Christian rappers are finding major mainstream publicity this week after news broke that Christian rapper Flame is suing pop star Katy Perry for ripping off his 2008 song “Joyful Noise” in her macabre and sexual song “Dark Horse,” which shot to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 in January.
Flame, born Marcus Gray, filed the lawsuit last week along with Grammy-winning Lecrae Moore, Emanuel Lambert (Da’ T.R.U.T.H), and Chike Ojukwu against Katy Perry and Capitol Records. The lawsuit claims copyright infringement. Flame and his co-plaintiffs requested in injunction along with damages and profits from Perry’s song.
The disagreement started when Flame’s fans sent him tweets asking for a reaction to Perry’s song. He thought the questions were strange because he doesn’t listen to Katy Perry and didn’t understand why anyone would ask him about it, according to Christian hip-hop website Rapzilla. When Flame’s DJ, Cho’zyn Boy, listened to Perry’s song, he was shocked.
Casual listeners will immediately notice the similarity of the opening keyboard theme-riff, as well as the overall rhythm. Cho’zyn Boy, however, bolstered the case further by providing a side-by-side and blended comparison of the songs, published at Rapzilla. After making slight tweaks to equalize key and song speed, the similarities become more striking still.
While the music shares many characteristics, the lyrics couldn’t be more different. Flame raps about the One who “paid the sin price being beat by Roman guards / but when He resurrected gave us life free of charge.” Perry’s song, on the other hand, majors in sexual innuendo and asks “So you wanna play with magic?” One character is described in the following creepy manner: “I call her Karma / She eats your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer.” Perry’s video for the song is set in ancient Egypt and chock full of pagan, sexual, and Masonic imagery.
The fact that their content is diametrically opposed is not lost on the Christian rappers. In fact, it forms an important basis of their complaint. The lawsuit alleges that “the devoutly religious message of ‘Joyful Noise’ has been irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in ‘Dark Horse,’” according to the complaint.
“Indeed, the music video of ‘Dark Horse’ generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video,” the complaint says. The video showed Perry using magic to burn a man wearing a pendant with the Arabic word “Allah,” which enraged Muslims. The image has now been erased from the video.
Ironically, Perry’s first release in 2001 was a Christian album recorded under the name Katy Hudson. The Scotsman reported that Perry’s parents were pastors, and as a child she attended Christian schools and sang in her parents’ church. Perry, however, admits she was “the black sheep of the family.”
This is not the first time Perry has found herself in the hot seat facing accusations of song-stealing. Last September, many secular media outlets pointed out the uncanny similarity of Perry’s signature hit “Roar” to Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” Bareilles never filed suit.