By Michael Ashcraft —
In a court decision with implications for Christian Hip Hop at large, Flame won a plagiarism suit against pop star Katy Perry, who stole his beat from “Joyful Noise” and included it in her #1 song “Dark Horse,” according to a Los Angeles jury.
Damages were set at $2.78 million, but Perry and her team will appeal.
It was a victory for Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray. But it is also a resounding validation for Christian Hip Hop (CHH), which gets criticized for being copycat, unoriginal, even corny. Perry extracted Flame’s 2008 synth beat almost unaltered for her 2013 song, whose video was the first of a female artist to reach a billion views on YouTube.
The brazen robbery of intellectual property proves once and for all that CHH is a source of creativity, not knockoff.
Apparently it was Flame’s DJ at the time Cho’zyn Boy who sniffed out the fraud. He dissected the two songs and found that the only difference in the beat lines was “Dark Horse” sped up its tempo from 66 BPM to 76 BPM and dropped pitch down one decimal from Db to C, according to Rapzilla.
Perry and her lawyers argued that her song-writing crew never heard “Joyful Noise” and didn’t even know of Flame. They contended that beats can sound similar from one song to the next.
Flame’s lawyer hog-washed such claims, saying the music diva thought she could get away with highway robbery because Flame was a low-level musician – and a Christian.
“They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” argued Michael A Kahn, as reported by the Guardian. Flame’s video reached 2 million viewers and was too widely known for jurors to believe Perry.
But behind the court conflict, there’s an epic battle going on that transcends a significant payout for the Christian rapper who turned down $1 million from secular producers that offered him a contract on the condition he tone down the Jesus talk.
Behind the settlement and intellectual property infringement, there is also an epic war for the precious, prodigal soul of Katy Perry.
Oddly enough, the mega star once called herself a Pentecostal Christian, a daughter of ministers — and she performed on Trinity Broadcasting Network under her given name Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson.
After she met with virtually no success in Christian circles (her first album reportedly sold 200), Perry turned her back on her childhood faith and sold out for glitter and gold.
She adopted a new image, cast as the modern American female sensation: beautiful, entertaining, controversial, vocals not necessary (because auto-tune fixes everything). She descended into the trash and smiled for the paparazzi.
Starting on Capitol Records with the lesbian-curious “I kissed a girl,” Perry shocked and intrigued her way to selling 7 million copies of her breakout album One of the Boys.
In 2015, she performed the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show to 118.5 million viewers in the US, more than watched the football final itself. She surpassed Justin Bieber on Twitter traffic, becoming the first to hit 100 million followers in June 2017.
She flaunted a sexualized aura all the way to the top of the world.
Meanwhile, she began to traipse recklessly over Christians of all colors and stripes. She fell in love with a chateau-type monastery and offered to buy it with $14.5 million cash. The few remaining Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary weren’t as thrilled as the L.A. Archdiocese headquarters about the offer and sued to stop its sale.
“Katy Perry, please stop,” 89-year-old Catherine Rose Holzman pleaded outside a courtroom in 2019. “It’s not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people.” (Holzman had previously accused Perry of having “blood on her hands” and despite having “all this girl power, she’s running over a woman and five nuns.”)
Within hours of pleading for her convent outside the Los Angeles court, Holzman collapsed and died.
The fact that Perry stole Flame’s song reveals the blatant disregard for anything Christian. “Dark Horse” has Egyptian themes and occult symbols galore in the video. What happened to any vestige of Christian heritage?
Actually, it’s not gone, though suppressed beneath the giddiness of being on top of the world. The Spirit of God loves and pursues prodigals and will undoubtedly use Christians in her orbit to woo her home.
It will be like God if Flame’s legal win against Perry involves more than dollars. It may be one of a series of circumstances calling a wayward Christian back to her Father’s embrace.
Michael Ashcraft supports his passion for Christian journalism with a bamboo steamer business.