Drake Used Tupac AI Vocals to Diss Lamar

The estate of Tupac Shakur threatened to sue Drake after he used an AI-generated version of the late hip-hop star’s voice in a new song that throws shade at Kendrick Lamar, Billboard reports.

Attorney Howard King, representing Shakur’s estate, sent a cease-and-desist letter calling Drake’s use of Shakur’s AI voice “a flagrant violation of Tupac’s publicity and the estate’s legal rights.”

The Apr. 24 letter demands that Drake [Aubrey Drake Graham] pull down his new track ‘Taylor Made Freestyle’ within 24 hours or the estate would “pursue all of its legal remedies” against him.

Also read: AI-generated ‘Drake’ and ‘The Weeknd’ Song Not Eligible for a Grammy After All

AI Tupac: Estate feels ‘insulted’

“The estate is deeply dismayed and disappointed by your [Drake’s] unauthorized use of Tupac’s voice and personality,” King wrote in the letter, according to Billboard.

“Not only is the record a flagrant violation of Tupac’s publicity and the estate’s legal rights, it is also a blatant abuse of the legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time,” he said, adding:

“The [Tupac] estate would never have given its approval for this use.”

Drake released the so-called diss track ‘Taylor Made Freestyle’ on Apr. 19. It is the latest salvo in a reported ten-year feud against Kendrick Lamar, a gifted rapper and songwriter who has won a Pulitzer and 17 Grammy awards.

Apart from taking pot-shots at Lamar and Taylor Swift, Drake’s new song made the headlines for its use of artificial intelligence to mimick the voice of the late Tupac with remarkable accuracy.

“Kendrick, we need ya, the West Coast savior/ Engraving your name in some hip-hop history,” the AI-cloned Tupac raps in Drake’s song. “If you deal with this viciously/ You seem a little nervous about all the publicity.”

In the cease-and-desist letter, Tupac’s estate said Drake violated Tupac’s legal right to control how his image or likeness is used by others – something known as publicity rights. It said it felt ‘insulted’ Tupac’s voice was used without permission to attack Lamar.

“The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the Estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult,” King wrote.

Copyright conundrum

‘Taylor Made Freestyle’ also featured the AI-generated voice of Snoop Dogg. Together with Tupac, the two are Lamar’s biggest incluences in the U.S. West Coast hip-hop scene.

As reported by Billboard, it remains unclear if Snoop will take legal action against Drake. However, he shared a video on Instagram in which he appeared to be hearing of the song for the first time: “They did what? When? How? Are you sure?” Snoop quipped.

The potential Tupac estate lawsuit against Canadian singer Drake shows how AI technology remains a very divisive issue in the arts and creative industries. Several artists have sued AI developers such as OpenAI and Stability AI over copyright infringement.

Earlier this month, over 200 music artists, including Nicki Minaj, Kate Perry, Stevie Wonder, and the estates of Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra, signed an open letter calling on AI companies to stop using their work without permission.

The Artists Rights Alliance accused developers, tech firms and digital music platforms of using AI to “infringe upon and devalue the rights of human artists” such as songwriters and musicians.

In its letter, the Tupac estate took issue with the AI model that was used to create the ‘Taylor Made Freestyle’ track. It worries the model violated the estate’s copyrights by “training” on existing recordings of Tupac’s music.

“It is hard to believe that [Tupac’s record label]’s intellectual property was not scraped to create the fake Tupac AI on the Record,” King wrote.

He demanded Drake provide “a detailed explanation for how the sound-alike was created and the persons or company that created it, including all recordings and other data ‘scraped’ or used.”

Drake Used Tupac AI Vocals to Diss Lamar

Drake’s AI ‘hypocrisy’

Drake is no stranger to AI music. In April 2023, an artist known as Ghostwriter used AI to clone the voices of Drake and The Weeknd to create the song ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, which went viral on social media. The track gained nearly one million views but was quickly removed from streaming platforms.

At the time, Universal Music Group, which publishes both Drake and The Weeknd, said the distribution of its music, cloned with AI, to digital service providers like Spotify “represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law.”

By April’s end, the company had sent emails to music streaming services including YouTube, Tidal, and Apple Music warning them that they “will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists” over the use of AI-generated songs.

King, the lawyer representing Tupac’s estate, pointed out he thought to be some form of hypocrisy on the part of Drake. The singer has in the past objected to the use of his likeness by other people, as well as the incident involving ‘Heart On My Sleeve’.

“The [‘Taylor Made Freestyle’] has generated well more than one million streams at this point and has been widely reported in the general national press and popular entertainment websites and publications,” King said.

“Without question, it is exponentially more serious and damaging than a picture of you with some other people on a low volume website.”

Drake is suing the website in question for using his image without consent. King said the estate needed written confirmation by Apr. 25 that Drake’s representatives were “expeditiously taking all steps necessary to have it removed.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.