Estate of Tupac Shakur threatens legal action against Drake over AI diss track

<span>Tupac Shakur pictured in 1996.</span><span>Photograph: Frank Wiese/AP</span>
Tupac Shakur pictured in 1996.Photograph: Frank Wiese/AP

The estate of the late Tupac Shakur has sent a cease and desist letter to Drake, following the release of a Drake track that uses an AI version of Shakur’s voice to lambast Kendrick Lamar.

As seen by Billboard, the letter instructs Drake to remove the track, Taylor Made Freestyle, within 24 hours, or face legal action.

“The estate is deeply dismayed and disappointed by your unauthorised use of Tupac’s voice and personality,” lawyer Howard King writes. “Not only is the record a flagrant violation of … the estate’s legal rights, it is also a blatant abuse of the legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. The estate would never have given its approval for this use.”

King added: “The unauthorised, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult.”

The track is part of an ongoing spat between Drake and Lamar, after the release of Like That by Future and Metro Boomin, on which guest rapper Lamar claimed he was the superior artist to Drake and J Cole. Drake parried with insults against Lamar and others on a diss track, Push Ups, and continued them with Taylor Made Freestyle.

A convincing simulacrum of Shakur’s voice chides Lamar for not recording a retort to Push Ups, and accuses him of being cowed by Taylor Swift in not releasing a track alongside the release of her new album. Drake also uses an AI version of Snoop Dogg to similarly chide Lamar, before delivering a verse in his own voice.

Drake’s embrace of the technology comes a year after an AI likeness of his voice, alongside one of the Weeknd, was used in a popular track called Heart on My Sleeve by producer Ghostwriter977. Universal Music Group had the track removed from streaming services, saying AI tracks “demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists”.

Related: ‘A lot of rich guys arguing’: inside the rap beef of the decade with Drake, Kendrick Lamar and more

AI was also used for a meme in which Drake’s voice was used to imitate the rapper Ice Spice, with Drake writing on social media: “This is the final straw”.

As the sophistication of AI technology rapidly increases, allowing users to easily create accurate simulations of artists, some politicians are working to protect artists’ rights.

In March, the state of Tennessee passed the Ensuring Likeness, Voice, and Image Security (Elvis) Act which prohibits the use of AI to replicate an artist without their consent. Country star Luke Bryan was among those supporting the legislation, saying: “Stuff comes in on my phone and I can’t tell it’s not me. It’s a real deal now and hopefully this will curb it and slow it down.”