Most everyone knows the piano part; it’s the eerie intro to "Dark Fantasy," opening track on the Kanye West masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But while it was giving us all goose bumps, Japanese music publishing house Teichiku Entertainment was claiming the sample belonged to artist Meiko Kaji, performed in his song "Gincyo Watadori."
The Japanese label claims that RZA (who co-produced the track) sampled their artist’s piano playing without paying for it. RZA (and his legal team) dispute this claim.
In a move to protect themselves, West's label Island Def Jam is withholding royalties from RZA, saying "that it is entitled to indemnification from plaintiff against defendant's copyright infringement claim."
In laymen’s terms, RZA won’t get his money until the Japanese label drops their suit or they agree not to sue Island Def Jam. Thus, the aggressive move from the former WuTang member against the Japanese label.
While most copyright infringement cases are settled quietly with a payoff, RZA is determined to show that the accusation is bunk.
To quote RZA’s lawyer, Howard King, "RZA did not use Teichiku’s piano run, and it sounds different from the one in 'Dark Fantasy.’ In fact, it would have been technologically impossible to sample the piano run without the rest of the music in 'Gincyo Watadori,' and the piano run in 'Gincyo' is so simple that the least talented person in the studio could have replayed it had anyone wished to do so."
Ouch! “Man With the Iron Fists” indeed. OK, now I really need to get me one of those action figures.