Mr Eazi Calls On Bad Bunny To Give Joeboy His Publishing — And For The Music Industry To Respect African Creators
African music superstar and emPawa Africa founder Oluwatosin Ajibade, popularly known as Mr Eazi, is demanding Bad Bunny and his record company, Rimas Music, credit and restore rights to emPawa Africa artist Joeboy and emPawa Africa producer Dëra following illegal use of their music on Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti.
“Enséñame a Bailar,” an afrobeats track from the Puerto Rican music superstar’s multi-platinum, Grammy-winning 2022 album, contains various elements of the 2021 song “Empty My Pocket,” written and recorded by Joeboy and produced by Dëra (also known as Dëra Boy).
The track interpolates Joeboy’s “Empty My Pocket” melodies and utilizes Dëra’s composition throughout, directly sampling Joeboy’s “Empty My Pocket” vocals in its coda. Yet “Enséñame a Bailar” was released in May of 2022 without credit to Joeboy or clearance from emPawa Africa, which is both Joeboy’s record label and publisher.
After nine months of efforts to resolve these issues privately ceded no result, Mr Eazi and emPawa Africa are issuing a public demand that Bad Bunny and Rimas Music grant Joeboy publishing, songwriting and feature credits on “Enséñame a Bailar,” and credit Dëra as the track’s co-producer.
“The team at emPawa Africa have attempted to sort this issue amicably since May of last year with our mutual legal teams,” Mr Eazi said. “But the intent of Rimas Music is clearly to blatantly appropriate young African creators’ work for their gain without attribution.”
emPawa Publishing, the publishing arm of emPawa Africa, and its administrator, Kobalt, have placed the publishing on “Enséñame a Bailar” in dispute, meaning all payouts on publishing revenue from the track will be halted until the dispute is resolved.
“Our asks have been the same since the beginning,” added Ikenna Nwagboso, Co-Founder and Head of Label Services, Distribution and Publishing with emPawa Africa. “Give Joeboy his credit, publishing and royalties on the song, and give Dëra a producer credit alongside those already given to Bad Bunny’s producers.”
However, despite an initial call and email exchanges with Rimas where there was never any dispute that Joeboy and Dëra were entitled to publishing, Rimas has failed to negotiate in good faith with emPawa Africa in order to regularize its infringing rights.
“Unfortunately this is part of a broader pattern we see in how the wider music industry approaches the IP [intellectual property] of African artists,” said Mr Eazi, noting a history dating back to Michael Jackson’s adaptation of Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” (on Thriller’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”), and the resulting litigation. “Afrobeats has become a global phenomenon, and everybody wants to sample a piece of it. Unfortunately, afrobeats artists, their producers and labels often have to pursue legal means to secure publishing and royalties after songs they originally created are co-opted without credit by other artists.”
Mr Eazi and Bad Bunny previously collaborated on “Como Un Bebé,” from J Balvin and Bad Bunny’s joint 2019 album, Oasis. That track, produced by Nigeria’s Legundury Beatz, is considered by Mr Eazi to be one of the earliest and purest examples of afrobeats being adapted for the Latin/reggaeton market, making this recent development all the more puzzling.“I founded emPawa Africa to protect and support African creative entrepreneurs and artists with a virtuous ecosystem, believing that afrobeats and afropop would be today what we wished then it would become,” Mr Eazi says. “We will not accept Bad Bunny and Rimas denying Joeboy and Dëra credits and a share in the ownership of a song they wrote, composed and, in Joeboy’s case, even performed on.”