Kevin Federline’s new anti-media track, “America’s Most Hated,” is indeed harvesting hatred, but not from who you might expect.
New-wave trailblazer Thomas Dolby is considering taking legal action against K-Fed for violating copyright law by using his 1983 smash, “She Blinded Me With Science,” in the song.
“You can’t just take a very well-known piece of music and add your own vitriolic rap over the top of it and get away with it,” Dolby told MTV News on Wednesday (April 5). “If anybody’s going to sing nasty lyrics over my music, it’s going to be me.”
“America’s Most Hated,” which Federline recently debuted on his MySpace page, actually samples Mobb Deep’s “Got It Twisted,” which sampled “She Blinded Me With Science.”
“Mobb Deep came to me and asked for a license,” said Dolby, who was paid a fee and receives royalties for Mobb Deep’s song. “We issue licenses all the time, for movies and TV shows and so on. I was aware of the Mobb Deep one, but I certainly never issued a license to Kevin Federline.”
Dolby caught wind of the expletive-filled song, which begins with the line “This is for the haters,” through a fan’s posting on his own Web site’s forum and made a plea to Federline on his blog.
“I considered turning a blind eye to it other than, as I mentioned on my site, asking him politely to take it down,” Dolby said. “But I found out today that it aired on VH1 last week. So it’s more than just an MP3 download. It’s airing on TV, and there’s no question it’s taken from the Mobb Deep record. It’s like what Vanilla Ice did with ‘Ice Ice Baby’ [illegally sampling Queen and David Bowie's 'Under Pressure'], although I think Vanilla Ice is a superstar compared to this guy.”
Federline’s management had no comment on the song but said it was removed from his MySpace page Wednesday.
Dolby, meanwhile, has handed the issue over to his lawyers.
“When you sample, there’s two copyrights: the recording and the underlying composition,” he said. “If somebody samples a cover of ‘Smoke on the Water,’ you can’t use that and not owe anything to Deep Purple. The music industry has a legal precedent for all of this. In the early days, no one really understood it, but now it’s a very streamlined process. Mobb Deep and most of the people do it the right way, but for some reason, Mr. Federline thought he was above the law.”
Had Federline come to him for permission, however, Dolby said he likely would not have licensed the song.
“I wouldn’t have turned it down because of who he is,” he explained. “I knew nothing about him, quite frankly, and just because he gets a bad rap in the press doesn’t make him a bad guy. But just on the merits of the song, I would have said no. … The lyrics are pretty evil, and I just don’t think it was appropriate.”
In his blog, Dolby said Mobb Deep’s copyright was also violated, but the label that released the song (Jive Records) is also home to Federline’s wife and they “don’t want to rock the Britney boat so they are turning a blind eye.” A Jive spokesperson, however, said lawyers were looking into the issue.
Dolby, who left music in the early ’90s to launch Beatnik Inc., a leading provider of ring-tone technology, said the matter has come at an unfortunate time because he should be spending his time rehearsing. Next week he hits the road for the first time in nearly 15 years.
“The company I started is doing pretty well and doesn’t need me anymore, so it seemed like a good time to come back to music, which was always my intention,” he said. “And to get back to my fanbase, which is amazingly still around, and to get my chops back, I decided to go out on a club tour on my own.”
The man behind the scores for “Howard the Duck” and other films, Dolby is also contributing music to “Mission: Impossible III,” directed by his friend and fellow synthesizer player J.J. Abrams. “It’s a scene where Tom Cruise is working on his car in his garage,” he said.
Federline, meanwhile, has been promoting his upcoming debut record, Playing With Fire, by playing it at nightclubs across the country (see “Federline Moving Songs From The Lab To Clubs For Testing” ).