Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” Sued For Copyright Infringement

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Tuff City Records stirred up a storm on Thursday, April 4, when they filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Universal Music Group’s publishing division over the Mary J. Blige classic “Real Love.” 

According to Tuff City, UMG allegedly used an unlicensed snippet from the Honey Drippers’ 1973 funk jam, “Impeach the President,” in Mary J. Blige’s 1992 hit. That iconic drum break has been the go-to sample for hip-hop and R&B stars for ages, from 2Pac to Dr. Dre, and Doja Cat.

Mary’s “Real Love” has been certified certified gold by the RIAA. The song is among Rolling Stone Magazine’s “500 Best Songs of All Time” at number 327 and Pitchfork‘s “The 250 Best Songs of the 1990s” at 39.

The lawsuit, fired off in Manhattan federal court, claims that Tuff City’s lawyers informed Universal Music Publishing about the unapproved sample, but they’ve been met with radio silence. Mary J. Blige herself isn’t involved in this legal matter, though. It’s all about Universal’s publishing arm and its failure to oblige regarding the song’s composition.

Tuff City’s lawyer accused Universal of avoiding negotiations to resolve the issue despite Tuff City having settled with UMG Recordings, the owner of the “Real Love” master recording.

Tuff City Records is experienced in legal battles, having sued big names such as Jay-Z, Christina Aguilera, Beastie Boys, and Frank Ocean for copyright infringement. However, not all cases ended well for Tuff City, as they were ordered to pay hefty legal fees in a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys in 2018.

Tuff City has a history with “Impeach the President.” In 1991 they had a dispute with Sony Music and Def Jam over the song’s use in LL Cool J’s tracks. 

This was an early instance of sampling wars when getting permission for samples wasn’t common. The dispute was eventually settled, but the terms remain unknown.