Chapman filed the suit in October 2018 over the rapper’s unreleased cut “Sorry,” featuring Nas, that was supposed to be on her “Queen” album. The song samples the Chapman’s 1988 tune “Baby Can I Hold You.”
In new court documents filed on Feb. 22 in a California federal court, Minaj said her song is protected by the fair use doctrine, which Copyright.gov defines as “A legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected words in certain circumstances.”
Minaj said that Chapman — who’s also seeking money for damages — “has not properly registered her claim to the copyright in the composition of ‘Baby Can I Hold You'” and claimed she doesn’t even own the existing copyright.
Plus, the New York rapper said that she tried getting permission from Chapman to use the song on several occasion but was turned down. Minaj also admitted that she recorded it before ever reaching out.
Then once the “Queen” album was getting closer to being released, Minaj took to social media and asked her fans for help.
“So there’s a record on #Queen that features 1 of the greatest rappers of all time,” she wrote in now deleted tweets. “Had no clue it sampled the legend #TracyChapman. Do I keep my date & lose the record? Or do I lose the record & keep my date? Do we push #Queen back 1 week? Ugh! I’m torn, y’all help. Tracy Chapman, can you please hit me. omg for the love of #Queen.”
The song was then played by Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex on social media in August 2018 and went viral after being shared. It was played on “The Breakfast Club” by Charlamagne Tha God as well.
And on that same day Charlamagne played it, Nicki tweeted the words “Sis said no,” about why “Sorry” wasn’t on her album.
“Baby Can I Hold You” has been covered by several artists over the years, by people like Neil Diamond in 1989 and the Reggae artist Sanchez. The Irish boy band Boyzone covered the song as well, and Chapman re-recorded it with opera singer Luciano Pavarotti in 2000, so it’s not clear why Chapman turned down Minaj’s requests.
“Tracy Chapman very much protect her rights and she has a right to deny a license when requested,” Chapman’s lawyer Lee Phillips told Rolling Stone.
You can listen to “Sorry” and “Baby Can I Hold You” below.