The “industry rule” Q-Tip revealed back in 1991’s “Check The Rhime” appears to hold as true as ever. For proof, look no further than the recent sale of A Tribe Called Quest’s catalog royalties as an NFT, which the band now says they never actually authorized. Group DJ and co-founder Ali Shaheed Muhammad responded to Billboard‘s report of the sale on Facebook, revealing just how Royalty Exchange came to offering 1.5% of the band’s first five album royalties as a non-fungible token at auction.
“No member of A Tribe Called Quest has entered into any partnership with Royalty Exchange,” he wrote, as he launched into a lengthy explanation of just how labyrinthine and convoluted record contracts can truly be.
In 1989 a dream unfolds. Two teenagers sign a 5 album recording contract with Jive Records. Q-Tip and I were represented by Ron Skoler and Ed Chalpin. Ed owned PPX Enterprises, google that ish. We had absolutely no affiliation with either of these gentlemen other than them representing us as our lawyer/“agent” in negotiating the deal with Jive.
PPX aka Ed Chalpin added a clause to our agreement stating they get paid a percentage of our recording fund EVERY time we commenced to record a new album. We did not discover this hidden clause until we commenced to record The Low End Theory. We disputed this clause. Neither Ed or Ron ever told us about this bullsh*t language in the agreement. It was unwarranted and where I come from “crooked.” Ed sued us and he lost. He appealed the case. He was rich and had deep pockets to litigate. We however were not rich. We were kids with a dream, an album slowly selling and deeply in debt to our record company.
We were determined to not to be taken advantage of by PPX Enterprises. We wanted to fight on. Jive offered to help us with our lack of capital to litigate the appeal however they required us to sign a sixth album with them. Without any other means to get this (do not use slanderous adjectives) entity out of our lives, we signed for the 6th album, added Phife to the contract and Jive made the PPX issue disappear or so we thought.
It wasn’t until reading this incomplete article by Billboard on June 29, 2021 that I learned PPX Enterprises wasn’t entirely out of our business. Apparently PPX sold their share of a settlement they made with Jive Records to an individual whom entered into a partnership with Royalty Exchange. Be clear that is the NFT that was created and auctioned.
Had we known this percentage of our art was out there we would have bought it directly from PPX Enterprises as it should have never been sold by Jive Records.
So, there you have it. The group never wanted to sell their royalties but now, bidder Stephen F, who paid 40.191 in Ethereum ($84,765), will be receiving semi-annual checks from every stream, sample, or media appearance of songs from the first five Tribe albums (you know, the ones that have appeared EVERYWHERE since the ’90s revival boom in television and film over the past decade) until the copyright expires. Yikes.