Hip hop legend J Dilla was world-renowned for his skillful samples and groundbreaking drum machine beats that made him one of the most revered producers in the genre’s history. Although the performer has been dead since 2006, his iconic “Workinonit,” the first proper song featured on his final album release Donuts, is now at the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit due to its sampling of “The Worst Band In The World” by 10cc.
“Workinonit” prominently uses the electric guitar piece present at the beginning of the song, as well as some riffs that are played throughout. According to Music Sales Corporation, the company that has an exclusive administration agreement for the song on behalf of publisher Man-Ken Music, Ltd, J Dilla “did not seek or obtain a license to use the Composition in any fashion,” nor did Universal Music, E.P.H.C.Y. Publishing and Stones Throw Records who are named in the lawsuit.
The company alleges that they contacted the defendants regarding this sample in 2014, following the release of a boxset edition of Donuts. They further allege that “Workinonit” was licensed for the Dave Chappelle comedy specials Deep in the Heart of Texas and The Age of Spin on Netflix, despite allegedly “being informed of its infringing content.”
Music Sales Corporation is seeking compensatory damages during the last three years, in addition to compensation for legal costs, and calls for the defendants to “destroy or deliver up for destruction all materials in Defendants’ possession, custody, or control used by defendants in connection with Defendants’ infringing conduct.”
Donuts was worked on in 2005, while J Dilla was hospitalized for thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, the disease which ultimately took his life a year later. According to PopMatters, the record’s samples were taken from the records his mother and friends brought him during his hospitalization.