Music titans Questlove, Black Thought, Live Nation, and Universal Music Group have been named in an explosive fraud lawsuit. According to Rolling Stone, Questlove (real name Ahmir Thompson) and Black Thought (real name Tariq Trotter), co-founders of hip-hop group The Roots, the group’s manager Shawn Gee, and band employee Munir Nuriddin are being accused of working together to “scheme to defraud” the estate of the band’s late bassist Leonard Hubbard’s widow and estate out of money owed to them.
After forming Grand Negaz, Inc. to manage the band’s business dealings in 1993, a financial agreement was made to clearly state ownership percentages to ensure everyone knew their respective compensation splits. Thompson and Trotter took 37 percent of stakeholders’ interest, while member rapper Malik Smart (who died in 2020) and Hubbard retained 17 percent each. However, in addition to that, the lawsuit claims Hubbard was to be granted 25 percent of the group’s recording and publishing earnings, as well as a 33 percent stake in the band’s touring performance company.
The lawsuit presented by Hubbard’s widow and estate is seeking “restitution for property, money, and benefits” that were not provided to him as outlined in the paperwork. While the matter is being litigated, they are requesting that the courts “freeze” The Roots’ trademark “until a value can be determined for the brand.”
Hubbard departed from the group in 2007 to seek medical care after being diagnosed with blood cancer, and later died in 2021. The suit alleges that beginning in 2014 up to the current day, Thompson, Trotter, and others, “through a pattern of racketeered behavior, fraudulently converted, divested and absconded with monies lawfully belonging to the Plaintiff Decedent.”
The lawsuit also accuses the musicians of forming a new business, Legendelphia, in 2013, to allegedly transfer funds from their business Grand Negaz, all without the approval of Hubbard. As for where Live Nationa and Universal Music Publishing Group is named, the suit accuses Gee of “deactivating Hubbard’s personal royalty account.” It also accuses that Gee, Thompson, and Trotter of “sending a letter be written from Legendelphia to Universal Music Publishing Group to divert Hubbard’s royalties to Legendelphia” instead of Grand Negaz, Inc.
No public statement has been released by The Roots, Thompson, or Trotter. All parties declined Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.