I asked a few friends of mine (who are familiar with the 1990s to early 2000s hip-hop scene) to tell me the first thing that came into mind when I said the words “Big Pimpin’.” All five of them responded by whistling (or trying to whistle in one case) the famous flute hook to Jay Z’s 1999 hit single “Big Pimpin’.” It’s just one of those songs that you know without knowing how exactly you came to know it.
However, there is trouble in paradise. Jay Z is facing legal issues for the 1999 hit. More specifically, he is getting sued for $5 million over the iconic hook in “Big Pimpin’” by the nephew of the Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, Osama Fahmy. He is suing on the grounds that Jay Z, as well as the producer for that track, Timbaland, did not have the proper license for the sample, which came from Hamdi’s “Khosara Khosara.” The lawsuit began in 2007 and is one of the longest running cases in the country.
Let me preface this with the fact that there has been a bit of a misunderstanding throughout this lawsuit’s history. When the lawsuit was first filed in 2007, Jay Z paid up. During his testimony, he had stated that he and Timbaland had reached an agreement with EMI Arabia after being assured that it claimed the rights to the Egyptian song from a deal with Sout El Phan, a Middle Eastern record label. “Legal just told me ‘100 grand and you’re clear,’” Timbaland had said during his portion of the testimony.
When asked why he continued to distribute the song even after the case opened up in 2007, Jay Z responded by telling the jury, “That’s not what I do.” When asked to elaborate the statement by his own lawyer, Jay Z went on to list some of his accomplishments: “I make music. I’m a rapper. I’ve got a clothing line, I run a label, a media label called Roc Nation, with a sports agency, music publishing and management. Restaurants and nightclubs … I think that about covers it.”
Regardless of what Jay Z does with his current projects, lawyers for Fahmy and Hamdi family told the jury that Jay Z never sought permission. In fact, they stated that the artist purposely did not ask the family for legal authorization because “they knew it wouldn’t be granted given the risqué lyrics,” Reuters reported. According to a music expert who came into court to testify, four notes of the 74-note song from “Khosara Khosara” were used in “Big Pimpin’.”
It seems as though those four notes were enough to open up a lawsuit against one of the most influential artists in the music and entertainment industry. While the lawsuit has not come to a close (for the second time), it will be interesting to see the various allegations and testimonies both sides come up with. In the mean time, while you are Big Pimpin’ and spending the cheese, make sure you receive proper permission and licensing rights.