Rick Astley sues rapper for using alleged imitation of Never Gonna Give You Up vocals
US rapper Yung Gravy reportedly had permission to use the 'composition' of Astley's song, but not to mimic his vocals
Rick Astley and his team have filed a lawsuit against rapper Yung Gravy due to the appearance of an alleged imitation of Astley in one of his tracks.
According to the 56-year-old's legal team, via the BBC, the rapper had cleared the use of the "underlying musical composition" of the song Never Gonna Give You Up for his track Betty (Get Money).
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But the lawsuit argues that Yung Gravy "conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr Astley's voice throughout the song", for which he did not have permission.
Astley's lawsuit also names Nick Seeley — aka Popnick — who is alleged to have provided the vocal imitation.
Betty (Get Money) was released in June 2022 and promptly became Yung Gravy's biggest hit, charting on the Billboard Hot 100 and being certified Gold in three countries.
In the legal papers, reported via Billboard, Astley's lawyers wrote that "the public could not tell the difference" between the star's real voice and the alleged impersonation.
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The suit argues that Yung Gravy had been granted permission to use the process of "interpolation" to recreate music and lyrics from the original song, but had not been allowed to "sample" the song by using the original music and vocals.
His lawyers wrote: "A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording.
"So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement."
In an interview with Billboard last summer, Gravy discussed the process of putting the track together after liking the sample, but said he "never figured it was clearable".
He added: "My boy Nick, who does a lot of sample replays and recreating original samples, we basically remade the whole song.
"Had a different singer and instruments, but it was all really close because it makes it easier legally."
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Never Gonna Give You Up was released in 1987 and topped the charts in 25 countries all over the world, becoming Astley's signature track.
It attained new popularity in the noughties when the video became the centre of the "rickrolling" internet meme, in which users would be unwittingly directed to the song as an online prank.
Watch: Rick Astley suing Yung Gravy over alleged vocal imitation