Attorneys for Eothen “Egon” Alapatt are firing back at a lawsuit that claims he stole dozens of private notebooks belonging to the late hip-hop legend MF Doom, calling the case “baseless and libelous” and telling his side of the disputed story.
MF Doom’s widow sued last month, claiming that Egon (a label exec and a former collaborator with the famed rapper) wrongfully took possession of the notebooks as Doom spent a decade in his native England ahead of his shocking death in 2020, and has refused to return them ever since.
But in a strongly worded response filed in court Tuesday (Nov. 14), Alapatt’s attorney, Kenneth Freundlich, sharply disputed those allegations, saying that the “frivolous” case contained “knowingly false statements” about his client.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint is the continuation of a year-long smear campaign filled with baseless and libelous attacks on Alapatt’s integrity and character,” Freundlich wrote.
Doom, whose real name was Daniel Dumile, traveled to the United Kingdom in 2010 to perform but was later prohibited from returning to the United States due to immigration issues. He remained overseas until his sudden passing on Oct. 31, 2020, at the age of 49, from rare complications related to blood pressure medication.
In her lawsuit, Doom’s widow, Jasmine Dumile Thompson, says that when the rapper left the country, he left behind a collection of 31 “rhyme books” in his Los Angeles studio. She says they include “musings and other creative ideations,” including original lyrics to released music, lyrics to unreleased songs and song ideas — a veritable treasure trove for Doom fans and hip-hop historians.
Thompson’s lawyers say that Alapatt “took advantage of Doom’s being out of the country” to buy the notebooks from his landlord for $12,500 without ever consulting the rapper. When Doom himself asked for their return, the lawsuit claims, Alapatt “delayed, obfuscated and deflected” and then ultimately refused to return them. And since Doom’s death, Thompson says Alapatt has made the “astonishing” demand that the notebooks must be donated to an archive — a choice that she says runs contrary to Doom’s wishes that they remain “secret and confidential.”
“Who is Alapatt to decide that the notebooks containing the personal and intellectual property of Doom, the rights to which are plaintiffs’ alone, must be donated to an archive against the will of the deceased artist and his surviving family?” Thompson’s lawyers wrote in their complaint. “Setting aside the fact that the notebooks were stolen, Alapatt’s arrogant paternalism and extreme tone-deafness in trying to dictate that the notebooks be donated is astonishing.”
In Tuesday’s response, Alapatt’s lawyers admit that he took possession of Doom’s materials but denied that Doom had actually been their legal owner when he died. The real owner, they say, was the studio landlord because the notebooks had been left behind at his property and a large amount of rent had been left unpaid. If not for Alapatt’s actions, his lawyers argued that the landlord “would have either sold or possibly destroyed the notebooks.”
“Contrary to the knowingly false statements contained in the complaint, Alapatt saved and preserved the notebooks after he purchased them from DOOM’s former landlord who owned and controlled the notebooks because DOOM had abandoned his studio and was in years’ long arrears on rent,” Freundlich wrote in the court documents.
Alapatt’s lawyers say he later repeatedly tried to make arrangements with Doom and his reps to return the materials during his lifetime, but that the artist had failed to follow up. At one point, his attorneys say, Doom “seemed to have completely forgotten his prior discussion with Alapatt” about returning the notebooks.
Tuesday’s response confirms one key allegation of Thompson’s lawsuit: That Alapatt had said he would only return the notebooks if a digital copy of them was donated to an archive. (In the filing, his lawyers say he suggested “the Cornell Hip-Hop Archive, the Smithsonian, or another accredited archive of their choosing.”)
But his lawyers argue that the request was a fair one because donating the materials would help protect “precious artifacts of hip-hop history” and allow “scholars and researchers to study DOOM’s creativity and further entrench his creative genius — not just in hip-hop but in American history.”
“Rather than accept Alapatt’s generous offer,” Freundlich writes in Tuesday’s filing, “plaintiffs chose to continue their hurtful, and defamatory attacks against Alapatt by filing this frivolous complaint.”
Attorneys for Thompson did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
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