Bad Bunny’s Label Says He Didn’t Steal Afro-Pop Track — He Paid for It

Bad Bunny‘s label, Rimas Entertainment, is responding to accusations the super star artist “illegally used” an Afro-pop act’s song. Bunny’s team responded by saying they paid to use the material in question and, hence, its use in the track “Enséñame a Bailar” was not infringement.

Earlier on Thursday (Feb. 9), emPawa Africa founder Mr Eazi — himself a popular Nigerian singer — issued a press release claiming Bad Bunny used his artist Joeboy‘s song “Empty My Pocket” without consent in the track “Enséñame a Bailar” off Bad Bunny’s blockbuster 2022 album, Un Verano Sin Ti. Mr Eazi claimed he had been trying to settle the case privately since the record’s release nine months ago.

Listen to the first few seconds of two songs and the case could seem obvious. The jubilant rhythms of the Dëra-produced Joeboy track “Empty My Pocket” appear prominently as both an interpolation and a sample. At the 2:30 minute mark on “Enséñame a Bailar,” one can even faintly hear Joeboy’s vocals.

“We will not accept Bad Bunny and Rimas denying Joeboy and Dëra credits and a share in the ownership of a song they wrote, composed and, in Joeboy’s case, even performed on,” said Ikenna Nwagboso, co-founder and head of label services, distribution, and publishing with emPawa Africa, in a statement. “Give Joeboy his credit, publishing and royalties on the song, and give Dëra a producer credit alongside those already given to Bad Bunny’s Producers.”

emPawa Africa is demanding that Bad Bunny and Rimas Music grant Joeboy publishing, songwriting and feature credits on “Enséñame a Bailar,” and credit Dëra as the track’s co-producer. Though the statement seemed to threaten legal action, no lawsuit has yet been filed.

Not so fast, says Rimas Entertainment, which is denying any wrongdoing.

“We are deeply concerned by the copyright infringement accusations made by Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade (Mr Eazi), the founder of emPawa Africa, on the track ‘Enséñame a Bailar,’” a company spokesperson told Billboard Español in a statement. “We want to make it clear that at all times, Rimas Entertainment has acted properly and has followed standard industry protocols.”

The Rimas statement continues, “Before releasing [‘Enséñame a Bailar’], Rimas purchased the master track from record producer Lakizo Entertainment, listed as the track’s creator and owner in numerous public sources [editor’s note: including Spotify as of Thursday]. After the [‘Enséñame a Bailar’] release last year, emPawa contacted us, claiming ownership over the master. Our lawyers have had many communications with emPawa in an effort to resolve the ownership dispute between emPawa and Lakizo, but emPawa has so far failed to provide proof of ownership. Instead, emPawa has chosen only to send us a heavily redacted contract that did not confirm their claims and only served to raise more questions about the validity of their claims. Our numerous efforts to obtain the unredacted version of the agreement from emPawa have not been successful. It is entirely untrue that we have been unresponsive.”

For an artist to sample another act’s track, they must typically clear master and publishing rights for the recording and underlying composition, respectively. At the time of publishing, Rimas could not confirm whether the company had secured rights use the “Empty My Pocket” composition, but the company’s statement noted, “Regarding the song’s composition, emPawa has also failed to forward documents to prove that they are authorized to act on the writer’s behalf.”

The Rimas statement concluded, “We look forward to resolving this matter cordially and are waiting for emPawa to provide us with the necessary documents that validate their claims.”

In 2019, Mr Eazi and Bad Bunny collaborated on the outro track “Como Un Bebé” — produced by Nigerian duo Legendury Beatz — off Bunny and J Balvin’s joint album Oasis

Un Verano Sin Ti was released on May 6, 2022, becoming the second Spanish-language album to reach No. 1 on the 66-year old chart Billboard 200 (the first was Bunny’s previous album, 2020’s El Último Tour del Mundo). It also became Spotify and Apple Music’s most-streamed album in the U.S. and globally. 

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