Music producer Jermaine Dupri (AP)
NEW YORK (AP) – As the music industry debates the fallout from the Blurred Lines copyright verdict, Grammy-winning producer Jermaine Dupri finds himself sympathetic to both Pharrell and Marvin Gaye’s family.
Dupri, who helped Usher reach superstar status, aided in Mariah Carey’s ultra-successful comeback a decade ago and produced for the diva in 1990s, remembers his days as a budding producer who drew inspiration from the artists who came before him – but also says there is a startling similarity between a new single and a hit he co-wrote more than a decade ago.
“Younger producers like myself and Pharrell, we make records that are influenced by other records that are out there,” Dupri said in an interview Thursday. “That’s how hip-hop has always been created – it has some kind of element of something (from) the past. Or sometimes we just take the entire sample and we give the artist the credit for that sample.
“We’ve all been in a position where it could go like this or we can give the producer the credit,” he added.
Pharrell and Robin Thicke were ordered to pay nearly $7.4 million to three of Gaye’s children after a jury determined the performers copied elements of the R&B icon’s 1977 hit, Got to Give It Up.
Blurred Lines, which also featured rapper T.I., was the biggest hit of 2013: It sold more than seven million tracks in the United States alone, topped the pop charts for months and earned top Grammy nominations. Attorneys for the collaborators filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in August 2013 asking a judge to determine the hit didn't copy other songs.
The 42-year-old Dupri, who has co-written and co-produced No. 1 hits such as Carey’s We Belong Together and Always Be My Baby, Usher’s Burn and Monica’s The First Night, said he is “50/50” about the Blurred Lines case because he understands both sides.
He says he’s currently in a similar situation: Dupri claims R&B singer Ciara’s latest song, I Bet, is too close to Usher’s U Got It Bad – the massive 2001 hit that Dupri also co-produced – for comfort.
“Ciara’s new single is a complete rip-off of Usher’s U Got It Bad,” Dupri said. “I’m clear on what I made and I’m clear on how music influences people and I’m clear on chord changes and how people move things. ... It might not be as evident as the Blurred Lines situation, but I believe the same thing happened to me.”
Dupri said he, Usher and producer Bryan-Michael Cox all noticed the similarities immediately. And he said I Bet also sounds like R&B singer Tamia’s Still, another song he produced.
Dupri said he plans to contact Ciara and the producers of I Bet, which was released in January and has peaked at No. 27 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart, and ask that he, Cox and Usher be properly credited.
A personal representative for Ciara referred questions to a label spokeswoman. That spokeswoman did not return email and text messages seeking comment.