The widow of late hip-hop legend MF DOOM, Jasmine Dumile Thompson, filed a lawsuit, claiming that his former label collaborator, Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, stole 31 of the rapper’s notebooks that were used to write down many of his beloved songs. This included the tracks from Operation Doomsday (1999), Madvillainy (2004), and MM…FOOD (2004) as well as unreleased songs ideas, musings and “other creative ideations.”
The case, filed in California federal court Tuesday, is not the first time DOOM’s fans have heard about these notebooks. Back in March, Thompson posted emails between her late husband and Alapatt to the @MFDOOM instagram account with the caption “Egon Give the Notebooks Back,” sending fans to rally around the rapper’s estate and its struggle to repossess his writing material. Alapatt started working with DOOM as the general manager and a&r of Stones Throw Records. He is also the former manager of DOOM-collaborator and producer Madlib and founder of Now Again Records. According to the complaint, Alapatt has admitted to having the notebooks in the past, but the estate says he refuses to return them.
Instead, Alapatt is allegedly demanding that the notebooks be “donated to a university or government archive” or a “museum or other institution of [Alapatt’s] choosing,” even though doing so is contrary to his estate’s wishes. “[The notebooks] were intended by DOOM to be secret and confidential,” the lawsuit reads.
It all started in 2010, when the metal-masked rapper travelled to the U.K. to perform but was prohibited from returning to the U.S. due to immigration issues. (He remained in the U.K. until his death on October 31, 2020 at the age of 49). During his absence, the 31 notebooks of lyrical material were left behind in his Los Angeles studio, according to the lawsuit, and Alapatt “took unlawful possession” of the books about six years later.
“Alapatt never consulted with DOOM about his acquisition of the notebooks and took advantage of DOOM’s being out the country to obtain them,” the lawsuit says, but when first confronted by DOOM about the whereabouts of his books, Alapatt allegedly lied at first, saying he didn’t have them. After the landlord of DOOM’s studio allegedly told DOOM that Alapatt did, in fact, have the notebooks, DOOM confronted the exec again.
Alapatt allegedly then told DOOM he got the notebooks because DOOM owed $12,500 in past-due rent, and if someone did not pay it off, the landlord was going to destroy the possessions he left behind. Because Alapatt claims to have paid that rent on DOOM’s behalf, he said that the physical notebooks themselves were legally his property, according the complaint. (Earlier this year, Thompson has come to suspect that DOOM owed no additional rent, and Alapatt simply paid $12,500 to the landlord to buy the books.)
In Summer 2020, Alapatt apparently offered to send DOOM and his family photocopies of the contents of the notebooks for the “sole purpose” of allowing DOOM access but would not give back the physical books themselves. DOOM refused this proposal. In October 2020, shortly before the rapper’s death, the estate says Alapatt sent DOOM a hard drive with large format scans of every notebook he lost, all of which were time stamped between 2018 and March 2020. The lawsuit claims that this proves Alapatt was infringing on his estate’s intellectual property, which is now held by his business entity, Gas Drawls, by creating and disseminating unlawful copies of DOOM’s lyrics.
It is unclear who Alapatt sent these scans to, if anyone, but the lawsuit claims Alapatt was talking to potential buyers, including hip-hop archivists, to sell the notebooks or its copies.
“Although Alapatt has professed that he ‘does not intend to publish’ the unauthorized digital copies he made, he does not have to ‘publish’ the copies of his infringing copies to be liable,” argues the complaint. “Regardless, [DOOM’s estate] alleges that Alapatt actually shared the copies of the notebook he made with others.”
Now, after DOOM’s death, Thompson is intent on getting the notebooks returned to the family, the photo copies destroyed, and “significant compensation” for the damage Alapatt has caused. Along with copyright infringement, the lawsuit alleges “fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, constructive trust and declaratory relief” and requests a jury trial.