Hip-hop titan Kanye West, aka Ye, is the subject of a lawsuit filed Thursday that alleges he and his firms are holding out on more than $7.1 million owed to a production and design firm that worked on his “Donda 2” livestream release show, his canceled Coachella appearance, the “Free Larry Hoover” concert with Drake, several “Sunday Services” and the rapper’s studio spaces.
The firm, Phantom Labs, alleges that, as the unpaid bills began piling up from multiple projects, it was assured that everything would be paid up once the star collected a reported $9 million fee for appearing at Coachella. Once West pulled out of that headlining appearance with weeks to spare, the company says it was on the hook not just for the millions already owed for past collaborations but money it had paid other vendors for the scotched festival appearance.
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Phantom Labs filed the suit against Ye and several of his companies — referred to in papers as “the the Yeezy Defendants” — in Los Angeles County’s Superior Court. The production/design company is represented by the law firm of Howard E. King, a well-known L.A. attorney who has repped Metallica, Pharrell Williams, Dr. Dre and even West himself in years past.
“We are incredibly proud of the work that we did with Ye and are disappointed that such a fruitful relationship has come to this,” a spokesperson for Phantom Labs said in a statement provided to Variety. “A celebrity weaponizing fame and reputation to take advantage of eager collaborators is simply unacceptable.”
Ye’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that the $7,154,177.67 owed accrued over a fairly short amount of time, from June 2021, when Phantom Labs first began working on producing events with West, until March 2022. The papers acknowledge that the company was paid for some of its early work, but indicate that those payments arrived only under pressure, when the firm threatened to pull out of the “Donda 2” streaming event as its own vendors warned they would quit the production unless paid by Phantom Labs.
The lawsuit lays out a timeline of multiple events that Phantom Labs worked on with the star, noting that payments were being made in the initial stages of their working relationship. In October 2021, West is alleged to have hired the company to “run a renovation project” at a downtown L.A. warehouse West was turning into an office and creative space. At about the same time, Phantom Labs was enlisted to produce four of the invitation-only “Sunday Services” gospel events that the star presides over, which took place on successive Sundays in November. The company says it was not paid for any of that work.
In November, the suit continues, they rendered services that included outfitting a studio for an unnamed artist West was working with. At around the same time, they began running renovation work on a Seward Street property for West’s architectural wing, for which they allege they received only partial payment.
In December, the company worked on the “Free Larry Hoover” concert that co-starred Drake at the L.A. Coliseum, and did post-production work on a concert recording for which it was never paid, the suit alleges. Later that month, they were asked to work on the “Donda 2” event and, by the lawsuit’s account, proceeded reluctantly, with unpaid invoices stacking up.
The budget for the “Donda 2” performance and livestream in Miami Feb. 22 is said to have been $11.7 million, with Phantom Labs reportedly being told that money would come out of a deal West was making with a sponsor to stream the event. “On or around February 18, 2022, just days before the event, Ye publicly blew up the streaming deal,” the suit says. A series of payments were made to Phantom Labs when they indicated they could not produce the event on spec, with vendors threatening to revolt. But in the end, Phantom Labs says it is still owed $2,279,443.29 out of that $11.7 million.
With Coachella looming and work continuing, the company says Ye’s representatives “approved a budget that would account for repayment to Phantom of approximately $5 million” for past moneys owed. “Then suddenly on April 4, 2022, Ye announced that he was not going to perform at Coachella. As a result of this last-minute cancellation, Phantom was saddled with an additional $1,063,477.36, comprising requested services rendered to-date, cancellation fees from vendors engaged by Phantom, and production fees for the services rendered.” In the first and second weeks of April, Phantom Labs sent demand letters to Ye’s companies that it says have not resulted in any further payments.
The suit also alleges that West’s companies have attempted to leave out the middleman and directly pay back some of the vendors that were owed money by Phantom Labs on the projects.
“Of the approximately $7,154,177.67 owed, Defendants have not paid Phantom one cent, despite repeated requests for payment and providing Defendants detailed back-up,” the suit claims. “To the contrary, upon information and belief, since receiving this information, Defendants and their representatives have circumvented Phantom, and attempted to pay directly certain of Phantom’s vendors and merchants that Defendants want to work with in the future.”
It’s the second suit West has faced this month, although the earlier one asks for a much smaller amount. Earlier in July, TMZ reported that he had been sued by a well-regarded fashion rental service, the David Casavant Archive, for over $400,000, alleging that he never returned 13 “rare, esteemed pieces” and stopped paying rental fees on them back in 2020.
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