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  • Writer's pictureJamal Saafir

MF DOOM's Estate Sues For Stolen Songwriting Notebooks

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

According to a report from Billboard, the widow of late great Hip-Hop legend MF DOOM, Jasmine Dumile Thompson, filed a lawsuit, alleging that his former label collaborator, Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, stole 31 of DOOM's notebooks that were used to capture the lyrics to many of his cherished works. This included the tracks from Operation Doomsday (1999), Madvillainy (2004), and MM…FOOD (2004) as well as unreleased songs, ideas, musings, and “other creative ideations.”

The Tuesday, October 24th, California federal Court filing is not the first time DOOM fans have heard of the notebooks. In March, Thompson posted emails between DOOM and Alapatt to the @MFDOOM instagram account with the caption “Egon Give the Notebooks Back,” causing fans to speak out in support of DOOM's estate and acknowledging its struggle to regain possession of his writings. Alapatt started working with DOOM as the general manager and A&R of Stones Throw Records. He is also the former manager of DOOM-collaborator and producer Madlib and founder of Now Again Records. According to the complaint, Alapatt has admitted to possessing the notebooks in the past, but the estate says he refuses to return them.

Instead, Alapatt is allegedly demanding that the notebooks be “donated to a university or government archive” or a “museum or other institution of Alapatt’s choosing,” even though doing so is against his estate’s wishes. “The notebooks were intended by DOOM to be secret and confidential,” the lawsuit states.

The situation began in 2010, when DOOM traveled to the U.K. to perform but was denied entry upon return to the United States due to immigration issues. (He remained in the U.K. until his passing on October 31, 2020 at the age of 49). During his absence, the 31 notebooks of lyrical material were left behind in his Los Angeles studio, according to the lawsuit, and Alapatt “took unlawful possession” of the books about six years later.

“Alapatt never consulted with DOOM about his acquisition of the notebooks and took advantage of DOOM’s being out of the country to obtain them,” the lawsuit says, but when DOOM initially confronted Alapatt, Alapatt allegedly lied about the location of the books, saying he didn’t have them. Allegedly, the landlord of DOOM’s studio told DOOM that Alapatt was in possession of the notebooks, so DOOM confronted Alapatt once more.

Alapatt allegedly then told DOOM that he took possession of the notebooks because DOOM owed $12,500 in past-due rent, and DOOM's remaining possessions, which included the notebooks, would be destroyed by the landlord. Due to Alapatt's claims that he paid the past due rent on DOOM’s behalf, he claims that the physical notebooks are legally his property, according to the complaint. (Earlier this year, Thompson had come to suspect that DOOM owed no additional rent, and Alapatt paid $12,500 to the landlord solely to purchase the books.)

In the summer of 2020, Alapatt apparently offered to send DOOM and his family photocopies of the contents of the notebooks for the “sole purpose” of allowing DOOM access but would not relinquish custody of the actual books themselves. DOOM rejected this offering. In October of 2020, shortly before the artist's passing, the estate says Alapatt sent DOOM a hard drive with large format scans of every notebook he lost, all of which were time stamped between 2018 and March 2020. The lawsuit claims that this gives evidence that Alapatt infringed on his estate’s intellectual property, which is now held by his business entity, Gas Drawls, by producing and distributing unauthorized duplicates of DOOM’s lyrics.

It is undetermined who Alapatt sent the scans to, if anyone, but the lawsuit claims Alapatt was communicating with potential buyers, including Hip-Hop archivists, to sell the notebooks or its copies.

“Although Alapatt has professed that he ‘does not intend to publish’ the unauthorized digital copies he made, he does not have to ‘publish’ the copies of his infringing copies to be liable,” argues the complaint. “Regardless, [DOOM’s estate] alleges that Alapatt actually shared the copies of the notebook he made with others.”

After DOOM’s passing, Thompson is committed to getting the notebooks back to the family, the photo copies eradicated, and “significant compensation” for the damage Alapatt has caused. Along with copyright infringement, the lawsuit alleges “fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, constructive trust and declaratory relief” and requests a jury trial.

In a statement sent to Billboard, Alapatt’s lawyer Kenneth Freundlich stated the following: “Mr. Alapatt looks forward to his day in court to dismiss these frivolous and untrue allegations. Mr. Alapatt rescued these books from DOOM’s unpaid landlord who had taken possession of all of his belongings. With DOOM’s blessing, Mr. Alapatt intended to donate the books to either the Smithsonian or the Cornell University Hip Hop Archive, where they could be considered and studied by scholars, in the same way that manuscripts by great poets or sheet music by great composers are. Mr. Alapatt will do everything he can to ensure that these historically significant books are archived and protected.”

Thompson and Gas Drawls are represented by Miles M. Cooley of Freedman and Taitelman. Alapatt is represented by Kenneth Freundlich of Freundlich Law.

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