Tanya Stephens sues Lil' Kim

Observer Reporter

Tanya Stephens

Having just completed a sentence for a criminal offence, US rapper Lil' Kim now faces a civil action on a different matter, with Jamaican dancehall artiste Tanya Stephens at the centre.

Stephens claims in a suit filed in Manhattan federal court last week that Kim stole the lyrics from one of her songs, Mi And Mi God after flying her [Stephens] to New York, asking her to sing on one of her albums and belting out by heart the very song she pilfered to show what a big fan she was of Stephens, according to the suit.

Stephens and her representatives from the Royalty Network were shocked when they first listened to Lil' Kim's late-2005 album, The Naked Truth.

Lil' Kim

The lyrics of Kim's track Durty are said to match almost word for word with Stephens' Mi and Mi God recorded in Jamaica and released in 1997, on Stephens' album, Too Hype.

The Brooklyn-born Kim, aka Kimberly Jones, even sings the tune with a West Indian accent, the suit alleges. It further claims that the lyrics are so duplicative that Stephens is claiming she should own the song and receive all past and future royalties.

Kim reached out to Stephens in 1999 and flew her up to have her sing on one of her albums. She gushed over Stephens when they met in the New York recording studio, telling her that she was a "big fan" and that she owned several of the reggae artiste's albums, the suit says. Kim even sang her favourite Stephens song, which she knew by heart. It was Mi and Mi God, according to the lawsuit. Stephens then sang with Kim, but the vocals never made the album.

Lil' Kim's lawyer and agent are yet to comment on the suit, which was reported in the New York Post newspaper.
Stephens, 33, who played Radio City Music Hall last year, sings in a patchwork style of reggae, dancehall and R&B.

"It's about women's empowerment," said Andrew Henton, her manager in Jamaica. "She sings about sex, but not in a raunchy way. It's more thought-provoking, more political. I wouldn't say it's like Lil' Kim."

If anything, she rejects the rapper's sexy sales pitch. "I'm not a prude, and I'm not intimidated by sex or nakedness," Stephens told a British publication this month. "In fact, I find some of it appealing. But I don't feel that a marketing company needs to use sex to sell me a pack of flour! It's not relevant, 'cos I'm not making any sexy dumplings!"

The Naked Truth shot to No 3 on the hip-hop charts and rose to No 6 on the Billboard chart. It was nominated for album of the year for the BET Awards. Stephens' latest, Rebelution, (see review in this section) was recently released.

This latest legal predicament comes after Kim was released from a federal prison in Philadelphia on July 3. She had served 10 months for lying to a grand jury about a shooting incident that erupted outside radio station Hot 97 in lower Manhattan when her posse clashed with that of rapper Foxy Brown. Kim completed house arrest on August 3.

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