The Strong One Etana has come out swinging at Orgasm riddim producer Richard ‘Shams’ Browne, after he approached her asking to record a Christmas song for VP Records, with whom she has an ongoing multi-million dollar breach of contract and copyright infringement lawsuit.
Etana took to Instagram on Thursday to share an email she received from Shams, who now works as an A&R for the company. The email read, in part, “I’m currently working on a various artiste’s Christmas album for VP and wanted to know if you’d be interested in recording one of the tracks. Somehow, I’m interested in hearing your voice for Little Drummer Boy, so I decided to reach out.”
In his email, Shams acknowledged “past issues” between Etana and VP Records, but he was seemingly unaware that they were still ongoing, as he expressed hope for collaboration.
However, Etana’s response was far from amicable.
Seemingly furious, the two-time Grammy nominee dismissed Shams in a scathing response, likening the producer’s overtures to the days of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade when Africans sold their compatriots to Europeans.
“The slave master has sent the house slave to the field slave, but the field slave cutlass stay sharpen. Shams for the record, I am still in federal court with VP. My fight with them is not in the past. We are still in court,” Etana wrote.
“It’s like the Africans who caught other Africans and sold them over. The trade continues May GOD have no mercy on you. Move yuh bl–dclaat!”
She also criticized Shams for working with the company, which has been embroiled in lawsuits with several Jamaican artists over the years. “You should reconsider working for a company that claims they own reggae music when there are so many great producers in Jamaica, including your father,” she wrote.
Shams belongs to one of Jamaica’s influential musical families. His father is bassist/producer Glen Browne; his twin brother is guitarist Robert ‘Dubwise’ Browne; and his uncles are producer Cleveland ‘Clevie’ Browne of Steely & Clevie, Main Street Records producer Haldane “Danny” Browne, and veteran guitarist Dalton Browne.
In a subsequent Instagram Live session, Etana expanded on her grouse with Shams’ approach, which she claimed was possibly orchestrated by his employers, as she could not fathom how the producer could have decided to reach out to her behind their backs.
“So if me did eva, or my manager did stupid and guh seh: ‘bwoy, Shams wi know yuh an wi respect yuh and yuh a musician an wi know yuh father; yeh man. Mek mi consider it fi yuh.’,” Etana said.
“Hey, das all dem woulda need to take to di court and seh ‘seet, Your Honour, shi still a try work wid wi.’ Mi case woulda deh out di winda. A suh dem man yah work. Dis is how they work.”
Shams’ Response: “Never expected this kind of negative energy”
Shams, who expressed surprise at the intensity of Etana’s response, clarified in an Instagram comment that his approach was a personal initiative, without any coercion or instruction from VP Records.
“For the record, no one at VP was aware that I had contacted you to do this project. I acted on my own accord. We (the A&Rs at VP) will approach any artist who we feel will do a great job for any project we are working on,” he explained.
“There’s never usually any directive from the head of the company. It’s all good though. I’ll take this one for the team. Still love and respect your talent and artistry. Never expected this kind of negative energy from “the strong one” though🙏🏽.”
Etana’s lawsuit against VP
In January this year, Etana resumed her lawsuit against VP Records with a scaled-down complaint over breach of contract and copyright infringement, and a new demand for over US$10 million in damages, this after a New York judge dismissed her nine of her 14 claims under a previous complaint filed in early 2022.
In the amended complaint, filed on Friday (January 13, 2023), the Wrong Address singer and her company Freemind Music LLC made eight claims against the defendants VP Records Retail Outlet, Inc, VP Music Group Inc, VP Record Distributors LLC, VP Records of Brooklyn LLC, Greensleeves Publishing Ltd (GPL) and STB Music Inc (collectively VP and GPL).
It includes her previous claims of the breach of four contracts—two recording agreements with VP, a songwriter agreement with GPL, and a co-publishing and admin agreement with GPL—which were signed between the years 2007 and 2014 when Etana released four albums under the company.
VP and GPL are accused of, among other things, failing to provide “formal accounting” and failure to pay Etana royalties and other monies allegedly due to her under the deals. In one of the four contract claims, the singer alleged that despite delivering the four albums required under the first recording agreement and VP having recouped its advances and expenses associated with the deal, the company stopped paying royalties for the albums since March 2020.
She has demanded a judgment assessing damages in excess of $US10,000,000 for her eight claims, compensatory damages in an amount not less than $US250,000, unspecified punitive and exemplary damages, interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
“I just want what is legally mine,” Etana had told DancehallMag in early 2022 after she first filed the lawsuit.
At the time, she explained that she could not elaborate much on the matter, but claimed that VP had failed to resolve the contentious issues for a very long time.
VP had said that they would not comment on pending litigation.