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Frank Ocean Sues Collaborator Om’Mas Keith Over Blonde Writing Credits

<> on June 14, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Frank Ocean has filed a lawsuit in California federal court against his collaborator Om’Mas Keith, who is credited as a producer on Channel Orange and several tracks from Blonde. According to the suit, Keith falsely claimed credit to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for co-writing eleven Blonde songs.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. district court for California’s central district, names Ocean as plaintiff and Keith, Keith’s Analog Genius Corporation, and 10 unnamed parties as defendants. It alleges that Ocean and Keith entered into a agreement that Keith’s contributions to Blonde would be handled similarly to his contributions to Channel Orange, for which he was paid a flat fee. However, according to the lawsuit, when Ocean’s attorney’s asked Keith to sign a document which formally established this fee structure and “acknowledged that Defendants did not write any of the compositions that were embodied in the master recordings,” Keith declined.

According to a 2013 LA Weekly article, Ocean and Keith met at around the time of Nostalgia, Ultra, Ocean’s debut mixtape from 2011. They have been close collaborators ever since, with Keith contributing in some capacity to every subsequent Ocean release. A New York Times profile states that Ocean “tapped [Keith]…to help him turn his sketches into major-label-release-ready album cuts.” “I just credit Frank with being an extreme visionary, even in how he put the process together,” Keith told the Times. 

The lawsuit states that Keith claimed credit with ASCAP for 11 Blonde songs, and that he did not actually co-write any of them. The songs are “Be Yourself,” “Futura Free,” “Godspeed,” “Ivy,” “Nights,” “Nikes,” “Pink + White,” “Pretty Sweet,” “Skyline To,” “Solo,” and “White Ferrari.” “All of the Compositions and the ASCAP Compositions were written well before Defendants, or any of them, rendered any services whatsoever in connection with any of the masters,” it reads in part. “Defendants did not contribute any lyrics, melodies, or music that would give rise to any claim of authorship by Defendants in the Compositions or the ASCAP Compositions.”

Through the suit, Ocean is seeking to have Keith’s name (and, presumably, his attendant percentage of royalties) removed from the ASCAP and copyright registrations of each song, as well as an injunction barring Keith and his co-defendants from publicly claiming that they are co-writers of Ocean’s music or attempting to license it. He is also seeking attorney’s fees to cover the cost of the suit.

We’ve reached out to representatives of Ocean and Keith and will update this post if we receive a response.

Update (4:22 p.m.): An Ocean representative provided Pitchfork with an acknowledgement of the suit: “A complaint has been filed against Om’Mas Keith who has falsely stated to have written certain songs which appear on the album Blonde. These claims are untrue and this issue is being dealt with by litigators.”