When Beyoncé sampled videos by the late New Orleans comedian and bounce rapper Messy Mya on “Formation” without permission from his estate, they filed a $20 million lawsuit against the singer. While Bey claimed the samples were fair use, a Louisiana judge has dismissed that claim.
You can hear Messy Mya, born Anthony Barre, at the beginning of “Formation” memorably saying “What happened at the New Orleans” and “Bitch, I’m back by popular demand.” Then later when Beyoncé cruises by the camera you can hear him freak out, saying “Oh yeah baby. I like that.” The clips are from pieces of Barre’s performance art pieces, “A 27 Piece Huh?” and “Booking the Hoes from New Wildings.” Barre was murdered in 2010 and his death is still unsolved, but his sister Angel Barre is suing Beyoncé for the usage.
The U.S. District Judge wrote in her decision on Tuesday that even though the samples were short they were of “qualitatively significant” use. “Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged in their complaint that Defendants did not change or alter the ‘expressive content or message’ of Anthony Barré’s YouTube videos, but rather used unmodified clips without adding anything new,” she wrote.
Angel Barre is asking for over $20 million in damages and royalties as well as to credit for Messy Mya on the record and future performances.