Lil Jon Seeks $30 Million Over Video

Matt O'Conner
ATLANTA — Claiming breach of contract, false advertising, trademark infringement and unauthorized use of his name and likeness, rapper Lil Jon this week filed suit against LFP Video and Category 5 Entertainment.

According to court documents obtained by XBiz, the suit stems from the use of Lil Jon concert footage in Hustler Video’s “Phat Tuesday,” as well as use of the rapper’s name and image on the DVD’s boxcover.

The live performance footage was shot at a Feb. 5, 2004, New Orleans-area concert promoted in part by Category 5.

According to Lil Jon, who’s real name is Jonathan Smith, his contract with Category 5 gave the company permission to use his name and likeness only for the purposes of promoting the concert and only until the date of the concert. It did not give Category 5 the right to reproduce or sell his name or likeness to a second party such as LFP, the lawsuit says.

The boxcover for “Phat Tuesday” shows Lil John flanked by two of the DVD’s stars, Ashley Fires and Lacey, along with a “sunburst” that reads, “Featuring Top 10 Recording Artist Lil Jon, King of Crunk.”

LFP spokesman Jeff Mullen said, "We are looking closely at this situation; however, we are confident that all of the proper documentation was in place regarding this project." He added that the company will have more to say on the lawsuit in the coming days.

Lil Jon is widely known in the music community as the King of Crunk, a heavy, Southern brand of hip-hop that’s popular in dance clubs. Early last year, the dreadlocked, metal-toothed rapper and producer introduced a pomegranate-flavored energy drink under the Crunk brand name.

The lawsuit contends that because Lil Jon is a “certified hit maker” and he “created the term Crunk,” his name and likeness are “valuable commodities, with significant secondary meaning and goodwill attached to them.” It asserts that Lil Jon was deprived of royalties and revenue attached to the unauthorized use of his name and image. A valid license for such use, according to the claim, would have cost LFP more than $500,000.

Perhaps most significantly, the suit contends that “the goodwill associated with [Lil Jon’s trademarks] has been tarnished significantly by being linked improperly to Hustler.” It says these marks are used in a wide variety of merchandise, giving their goodwill a value of not less than $30 million.

Earlier this year, Lil Jon signed a two-picture deal with another adult studio, Vivid Entertainment, under which he was to direct and create music for two hardcore videos. The rapper and his band, The East Side Boyz, also were to appear in the videos in non-sex roles.

While the suit does not make specific reference to the Vivid deal, it has been widely reported that the release of “Phat Tuesday” has put the first of the two Vivid movies, originally scheduled to release in the second quarter of 2005, on hold indefinitely.

In addition to seeking compensatory, actual and punitive damages, Lil Jon’s suit requests an order to impound and destroy all remaining copies of “Phat Tuesday.”