the law

Jay-Z Insists He’s Not a Lawyer During Court Testimony, in Case There Was Any Confusion

Jay-Z. Photo: Alec Tabak/Pool

Update, Wednesday, November 10, 5 p.m.: Jay-Z smiled as he left court Wednesday after a jury decided that he didn’t have to pay any money in a contract lawsuit over his Hova-branded fragrance.

When lawyers for Parlux, the perfume company suing Jay-Z, complained that the jurors’ decision was inconsistent, the judge said, “You failed to prove your case” and “they failed to prove their case.” Asked by Vulture whether he had 98 problems now, Jay-Z beamed and said, “I like that.”

Original story follows.

Jay-Z appeared in New York City court Friday morning, a day ahead of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, to testify in a lawsuit over Hova-branded fragrance — and his demeanor could best be described as annoyed nonchalance. The “Big Pimpin’” performer, legal name Shawn Carter, repeatedly said, “I’m not a lawyer,” when grilled about a legal agreement he signed. This was his first time appearing in court for this case.

Jay-Z is being sued in a contract lawsuit that involves perfume. Parlux Fragrances claims that he did not promote its Gold Jay-Z scent despite his obligation to do so under a 2012 agreement. Carter also allegedly refused to appear for a promotional event at Macy’s, the New York Post said of the 2016 lawsuit. Jay-Z was questioned today by Anthony Viola, the perfume company’s lead lawyer.

The music mogul sported a black jacket, black mask, and white T-shirt— no tie — for his testimony in Manhattan Supreme Court today. He was seated behind plexiglass, due to COVID-19. One alternate juror seemed to perk up when lawyers said they were calling Shawn Carter to the stand. When a court officer told Jay-Z’s lawyer: “Council, Mr. Carter wants to give you his phone. Would it be okay if I take it and hand it to you?”, this same juror laughed. She raised her hand after he was sworn in. Later, when Jay-Z’s annoyance seemed to increase, another juror waved to this woman. As Jay-Z’s frustration seemed to grow, more jurors could be seen laughing during some of the snippier exchanges.

In his testimony, Jay-Z also claimed to Viola he didn’t read the contract in question and was unaware of personal obligations in the agreement. “There’s things that are always consistent that I have creative control,” Jay-Z testified. “All I can say is I have creative control over what I do with myself, my body. No, I did not read the contract.”

“I’m sure my lawyers outlined the details,” he continued.

Jay-Z also pushed back against claims that he didn’t do promo as required in the contract.

“I’ve done a lot for the Gold Jay-Z launch,” he said.

Jay-Z shot back when asked about whether he had gone back and read over documents to prepare for his testimony. He said that he had read some emails before trial, saying he “just wanted to refresh my memory, because you guys have me on trial for something I didn’t do.”

Viola kept hammering Jay-Z on whether his memory claims by asking: “So you didn’t remember then, but you remember now?”

“That’s how memory works,” Jay-Z said.

The questioning shifted to Jay-Z’s marketing efforts and if he neglected the perfume while he was working with his other products, like his Champagne, cigars, and luxe watch lines.  Specifically, Jay-Z was asked about his appearance at a Hubolt event, a watch line he released in 2013 that was sold at Barney’s. It’s significant if Jay-Z attended an in-person event for a product because Viola has said the rapper didn’t do any appearances for his scent. After a back-and-forth between Jay-Z and Viola — “We sold out of the watches, correct?” “I don’t know.” “Oh, you know.” — he claimed he did do an event for Gold Jay Z. “You said I didn’t do promotions for the fragrance. [That’s] not true,” Jay-Z said, later explaining, “Each product requires a different strategy. This is a creative difference, not a contractual one.” This exchange caused Viola to question Jay-Z’s memory once again.

“Do you remember why you declined to give a quote for the press release for the fragrance?” Viola asked.

“Uh, I don’t, not offhand. Could you show me [me] declining?”

Jay-Z’s undeniably entertaining testimony is in keeping with what appears to be his last time testifying in court, in 2015. He and Timabaland were accused of copyright infringement for their use of a sample in “Big Pimpin’”. During his testimony, the rapper apparently forgot about Tidal, though days later, celebrated the streaming service for reaching 1 million subscribers. The suit against Jay-Z and Timbaland was ultimately dismissed.

This story has been updated throughout.

Jay-Z Testifies in Perfume Case, Insists He’s Not a Lawyer