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Rick Astley hits Yung Gravy with lawsuit, alleges voice imitation

Astley accused the rapper of impersonating his voice from his 1987 hit ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’

By Rolling Stone UK

Rick Astley and Yung Gravy pose in a composite image
Rick Astley and Yung Gravy. (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/ Andrew Hurley; Wikimedia Commons/WikiWikiSkylar

Rick Astley, whose 1987 hit song ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ is embedded in Americana and meme history, is suing rapper Yung Gravy for impersonating his voice, Billboard reports.

Astley alleges that Gravy’s 2022 breakout hit, ‘Betty (Get Money)’, imitated his voice without legal authorisation.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in Los Angeles, and claims that ‘Betty (Get Money)’ imitated Astley’s distinct voice in his eighties classic.

“In an effort to capitalise off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, defendants … conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song,” Astley’s attorney alleged. “The public could not tell the difference. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing.”

Representatives for Yung Gravy did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

During the making of ‘Betty’, Gravy and his team allegedly got the green light to use the instrumentals to ‘Give You Up’, but not Astley’s vocals. The filing states that Gravy did not have the rights to use the actual sound recording of Astley’s track, known as “sampling”.

In order to imitate the singer’s “signature voice”, the suit alleges that Gravy hired Nick “Popnick” Seeley, who, fun fact, wrote the beat for ‘Get Schwifty’ on the animated series Rick & Morty. The lawsuit even quotes an Instagram video in which Popnick said he intends for the song to “sound identical” to Astley’s vocals.

“A licence to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorise the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording,” Astley’s legal team stated. “So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a licence and without agreement.”

‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ reached Number One in 25 countries. ‘Betty’ reached gold status in the US, with The New York Times heralding it as “a real-life rickroll that functioned as a comedy song, a TikTok trend and a nostalgia trip all at once”.

Report by Charisma Madarang