out of sequence, a signature line for ‘Wine Enterprises, inc.’ [sic] (rather than for an authorized agent), and provides, as an address for legal notices, the contact information of an attorney who had no prior knowledge of the Forged Agreement.”
So now Azalea asserts that Williams really has no real rights to her music and is suing him for violating copyright on such songs as “It Ain’t Tricking,” “U Ain’t My Daddy,” “Take My Picture,” “Red Bottoms,” “Supernova” and “Miss International.”
She’s also seeking a declaration that he and companies doing business with him have no right to use the “Iggy Azalea” mark or to control commercial uses of her name and likeness.
Again, there is no mention in the lawsuit of the supposed sex tape, but interestingly, the complaint mentions that the defendants came out with “promotional videos featuring an impersonator of Azalea.”
Williams couldn’t be reached for comment. According to the lawsuit filed by attorneys Howard King and Stephen Rothschild, the oil company that Williams mentioned to Azalia when the two met has been ordered to pay civil penalties of $3.6 million for “operating in a manner akin to a Ponzi scheme.”