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Back in 2018, Marvel not only gave T'Challa the spotlight in Black Panther, the studio began a phenomenon. Ryan Coogler’s exploration of Wakanda was much bigger than another money-making movie in the MCU, and part of that had to do with the hits found on the movie’s soundtrack produced by Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar. But now, one song on the album is the center of a copyright lawsuit.
Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd have been accused of stealing music from New York-based rock band Yeasayer with the Black Panther album’s third single, “Pray For Me.” The legal documents claim the artists pulled material from Yeasayer’s 2007 song “Sunrise” and slightly altered it purposefully with “intent to conceal the infringement.”
Yeasayer is referencing a “distinctive choral performance” two-thirds of the way into “Pray For Me.” It features a number of male voices singing with a pulsating vibrato at high registers – which the rock band claims they recorded themselves specifically for “Sunrise.” Listen to the Yeasayer song in question below:
You can hear the vocal sound in question in the introduction of “Sunrise.” Now compare it with The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar’s popular 2018 track. The first instance of the sound comes in at 2 minutes and 10 seconds:
In the legal documents (obtained via TMZ), Yeasayer has demanded a jury trial to determine if they may be compensated for all profits and damages for “Pray For Me.” They’ve also asked for an injunction to block all further sales and airplay of the song. Yeasayer claims the song’s infringement is “immediately recognizable” eight times throughout the track.
The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar have been reached out to and have not yet responded with a comment regarding “Pray For Me.” Since Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ 2015 case for “Blurred Lines” resulted in the musicians paying Marvin Gaye’s family $7.4 million in damages, plus half the song’s royalties for its similarities to 1977’s “Got To Give It Up,” cases such as these have been more commonplace.
There’s currently copyright cases regarding Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.” Katy Perry was ordered to pay $2.78 million to Christian rapper Marcus Gray in October for the similarities between his song “Joyful Noise” and her 2015 single “Dark Horse.” Lady Gaga’s Oscar-winning “Shallow” from A Star Is Born was also accused of copyright from an unknown artist as well.
“Pray For Me” wasn’t only in the Black Panther soundtrack, it’s also featured in the movie itself when T’Challa, Nakia and Okoye travel to Busan, South Korea.
Black Panther is about to move from Netflix on March 3 and reach Disney+ a day later. Black Panther 2 has been announced for release on May 6, 2022.