Kanye West returned from his brief self-imposed social media hiatus on Saturday with a series of videos apparently posted from Africa, including a nine-minute one titled “Mind Control.” In it, he delivered a now-familiar free-associative rant that touched on such topics as mind control, social media, “positive energy” and what he described as a request to be released from his contract with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, via a proposed buyback of his rights.
“I went to go buy my publishing from Sony/ATV and they said, ‘It’s $8 million [or] $9 million’ and when I went to buy it, they told me ‘No,’ I couldn’t buy my publishing,” he said.
“I have the money to buy [back] my publishing,” West continued. “And they told me that I couldn’t buy my publishing…. It’s like the control.”
A rep for Sony/ATV did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment.
West is hardly the first musician who has tried to get out of a record deal or music publishing contract. Prince famously had a public and years-long feud with Warner Bros. Records during the mid-1990s over his desire to be released from his contract because the label would not release albums as frequently as he wanted, resulting in the artist officially changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol before parting ways with the company by mutual agreement in 1996 (although he returned to the label via a distribution deal in 2014 and released his final album through it).
West even referenced Prince in the new video rant, mentioning the artist’s writing the word “slave” on his face as a statement of protest during the height of his dispute with Warner. He may have seen an opportunity in the recent announcement that outgoing Warner/Chappell Music Publishing chief Jon Platt will be taking the helm of Sony/ATV from longtime CEO Marty Bandier next year.
“Sony ATV told me I couldn’t buy my publishing [but] I got the money,” West reiterated at the end of the new video. “So Big Jon [Platt], Marty [Bandier]….whoever is involved….I need my publishing…I got the money. I’m not gonna say the “S” word. I’m not Prince, I don’t need to write it on my face.”
Left unsaid in West’s video is the fact he presumably knowingly signed his original contract, which outlined terms of the deal in detail. While those terms are not public, music publishing deals typically do not allow artists to simply buy back their publishing whenever they want. Often, deals have reversion clauses that can be anywhere from 10 years to 20 years (or longer), depending on the kind of deal any songwriter inks with a label or publishing entity. In exchange for music publishing companies sharing in the revenue with artists from publishing royalties earned during the duration of the contract, artists such as West are compensated up front, with often sizeable advances.
Last year, former Beatle Paul McCartney reached a confidential settlement of his lawsuit against Sony/ATV in a similarly minded dispute, in which he sought to reclaim his share of copyrights to certain songs by the Beatles.
West, who met with President Donald Trump in a bizarre public press conference of sorts last week, also is currently in Uganda working on his delayed “Yandhi” album. His video is posted in full below.