Notorious B.I.G. LP Sales Halted Over Sample; New Team Probes Rapper's Murder

Ohio Players suit leads to Ready to Die ban; LAPD investigates 1997 shooting.

If you got the urge to pick up a copy of the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1994 debut, Ready to Die, over the weekend, you were out of luck.

A judge halted sales of the late rapper's breakthrough album on Friday after a jury decided that the title track used a sample of the Ohio Players song "Singing in the Morning" without permission, according to The Associated Press.

The jury also awarded $4.2 million in damages to the two companies that own the rights to Ohio Players recordings on Friday as U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell called for a sales ban to hit not just physical sales of the album and title song, but downloads and radio plays as well.

"We've just been battling this for such a long time," said Armen Boladian, owner of Westbound and Bridgeport, the company that holds the song rights — which has filed more than 400 suits over sampling, most settled out of court. "So many have been settled because companies didn't want anything to do with it, and we knew we were right."

The jury in the B.I.G. case found that Bad Boy Entertainment and executive producer and boss Sean "Diddy" Combs illegally used a part of the Players' "Singing in the Morning" on the album considered one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time. Ready to Die contains a number of samples, from snatches of Curtis Mayfield's "Supafly" in the intro to Dr. Dre's "Lil Ghetto Boy" in "Things Done Changed" and Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" in the hit "Juicy," but the liner notes do not list the Ohio Players song as one of those samples.

Though the estate of B.I.G. was originally named in the suit, it was dropped as a defendant. The remaining defendants, Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment, Bad Boy LLC, Justin Combs Publishing and Universal Records, plan to appeal the verdict. "We think [the verdict] is without merit," attorney Jay Bowen said, according to the AP.

And nearly a decade after the 24-year-old rapper was gunned down on the streets of Los Angeles in a still unsolved murder, the Los Angeles Police Department has assigned a new team of detectives to investigate the 1997 slaying.

Assistant City Attorney Don Vincent told city council members on Thursday that the new team was assigned to revisit the case after the department was ordered to pay a $1.1 million judgment to Biggie's family in January in a suit that alleged officers' involvement in the killing (see "Notorious B.I.G.'s Family Awarded $1.1 Million From City Of L.A.").

Biggie's family alleged in the suit that his murder was arranged by rogue LAPD officer David Mack on behalf of Death Row Records chief Marion "Suge" Knight, and that the department covered up Mack's involvement. The case ended in a mistrial when police found previously undisclosed statements linking Mack to the killing, and the judge ruled that the evidence was deliberately concealed (see "Notorious B.I.G. Wrongful-Death Case Declared A Mistrial"). A new trial could be scheduled later this year.

Vincent said the new investigative group is following up on leads in an effort to finally crack the case, but he said they haven't found evidence of police involvement so far, the AP reports.