In the Doghouse
It's a sunny Sunday afternoon, and musician and producer John Broussard and his wife, Cassandra, decide to take in a movie at the Meyer Park 16. They agree to see the Martin Lawrence comedy Big Momma's House. They buy their tickets, get some popcorn and soda, find their ideal seats, and prepare themselves for 100 minutes of nonstop hilarity. Cue to a scene in which Lawrence throws on the fat suit and goes into some uproarious shenanigans; suddenly an oddly familiar song appears on the soundtrack. Broussard begins to tap his feet and bob his head to the beat. He can't help thinking that he's heard the tune somewhere before, but can't place it immediately. About a month goes by, and as Broussard is going through his musical inventory, he quickly realizes, "Oh, shit, that song came from me -- and I didn't hear one damn word about it."
Broussard alleges the song he heard in Big Momma's House, "Bounce with Me," a future Top 40 hit performed by adolescent MC Lil' Bow Wow, sampled a hook from a song Broussard produced a couple of years back titled "Boys Night Out." Almost a year after he first heard Bow Wow's bark on-screen, Broussard stands in the office of Oldenettel & Associates as one of his attorneys, Jefferson H. Read, plays his song and "Bounce with Me" on a computer CD player. Both tunes do share a similar strings-sounding groove, but Broussard's song is different in content and attitude: "Boys Night Out" has a slick melody provided by performer Darryl "D. Holley" Cooper, with additional vocals from Jamaican rapper Biggaboss. "D. Holley came up with the melody, and I enhanced it," explains Broussard, who says he created the strings hook on a sequencer keyboard.
How did it come to this? It began when Broussard, a musician since the age of six and a bona fide producer since 1994, began working on songs with Cooper, an ol' boy of his from Yates High School. At the end of 1997 they began composing tunes that Cooper could shop to labels in search of a record deal. Broussard, for his part, hoped to tag along as Cooper's main producer. By mid-1998 they had a three-track demo that included "Boys Night Out," and they were ready to hit the bricks. Around this time, some good news came Broussard's way: Jermaine Dupri was coming to town -- Dupri, the producer extraordinaire, the man who put Kris Kross and Da Brat on the map, the head of his own So So Def label. Broussard told Cooper about this sudden stoke of luck and set out to get the attention of the major music player. (Broussard says he got the Dupri heads-up via his sister Trina, who was on the So So label at the time.)
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Broussard and Cooper tracked down Dupri at the defunct Club Shock (now Blink), where he and others were celebrating his solo album, Life in 1472. Demo in hand, Broussard and Cooper anxiously approached Dupri. Broussard says the producer was given the tape, but after that, nothing transpired between the parties. "We just never had any contact," says Broussard. "D. Holley called over there [to So So Def] a few times, but we didn't hear anything."
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With nary a word from Dupri, it was back to the control boards for the pair. In 1999 Broussard and Cooper briefly parted ways. Broussard began working with other artists, while Cooper began collaborating with other producers for his yet unfinished album. It was Lil' Bow Wow's song that brought them back together. Needless to say, once they heard their allegedly misappropriated sample on "Bounce with Me," the high school chums/struggling artists sought legal action.
Broussard and Cooper called upon the services of attorney Rick Lee Oldenettel, who had previously handled a case for one of Cooper's family members. "They presented the music they recorded and the Lil' Bow Wow song, and said, 'We believe this is our music,' " remembers Oldenettel. On March 8 Broussard, Cooper and their attorneys filed a lawsuit against the parties responsible for "Bounce with Me." For the record, Broussard and Cooper are suing Dupri, So So Def, co-writers Shawntae Harris (a.k.a. Da Brat) and Bryan-Michael Cox, Air Control Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Columbia Records Distribution and Fox Tunes. They are looking for an as-yet-undisclosed amount of the profits made on "Bounce with Me," which became a No. 1 rap single. (The album it appeared on, Lil' Bow Wow's debut, Beware of Dog, recently reached double platinum status. See Rotation, October 26, 2000.)
Lil' Bow Wow (né Shad Moss), however, is not named in the suit. "We believe that Lil' Bow Wow is likely an innocent," says Read. Broussard agrees the kid shouldn't be involved. "Bow Wow has nothing, we think, to do with what's going on," he says. The petitions have been sent out to the defendants, and now it is time to see how they will respond. (So So Def declined to comment for this story, and Dupri did not return a phone call.)
The attorneys say they are open to settling out of court. "We would love for them to sit down with us and talk it over," says Read. "But we are fully willing to take it to trial."
Believe it or not, all of this hasn't soured Broussard. He's still out there, continuing to guide artists and produce music for up-and-comers like Cloud Nine and Delon. "It can happen, but nobody hopes that it will happen," says Broussard, optimistically. In a defiant shift, he then adds, "But the big question is, When it does happen, who is willing to do something about it?"
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