The estate of legendary rapper 2Pac and Amaru Entertainment, the company that holds all of his music and related content, have secured a preliminary victory in a lawsuit over the cover art for his Makaveli project.
According to AllHipHop, US District Judge Jane J. Boyle dismissed a lawsuit brought against the estate and Amaru Entertainment by artist Ronald Brent, the Zelus Group, and Leslie Ware back on February 22nd, which requested that the courts declare Ware the legal owner of the image that appeared on 2Pac’s posthumous album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.”
According to the plaintiffs, Ware won the painting in an auction organized by the Zelus Group, who had acquired the painting from a third party, Mazuree Ali, who had purchased it from Brent. However, 2Pac’s estate and Amaru Entertainment presented an alternate chain of ownership. They claimed that Brent never “owned” the Makaveli painting or image to begin with because he was an employee for Death Row Records (DRR). Amaru alleged that ownership of the painting and image stayed with DRR. Then, in 2013, Amaru and 2Pac’s late mother, Afeni Shakur, filed a lawsuit to recover 2Pac’s DRR recordings and related material, including album artwork. The purported holder of the DRR materials then quitclaimed and assigned the recordings and artwork to Amaru on January 1, 2022.
The judge’s decision did not address the issue of ownership but rather one of jurisdiction, ultimately deciding that the case did not belong in her district. The plaintiffs sought to bring Amaru to the Northern District of Texas for a declaration on the ownership and copyright of the painting and image, but Judge Boyle wrote that “to conclude that the Court could assert jurisdiction over Amaru merely because of the painting’s presence in Texas would place ancient forms over modern notions of due process.”
Amaru Entertainment initially filed a lawsuit in California after the Makaveli painting landed on an online auction site in May 2022. As the company took steps to have the auction listing removed, the 2Pac estate began communicating with The Zelus Group in writing. Despite the legal disputes, Leslie Ware was still able to purchase the painting at auction. He, Zelus, and Brent filed their case in the Northern District of Texas due to the fact that the painting is currently at Ware’s home in Dallas.
In a separate development, the 2Pac estate recently approved the sale at auction of a collection of previously unreleased photos of the late rapper as NFTs. The photos are of 2Pac performing at Prince’s Glam Slam West nightclub in Minneapolis and are part of an auction by MakersPlace, which started on February 23. Dubbed “2Pacalypse92,” the collection includes 17 shots of the artist, each one captured by Lawrence “Loupy D” Dotson, the former managing editor at Kronick Magazine. Each NFT will come with its own original negative, allowing collectors to own a piece of hip-hop history in both a digital and physical capacity. Loupy D recalled the atmosphere of 2Pac’s 1992 performance, saying that the crowd was hyped and loving it, and that 2Pac was not just a rapper but a performer who engaged the crowd.