By Miles Weiss and Kamaron Leach
Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, the hip-hop artist facing federal charges tied to Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB fraud, agreed to sell a portion of his music catalog to an investment firm backed by Apollo Global Management Inc.
HarbourView Equity Partners bought Michel’s stake in the master recordings of the Fugees, the rap group he co-founded more than three decades ago, according to a commercial filing in Washington that doesn’t disclose how much Michel was paid. Attorneys for the performer and a HarbourView spokesman had no comment.
Apollo committed as much as $1 billion in funding to Newark, New Jersey-based HarbourView, which has invested in a wide range of musical genres since it was founded last year by Sherrese Clarke Soares. HarbourView also announced this week that it purchased country icon Brad Paisley’s master recordings in a deal that values the archive at as much as $25 million.
The Fugees, which Michel started with Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, are one of the best-selling hip-hop groups ever, partly on the strength of their second album, “The Score,” which won the Grammy for best rap album in 1997. The three artists began going their separate ways in the late 1990s, though they have since reunited several times for short periods.
Michel, 49, indicted last year along with fugitive financier Jho Low, is accused of illegally lobbying the Trump administration to drop an investigation tied to the 1MDB global bribery scandal and remove a Chinese dissident from the US. Both were previously charged in 2019 with seeking to funnel millions of dollars of Low’s money into the US presidential election as legitimate campaign contributions while hiding the actual source of the funds.
Michel pleaded not guilty, with one of his lawyer’s calling the case “a selective prosecution that has unfairly targeted” the artist, who’s scheduled to stand trial in November.
Most musicians have two potential streams of royalties, including the copyrights on the songs they composed and the master recordings of their performances. Michel had a one-third stake in the group’s master recordings with the remainder held by Hill and Jean, according to the filing. Sony Music Entertainment owns the publishing copyrights on the group’s compositions.
Artists have been cashing in on their music catalogs for the past several years, with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and John Legend among those finding buyers. Members of the rock band Pink Floyd are said to be seeking at least $500 million for their work.
The rights to the Fugees music would be particularly valuable because other artists often sample bits of the group’s songs into their own recordings, constantly creating new sources of royalty revenue.
“You have over a quarter-century of people being influenced by their music and sampling it to create their own songs,” Eli Ball, the founder of Utopia Music division Lyric Financial, which provides funding to singers and songwriters, said of the Fugees. “That is really where the value comes from.”
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