Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ a big headache

By Quinton J. Hobson

Rapper Jay Z is fighting a long legal battle over sampling a classic Egyptian song.
Rapper Jay Z is fighting a long legal battle over sampling a classic Egyptian song.

There’s probably nothing worse than coming home from a relaxing two-week vacation to find a mountain of unpaid bills waiting for you on the kitchen counter.

The answering machine is full of messages from your panicking boss ordering you to return to work, your plants have shriveled up and died of dehydration due to your neighbour’s negligence and your car refuses to start on your first day back to work due to lack of use.

But with a combined net worth of over $1-billion, I doubt that unpaid bills are something Jay Z and Beyoncé spend much time fussing over but that’s not to say the Grammy-winning super couple doesn’t have problems of their own just like us; they just happen to be a little bit richer.

The Carters, as they are now collectively known, recently commemorated their eight-year wedding anniversary and decided to celebrate by taking a quick break from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood by vacationing in Hawaii – because obviously their seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, complete with pool and waterfall, simply wasn’t luxurious enough.  But just because you’re trying to forget about Hollywood doesn’t necessarily mean that Hollywood is gonna forget about you.

In 1999, the rapper sampled a classic Egyptian tune known as Khosara Khosara in his song Big Pimpin’, which would go on to become a massive hit. In 2007, Jay Z entered a lengthy legal battle when he and collaborator Timbaland were accused of not having gotten proper rights to use the song, essentially launching a long, complex dispute between the family of Khosara Khosara’s original songwriter and the rapper.

The situation can best be summarized as follows: Jay Z and Timbaland were confident they had filled out the necessary paperwork required to sample the song, having been granted the rights to use Khosara Khosara as Big Pimpin’s hook by EMI Arabia. However, nearly a decade later, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, heir of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi who wrote the song before it became popular in 1960, claimed EMI did not in fact have the right to grant Jay Z permission to use the song.

After nearly a decade of rotating in and out of the news, Judge Christina Snyder has officially decided it would be best to put this lingering case to rest once and for all in a trial slated for Oct.13.

Although this dispute sounds similar to the Thicke-Pharrell-Gaye Blurred Lines case earlier this year, there are some subtle differences. For instance, Robin Thicke and Pharrell continue to deny they sampled or stole elements from the late Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up, citing the song as solely an influence and calling Blurred Lines a “tribute” to Gaye’s era of music.

On the other hand, Jay Z and Timbaland are fully aware that they sampled another song and even got the rights to it, only as it turns out from the wrong people. But for Fahmy, the issue expands beyond legalities and ventures into more personal territory.

Fahmy’s lawyer told The Guardian his client simply does not approve of his late relative’s music being associated with something as “vulgar” as Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’, going on to accuse the artists of “using it in a song that is, frankly, disgusting.”