On December 26th, 2011, Allhiphop.compublished an exclusive story stating that although Rick Ross was to perform in Calabar, Cross River State in Nigeria on December 28th, 2011, he was reneging on his promise based on an alleged “unfulfilled contractual obligations.” You don’t say.
On December 28th, 2011, the organizers of the Calabar Festival allegedly released a statement saying Rick Ross “confirmed a receipt of his entire performance fee many weeks ago.” Further, Cross River State allegedly sent a BBM broadcast stating the following pertinent facts:
“Cross River State and its agents have retained counsel in the United States to pursue their legal and monetary remedies against the artist’ . . .‘The Calabar Festival concerts raise money for many charities across Nigeria. The performance by Rick Ross was scheduled to raise significant amounts for the Destiny Child Centre Charity . . .”
As a child, I visited Cross River State a couple of times and even attended a private school in the state for about a week, at best. My family technically hailed from Cross River State until a political division split the state into two, years ago. Now, I am from the equally beautifully and progressive state called Akwa-Ibom which still shares the same language, culture and customs with the people of Cross River State.
Even with my limited visits, I still remember vividly how gorgeous the landscape was. Folks think Napa meets Hawaii meets San Diego or one of the beautiful Carribean Islands marketed on television. Over the years, Cross River State has packaged, marketed and become notorious for providing the largest, well organized Christmas Festival in the whole of West Africa. Along with that has been hiring major acts from the USA to perform in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State.
Whatever stereotypes you have about Africans, take them, dump them in one of those big trash bags and toss the bag as far as you can because Calabar is anything but those stereotypes.
As an American and a trial attorney who represents individuals and businesses in the fashion and entertainment industry, I support American artists seeking opportunities and collaborations on foreign soil. As an attorney of African heritage and also one with a vested interest in seeing Africa’s entertainment industry flourish, I am strongly opposed to the millions of dollars African promoters and organizers spend to have American foreign acts perform in Africa. Further, I am strongly opposed to situations where local acts are bypassed or paid miserable fees just so foreign acts can perform. I believe African promoters should think long term and help with building music institutions for African youths, pushing for a better music education and infrastructure and of course paying their local acts well. Earlier this year I discussed the ridiculous story of Amber Rose whose nude photos hit the web. While many American fashion and entertainment companies allegedly quickly distanced themselves from Amber Rose, Nigeria was begging Amber Rose to show up, right at the heart of that sex photo scandal! They could not even wait for things to settle. Incredible!
Over the years we have seen Nigerians and Ghanaians, particularly, pay millions of dollars for American artists to perform. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, Brandy, Dru-Hill, R-Kelly, The Game and the list goes on. As America’s music industry faces an upheaval brought on by the digital revolution, American artists realize they have to pay the bills to keep the lights on. Africa now looks sexy. But, there is a problem. Over and over again, Africans continue to be disrespected by the same people they are paying or have paid monies to show up and perform.
I want to get to the heart of this potential litigation so I will stop for now because I do have a lot to say about this issue and do not believe I can possibly address it all in one article. Let’s get quickly to the lawsuit. It is basically a republishing of similar cases discussed in the past where cancellation of concerts took place.
What Law Governs?
USA Contract Law. Folks remember if you are a California or other USA based artist, you want home court advantage. Your lawyer should negotiate a contract that keeps all litigation/arbitration proceedings in the USA. It gets expensive very quickly if you have to pay for costs of travel and accommodations to defend a lawsuit on foreign soil. Also, for those in Cross-River State, certainly with the Naira to Dollar conversion rate, it becomes quite expensive to foot this litigation.
On the flip side, if the facts are as they read, then USA courtrooms will only benefit the Plaintiff suing you the American artist. They will show up on your turf like the underdogs Chicago Bulls just did in Los Angeles with the Lakers and give you a good spanking. How embarrassing. Better lawyer up and follow the rules your lawyer spends the time to create for you to do business and make money.
What Kind of Lawsuit is this?
Breach of Contract
Cross River State Promoters/Organizers versus Rick Ross/Maybach Breach of Contract Suit.
The Promoters can sue Rick Ross under a breach of contract claim. To prevail, the Promoters must show that:
- There was a valid contract between Rick Ross and Promoters. Seems so common sense but often many promoters do not have a signed agreement in place. Just talks, series of back and forth emails and nothing concrete and in writing.
- Rick Ross failed to perform or announced an intent not to perform (They had to find out via Allhiphop.com, like seriously? Talk about major disrespect and walking all over the Africans.)
- There was no legally valid reason for the lack of performance. For example, the Promoters can claim as they are already doing that seizures were not an issue in this case. Instead an alleged “unfulfilled contractual obligations.” Of course, Rick Ross can throw Allhiphop.com under the bus and drive the bus by denying he ever told Allhiphop.com such statements. Allhiphop.com would be left to produce the tape or emailed statements to save face. If Rick Ross denies such statements, then a safe default is health reasons since we already know that is an issue for him. Then of course we get into why would they book Rick Ross given his health scare known to the world? Was it foreseeable he would be unable to perform? Further, why would Rick Ross promise his health was no longer an issue when in fact it is an issue?
- The failure of Rick Ross to perform made it impossible for the Calabar Promoters to fulfill their obligations; and
- The Calabar Promoters have been injured i.e. out of money etc.
Common Defenses Rick Ross & Artists Like him Can Use if Applicable
- We never had a contract. We talked and yes I sent emails but I never signed anything.
- I lacked the capacity to enter into an agreement- I was mentally impaired or I am a minor (under 18) etc.
- Force Majeure clause i.e. the recent Christmas bombing in Nigeria at churches made Rick Ross feel unsafe to perform. This argument is very weak at best. Sadly, bombs and killings have been ongoing and remain ongoing in Nigeria YET Rick Ross signed a contract to show up and perform.
- I was drunk! Intoxicated. They showed me a paper after I had drank 10 bottles of Moet. I didn’t even know what they said. I can’t even remember signing. Generally this defense is not very strong.
- I was under duress (blackmail, for example) and undue influence from an overbearing promoter who also happens to be my Uncle.
- The promoter misrepresented the facts and but for that misrepresentation artist would not have signed agreement.
- Unconscionable. Think, “how on earth could anyone negotiate such unfair contract with artist?” If Promoter, for example, makes $50,000 and only pays Rick Ross $1,000.
If the Calabar Promoters prevail in a US court, then the remedy can be in the form of:
- Damages i.e. money
- Specific performance – forcing artist to perform
- Cancellation & restitution- Calabar Promoters claim they already gave him his entire fees. Restitution would be for Rick Ross to return that money. Cancellation would void any other obligations both parties might owe to each other.
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