Irv Gotti’s business partners finished their latest round of fighting Friday in a New York federal court. Music label Island/Def Jam and company CEO Lyor Cohen were found liable for fraud, willful copyright infringement and wrongful interference with a contract in a $30 million lawsuit filed against them by TVT Records.
At the eye of the storm were claims TVT had made, saying that Cohen tried to hinder the production and release of an album by Ja Rule’s group, the Cash Money Click (a.k.a. CMC).
“The verdict against Mr. Cohen, personally, for fraud shows that there are some very serious problems confronting Def Jam and Universal Music Group,” said Peter Haviland, a trial lawyer for TVT Records.
A spokesperson for Def Jam said the label had no comment.
CMC, which also includes Murder Inc. members 0-1 and Chris Black, put two singles out on TVT in the mid-’90s, but plans for an album were halted after Black went to prison. TVT’s attorney said the label amicably agreed to release Ja Rule in 1998, when Gotti went on to form Murder Inc. at Def Jam. O-1 and Chris Black, however, are still signed to TVT. In late 2001, Gotti brokered a one-time deal for an LP by the trio on TVT, with a spring 2002 release date. Although the three began recording it, the album has never seen the light of day.
“Ja Rule still wants to put out this record with Black and 0-1,” Haviland said Tuesday. “A bunch of the recordings have been made, but they weren’t mastered.”
TVT alleges that Cohen conspired to halt the LP’s production. The jury hearing the lawsuit is scheduled to reconvene April 28 to determine what TVT is owed.
Despite CMC’s future being in limbo, the Rule, of course, has not stopped hitting the studio, as he has been working on a solo record due in November. In the video for his newest single, “The Reign,” not only does Ja indicate that his Murder Inc. culture is inching toward its final downfall, he himself meets an untimely demise. In the clip, which was directed by Irv Gotti, Murder Inc. dramatizes last year’s federal raid of its New York offices.
After an informant gives a police officer, played by, of all people, “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze, some tips about “The World’s Most Talented Label,” the police and Feds take a trip to the Inc.’s headquarters. The raid takes Ja and Gotti by surprise, and the two are carted off to jail. A trial ensues and the music-making duo are eventually found innocent.
While celebrating on the courtroom steps, the same informant apparently shoots Ja, but not before pictures of slain icons Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. flash across the screen. The words “Hip-Hop is dying … reach for peace” appear before the final fade-out.
In real life, Ja and Gotti weren’t present when the Feds searched their offices and confiscated computers and documents late last year, but the Inc. has decided it needs a change of scenery. The label is in the process of relocating from its housing within Def Jam’s midtown Manhattan offices (see “Murder Inc. Offices Raid By Feds” ).
The video for “The Reign” debuted Monday night.