Tupac's hit song "Dear Mama" is the subject of a new copyright infringement lawsuit.
According to a report from Music Business Worldwide, "Dear Mama" co-producer Master Tee — a.k.a. Terence Thomas — accused producer Tony D. Pizarro, Interscope, and parent company Universal Music Group of "conspiring" to withhold additional publishing royalties. Thomas is already credited as a producer on the track. However, he claims to have also co-written and co-published the triple-platinum song, which he said is corroborated by Tupac's "own written account and hand-written credits" and a 1996 interview where the late rapper allegedly said, “Master Tee gave me the beat [for "Dear Mama"]."
“Master Tee did not until very recently appreciate that the royalties which he was deriving from BMI were actually much less than he should have been receiving had his creative work been credited as it should have been from the outset," the lawsuit read.
The filing characterized Thomas — who's been a NYC bus driver for the past 26 years — as “not a sophisticated business person.” His lawyers said he didn't know he was owed publishing royalties in addition to producer royalties.
The filing went on to call the defendants "a self-serving group" that "misappropriated Master Tee’s publishing copyright and master recording copyright and assumed the identity of writer/publisher" of the song, which was the lead single off the late rapper's 1995 album, Me Against the World, and is one of three hip-hop tracks added to the Library of Congress.
The complaint also lists Hulu, FX Networks, and Disney as defendants over 2023's Emmy-nominated docuseries about the track, Dear Mama. The show has also earned Tupac his first Grammy nomination for Best Music Film.
Thomas is seeking the royalties he's allegedly owed, damages for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and theft of intellectual property, as well as a declaration that he's both a co-writer and co-producer by a judge. He's also asking for an injunction that would stop the defendants from collecting any other royalties from the song until the legal dispute is settled.
The FADER has reached out to representatives for Master Tee, Tony D. Pizarro, Universal Music Group, Disney, Hulu, and FX Networks for further comment.
Read Thomas' entire lawsuit via Music Business Worldwide here.