Hip-hop producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz are suing video-sharing social networking service Triller reportedly for millions of unpaid fees associated with the sale of the “Verzuz” franchise they founded. The music titans join other Black content creators who say they have not received money from the company.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, lawyers representing Timbaland, whose real name is Timothy Mosley, and Swizz Beatz, whose real name is Kasseem Daoud Dean, filed a lawsuit, obtained by Finurah, in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the company is in breach of contract.
Eighteen months after the sale, the two contend they are owed $28 million from the deal made in March 2021. A year ago, both parties agreed that an undisclosed sum in cash and equity be paid to the moguls to acquire “Verzuz,” the series that grew in popularity on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown across the nation.
The lawsuit states, “Defendants have failed and refused to respond to plaintiffs’ written notice and demand for payment. To date, defendants have failed and refused to make any payment to Mosley and Dean of the past due sums due and owing, and defendants continue in default of their payment obligations.”
In response to the lawsuit, Triller immediately released a statement Tuesday night, saying the dissolution of the professional relationship is “truly unfortunate” and is “nothing more than a misunderstanding driven by lawyers.”
A spokesperson for the company wrote, “We do not wish to air our dirty laundry in the press, but we have paid Swizz and Tim millions in cash and in stock.”
“No one has benefited as much from Triller to date. Triller has helped fuel Verzuz to new heights – making it the global cultural phenomenon it is today,” Triller continued. “We hope to resolve this amicably and quickly, and truly hope it’s just a misunderstanding. If we are forced to defend it, we are more than optimistic the truth and facts are on our side.”
The Triller deal, according to the lawsuit, said the first two cash payments to Timbaland and Swizz Beatz were successfully paid in January 2021 and April 2021. However, the payments that were due in January of this year reportedly did not go through.
The two have reached an agreement because of the failed payment, where Triller paid the hitmakers in February 2022, and by March 17, they were to compensate Swizz Beatz and Timbaland with $18 million ($9 million each), plus $1 million more per month for another 10 months.
The complaint alleges Triller reneged on the agreement and never paid them, stating, “The aforesaid defaults constitute material breaches of the agreement by defendants. By reason of defendants’ continuing uncured defaults, the sum of $28,095,000.00 is immediately due to be paid under the agreement.”
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland have proven to be shrewd businessmen, using their gifts as producers and executives to become some of the richest men in entertainment.
With an estimated net worth ranging between $150 million and $170 million, Swizz Beatz, a Harvard Business School executive certificate graduate, has used his talents to curate collections and campaigns for Reebok, the car company Lotus and as co-owner of Monster Cable, Inc. The Grammy Award-winner also has produced for top artists, including DMX, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and Chris Brown, yielding him millions of dollars in his publishing catalog.
Timbaland, a Virginia native, whose beat-making prowess is closely associated with stars like Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Justin Timberlake, has an estimated net worth of $85 million. The majority of his earnings come from his extensive publishing catalog, which made him the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year for three years. The four-time Grammy winner has produced countless number-one hits over his career.
For “Verzuz,” both Timbaland and Swizz Beatz received the Webby Awards “Special Achievement – ‘Break The Internet’ Award” in 2020. The award was presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts.
In a joint statement about the moment the lawsuit presents, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, said, “This is a momentous occasion not only for Verzuz and Triller but the music business as a whole.”
Attorneys for the pair have asked the court, according to the lawsuit, “For compensatory damages in the amount of $28,095,000.00, plus applicable interest on the sum of $18,095,000.00 from March 17, 2022, on the sum of $1,000,000.00 from April 1, 2022, and on the sum of $9,000,000.00 from April 14, 2022.”
They also want “all reasonable attorneys’ fees, in addition to all costs, expenses, and attorney’s fees” to be paid.
Triller has been accused of not paying Black content creators before. Last year, after celebrating the signing of 300 BIPOC creators to a partnership, boasting they would receive a collective of $14 million plus equity for participating in the deal, many have claimed the company skipped payment on them also.
These Black creators claim that almost immediately after signing, Triller failed to hold up its financial part of the bargain, leaving them in debt and struggling to make ends meet.