Jay Z told a jury Wednesday that he believes he has a valid license to use Arabic music featured on his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin'” that is now the subject of a copyright infringement trial. The rap superstar spent roughly 90 minutes testifying in a federal courtroom Wednesday, recounting his life, his successes and the creative process that led him and music producer Timbaland to create “Big Pimpin’,” which was his first major hit single.
Jay Z and Timbaland are being sued by an heir of Baligh Hamdi, an Egyptian composer who created the 1957 hit “Khosara Khosara” that has elements featured in the rapper’s hit. The rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, used one of his old CDs — introduced into evidence by a lawyer for Hamdi’s family — to illustrate his point.
The rapper mixed his testimony with no-nonsense, one-word answers, humility about his success and humorous moments. When Pete Ross, the lawyer for Hamdi’s nephew, attempted to show him a passage in a book Carter had written about his lyrics, the performer wryly said, “You can read it from over there.”
The courtroom burst into laughter, as it did again when Carter was asked by his own attorney about artists whose careers he had fostered, including Rihanna, J. Cole and Kanye West. The rapper was more serious when questioned about the rights to “Khosara Khosara,” which he said he thought had been properly negotiated after issues were raised following the release of “Big Pimpin’.”
Lawyers for Carter and Timbaland, whose real name is Timothy Mosley, told jurors on Tuesday that Hamdi’s family had been repeatedly paid for the use of “Khosara Khosara.” Four notes from the song’s 74 notes are repeated throughout “Big Pimpin’,” a music expert testified Wednesday.