FAT JOE sued over "Lean Back"? Friday - January 28, 2005 Albert McCluster III An EXCLUSIVE HipHopDX Field Report by Talithia Kelly In June of 2004, Fat Joe released the hit single, “Lean Back,” which topped the charts generating probably millions in royalties. The dance, ‘Rockaway,’ which generated from the hit single, is still imitated today throughout clubs all over the United States. Where did the concept of “Lean Back” originate? Fat Joe would probably tell you, it was just something that came about, but Christopher Chapman a.k.a. Face Dirty would tell you otherwise. Face Dirty is a Hip-Hop artist originally from the dirty south, Birmingham, Alabama to be exact. In or around March of 2003, Face Dirty wrote and recorded his authentic crunk version of, “Lean Back.” Four months later he had completed an entire album, “Now Hiring,” which was granted copyrights in December of the same year. Face has performed, “Lean Back,” on numerous occasions throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and ALabama. Face performed at venues such as; The Virginia House of Comedy, The Alley, Club Hartz, Club Gary’s, Classics, and Ridley’s all in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He also performed at the Southeast Community Day Parade and Festival, one of the biggest events in VA each year. To further add, he performed at Club Dynasty in Greenville, NC, Club Platinum and Chubby’s in Birmingham, AL. He has even perfected a ‘Lean Back’ Dance with the same likeness as the ‘Rockaway’ just a little more gangsta. In early 2004, Face had already released a video taped recording of “Lean Back” along with its corresponding dance move. In January 2004, Face Dirty began talks with an as yet to be named Universal/Motown A&R. A local, mutual manager who knew the A&R had introduced face to the Universal rep. Upon numerous conversations with the rep... Face sent a copy of his completed, copyrighted album to the rep for review. According to Face, between January and May there had been much interest in Face as an artist, but during their last conversation in May the tables turned. The A&R in question had sole possession of “Now Hiring” for four months before Face was told that Universal had no further interest in him or his work. Face was further told that he should rethink the song “Lean Back” in particular because Fat Joe was about to release a “summer banger” by the very same title. To further add, Face Dirty’s attorney confirmed that production of Fat Joe’s single was rushed many weeks ahead of the release of the actual album. Very shortly thereafter, Fat Joe and the Terror Squad released their version of “Lean Back.” Is this a coincidence? When comparing the two songs there were similarities in the melody of the hook and a musicologist even claimed that the “chord progressions were striking similar” between the two songs. Although the two hooks are different the concept and again the melodies are the same, even though Face Dirty’s version is slower. "I said my ~~~~~s don’t dance we just pull up our pants and do the rockaway. Now Lean back, lean back, lean back, lean back." -Fat Joe & The Terror Squad "Lean Back" version Lean back clap your hands, in this muthafucka do the Face Dirty dance. Lean back show your grill fuck dem muthafuckas if they ain’t keeping it real. Lean back floss your chains put your middle finger up for the haters in da game. Lean back show your watch tell dem muthafuckas they never shoulda stopped. -Face Dirty's "Lean Back" version It’s harder to see on paper, but if you put Face Dirty’s hook to Fat Joe’s beat or vice versa then you can see the similarities. Coincidental? Face Dirty has documentation showing that Universal admitted one of their A&Rs did in fact receive a copy of Face’s CD. However, they claim that the package in question was never opened. To disprove this claim Face has phone records of where he spoke with the A&R on several different occasions regarding his album. At the same time, if you know anything about the music industry then you know that A&Rs, especially at major labels, do not accept unsolicited material due to fear of copyright infringement suits such as this. There is further documentation from Terror Squad’s attorneys in which they request permission to contact the Library of Congress to review a copy of Face’s version of “Lean Back.” Face and his attorney granted permission of course. A lot of the evidence presented by Face Dirty seems to be circumstantial, but sometimes that’s all it takes. When dealing with copyright infringement on the main elements of proof is access. Meaning, did the artist in question have direct access to your material and if so how and why. Once you prove access, you then have to prove the actual infringement of your material. Many don’t know that only 20% of a song has to be altered for it to be considered a new song. In which case, this can make a claim even more difficult to pursue. It is evident to Face Dirty that Fat Joe and The Terror Squad “jacked” his original song. With all his documentation and a good attorney backing him it seems he does have a fair shot. If Face does win that’s a score for the little man, plus plenty of back mechanical royalties and future royalties for “Lean Back.” That would also mean a blow to Fat Joe’s ego not to mention his reputation. Face Dirty has reached out to Fat Joe and The Terror Squad, but to date no resolution has been made. We can only wait and see how this plays out. Is Fat Joe going to be forced to lean Back?