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Tracy Chapman Sues Nicki Minaj for Copyright Infringement

Tracy Chapman has filed a copyright infringement suit against Nicki Minaj, accusing her of lifting the lyrics and melody from the 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”

According to the suit, Minaj sought permission over the summer to sample the song in a track entitled “Sorry,” which was to appear on Minaj’s album “Queen.” Chapman has a blanket policy against allowing her work to be sampled, and she refused the request, through her representatives.

Minaj dropped the track from the album, but according to the suit, she provided it to two New York City radio stations, which played it on air in August. Chapman alleges that the song played on Hot 97, and that portions of it appeared on “The Breakfast Club,” on Power 105.1. The song is now available online, including on YouTube.

The Minaj track uses almost all of the lyrics of “Baby Can I Hold You” as a chorus, which is repeated twice after original rap verses. The song appeared on Chapman’s self-titled debut album, which also included “Fast Car.”

In July, Minaj’s manager emailed Chapman’s representatives, saying that Minaj was “inspired” by Chapman’s art and wanted to talk about using her work. A few days later, Minaj tweeted that she “had no clue” that the song “sampled the legend #TracyChapman,” according to the suit. The tweet has since been deleted.

The suit alleges that Minaj “has caused Chapman to incur substantial injury, loss, and damage as a result of her wrongdoing.” Chapman is seeking injunctive relief and damages.

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