Independent Rapper Jonathan Emile Pens Open Letter To Kendrick Lamar While Battling His Label In Court

Senior Music Writer
03.15.17

The video above is for a song titled “Heaven Help Dem,” which independent, Canadian rapper Jonathan Emile posted up online back around 2015. It got a heavy amount of buzz at the time thanks to a feature verse from Kendrick Lamar, who was then in the process of rolling out his masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly. Unfortunately, the success didn’t last.

The problems for Emile began shortly after sharing the song when Lamar’s label began issuing takedown orders all over the place, arguing that the he hadn’t gotten the proper clearance. Emile begged to differ. He showed that he had paid two installments for Kendrick’s contributions to TDE, and subsequently took the label to court over the matter and eventually won. Yet, the battle rages on. The hit to his reputation and his fortunes for success can’t be quantified in real terms, and so, as a way to bring resolution to this entire matter, Emile has decided to pen an open letter to K Dot himself.

In a lengthy note posted to DJ Booth, Emile outlined how he arrived at this point.

“In late 2014, my management set up a formal release date for the single “Heaven Help Dem,” featuring Kendrick Lamar. We chose Martin Luther King Day, January 19, 2015, for the release as it was significant to me and to the theme of the song. Out of courtesy, we contacted TDE to inform you of our plans to release the song. I sent Top Dawg a sample of the track, he said that he didn’t remember it or the transaction and that it may be too old. So I sent him the transaction information along with the music. I heard nothing back. I emailed him a few more times to no avail and we just went ahead with our release schedule.”

He then explained how Top Dawg reacted once the song made it online.

“This prompted a call from Top Dawg himself. During the call, Top Dawg threatened that Interscope and Universal Music Group (UMG) would take down the song, he eluded to possible legal action and took a highly aggressive stance. He also threatened that I would burn my bridges with TDE and that it was bad business for me to not listen to him. It’s hip-hop, so tough talk and bullying come with the territory. I asked him, why didn’t he tell me not to release the song? He evaded. So I informed him that I had every right to have the song released and that there was nothing I could do because it was live on the internet and scheduled for iTunes release. I proposed to remove the song if I was refunded, but Top Dawg refused. I asked to speak to someone at Interscope or UMG—at this point, he became angry and yelled that he was ‘the president of Top Dawg Entertainment and he has the final decision.'”

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