NWA

Just in time for the new NWA biopic comes some legal beefing from a Louisville musician who alleges members of the famed gangsta rap group unlawfully sampled his music.

The plaintiff is Louisville’s Leroy Phillip Mitchell, whose nom de plume is Prince Phillip Mitchell. Mitchell, 71, says Dr. Dre (aka Andre Romelle Young) and MC Ren (Lorenzo Jerald Patterson), along with their labels Priority Records and Universal Music Group, unlawfully used copyrighted material from his 1978 tune “Star In the Ghetto.” Mitchell says his music was used in the NWA song “If It Ain’t Ruff.” The NWA tune was a track on the band’s landmark 1988 albumStraight Outta  Compton.”

The case was filed in the Western District of Kentucky, in Louisville, on Feb. 26.

Mitchell is suing for an amount described in his complaint as “not less than 1 million dollars,” or $150,000 for each act of infringement. The suit claims a part of “Star In the Ghetto” was sampled and looped in the NWA track without his permission, or knowledge, and that he wasn’t given any credit or financial compensation for the sample. The suit claims “If It Ain’t Ruff” has sold in excess of 3.5 million copies.

The suit also claims Mitchell is entitled to punitive damages due to the “egregious” behavior of the defendants, which resulted in harm to his musical career that he estimated totaled more than $5 million.

Mitchell is being represented by Louisville attorney Robert Gwin. IL asked him why Mitchell is suing NWA now, more than 25 years after the NWA track hit the streets. He said that until recently, Mitchell didn’t know about the alleged violation.

“If he was given no credit on anything, how’s he going to find out?” he said, adding that Mitchell only found out about the allegedly purloined music when someone told him about it. He said the defendants have 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Mitchell is a fascinating guy. He is the founder and head of 3rd Dynasty Records, whose website has a heavy Afro-futurism vibe to it.

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Mitchell was a writer at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Ala., in the 1970s, Gwin said. On his website, Mitchell claims he was once betrayed by “overzealous” members of one of his groups, the Flip Tops.

David Serchuk
David Serchuk is a staff writer at Insider Louisville. He is a former editor at Forbes.com, and an ex-reporter at Forbes magazine. He's written for NPR, CNBC.com, New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville and other publications named for places. He enjoys writing about business, music and other things as well.