Bad Bunny and his collaborators on the multiplatinum, old-school reggaeton mashup “Safaera” have reached a preliminary settlement over claims the five-minute track stole samples from three songs on genre pioneer DJ Playero’s highly influential 1990s mixtapes.
A federal judge in California suspended hearings in the legal war on Tuesday after the parties notified the court that a Jan. 17 mediation conference successfully produced a “settlement in principle.”
“A draft of a settlement agreement has been circulated, but the parties expect this process to take some time since the settlement is complex and will require the review and approval of multiple corporate and individual parties,” lawyers for Bad Bunny and the record company that owns the D.J. Playero works wrote to the judge.
If a formal dismissal of the case isn’t filed by Feb. 17, the parties have been ordered to report back on the status of the settlement process, the judge ruled.
“Safaera” is ranked No. 329 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s described as “a jolting five minutes packed with at least nine beat flips, multiple Puerto Rican guest stars, unflinchingly irreverent lyrics, and samples ranging from Missy Elliott’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’ to Alexis and Fido’s ‘El Tiburon.’”
From Bad Bunny’s 2020 hit album YHLQMDLG, “Safaera” lists more than a dozen writers, including Bob Marley, thanks to a bassline from “Could You Be Loved” and Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Jowell & Randy, whose real names are Joel Muñoz and Randy Ortiz.
According to the now-suspended lawsuit, the song was “briefly removed” from Spotify on May 14, 2020, “due to defendants’ failure to clear a sample” from “Get Ur Freak On.” The song was later restored upon obtaining the clearance, with Missy Elliott’s name added to the list of songwriters.
Missy Elliott ended up commenting on the behind-the-scene wrangling over her signature hook after Jowell claimed in an interview that she “got everything” in the deal to avoid a legal battle, leaving only 1 percent of royalties to be split three ways between Bad Bunny, Randy and himself.
“Sadly you mislead all these people to make them think I have 99 percent. Now I don’t talk business online because that’s messy, but now we are here I have 25 percent and there is 6 other samples & 15 other writers on this one song. They got percentage also,” Missy Elliott tweeted last March.
“Missy, something got lost in translation cuz i never said u take 99 percent thats impossible there are a whole bunch of other peoples in there. Im cool with my 1 percent . Excuse me , Nothing but love from Puerto Rico to you. We are both in business. Let’s chill and enjoy what we have. Peace,” Jowell wrote in a response tweet.
“I’m glad that you now mention that there are many other samples/writers on this track that got their percentages that you hadn’t named. We both in the music business & know how we must clear someone else’s work,” she shot back.
For his part, DJ Playero took to Instagram after the lawsuit was filed to clarify he was not a party to the complaint and preferred to stay away from “scandals.”
“I am one of the few producers who silently take pride in the triumphs and fame of the artists who have achieved what they are today in the reggaeton genre,” he wrote in Spanish. “I am proud that I was part of opening the doors to these artists who are know worldwide today, any award they receive is an award that I receive, a song that plays on the radio and in the world with part of some track of mine is a beautiful feeling that no one can imagine.”
In his October 2021 post, DJ Playero said he planned to consult with his lawyers about the complaint filed in September 2021 by AOM Music, also known as BM Records.
“A company that I don’t know is suing several colleagues of the genre for [infringement] of my tracks or snippets created in the 90’s. I, DJ Playero, am not signed to anyone, I do not know that company, I do not profit from anyone and I have no knowledge of that demand,” he wrote.
DJ Playero did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment sent Wednesday.