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Jay-Z Makes Rare Court Appearance to Testify in Perfume Lawsuit

Jay-Z took the witness stand in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday to testify about perfume. This industry is not known for being controversial, but the 51-year-old rapper is being sued by Parlux Fragrances, which has accused the star of failing to properly promote his Gold Jay-Z cologne line.

The exchange between Jay-Z and Parlux’s lawyer on Friday quickly became testy. Parlux’s legal team immediately dug into contractual minutiae, pointing the rapper to section 11E of a document he signed, “the section… that calls for… promotional tie-ins” around his perfume. The lawyer went on the offensive. “You didn’t do that, did you?” he pressed. “Did you make any personal appearances for the Gold Jay-Z launch?”

“I did a lot for the Gold Jay-Z launch,” the rapper responded. “I had a year to complete these [obligations], correct?” he added. The lawyer pushed on, refusing to answer Jay-Z’s question, and the rapper stopped him. “I don’t know if you answered my question,” Jay-Z said. “I had a year to complete these right?”

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“Actually,” Parlux’s lawyer responded, “you need to answer my questions.”

Parlux’s legal team still seemed annoyed at the fact that their first attempt to depose Jay-Z had been unsuccessful. “You didn’t come to give your testimony that day,” the lawyer chided him. “We all went to your office and you decided you didn’t want to be videoed and refused to testify.” 

Jay-Z’s legal team objected to this line of questioning, and the judge supported them. But the rapper’s legal team was upset enough about Parlux’s barbed comments around the deposition that they brought it up again roughly an hour later. The judge told Parlux’s lawyer that this set of queries was improper; he apologized to the court. The judge instructed the jury “not [to] infer anything from the fact that the deposition was rescheduled.”

But Parlux continued to use the deposition to prove its points. The lawyer asked if the rapper had even read the contractual clause that concerned his personal promotional obligations. As the rapper ducked the questions or responded with “I’m not a lawyer,” Parlux played several video snippets of Jay-Z’s previous testimony in which the rapper did in fact admit that he was not aware of some of the requirements included in the contract he signed.

Parlux’s used this tactic repeatedly, hopping from one section of the contract to the next, grilling Jay-Z each time on his knowledge of the document he signed that laid out his duties with regards to the perfume. “It’s fair to say when you signed this contract you didn’t know anything about the celebrity fragrance market?” Parlux’s lawyer asked. “I mean, I’m a celebrity,” Jay-Z retorted.   

Parlux then moved on to a new chunk of legal text, throwing out a series of net sales minimum figures in the document. (By year five, it stipulated that sales of Gold Jay-Z perfume should exceed $100 million.) “What’s the price that Parlux was charging for the Gold Jay-Z product?” the lawyer asked. “I don’t know,” the rapper responded. Lawyer: “Do you know how many units Parlux needed to sell to meet” the sales goal? Jay-Z: “No.”

The back-and-forth continued in this manner, with Jay-Z seemingly intent on giving up as little information — and as little ground — as possible. How many employees does he have? “A lot.” Who negotiated the contract with Parlux? “A lawyer, I don’t know the lawyer at the time.” “You wanted to eliminate Macy’s from the launch,” Parlux’s lawyer declared, raising his voice. “Not true,” Jay-Z shot back.

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After a series of these verbal duels, tension between the two men reached new heights. “It doesn’t make any sense to launch [the perfume] at Barclays,” Parlux’s lawyer asserted. “It’s not a store, is it?”

Jay-Z hit back with, “you can’t speak to what makes sense.” Soon after, the judge interjected to cool things down. “I think you guys are speaking past each other,” he said.

Still, the tone in court remained combative, with the lawyer talking over the witness on several occasions. (The rapper’s legal team objected each time.) Looking to question Jay-Z’s trustworthiness as a witness, Parlux lawyer said, “so you didn’t remember [a fact about promotion] then [when you were deposed], but you remember it now?” The rapper’s riposte? “That’s how memory works.” 

Parlux filed a breach of contract suit against the rapper in 2016, claiming he had earned $2 million in royalties but the company had lost $18 million in the collaboration. In a sworn statement the following year, Parlux alleged that Jay-Z was supposed to do a series of events to push Gold — via Good Morning America, Women’s Wear Daily, and an in-store appearance at Macy’s — but that he “never once personally appeared.”

“In the fragrance industry, it is virtually impossible to sustain the success of a celebrity fragrance brand,” the lawsuit claimed, unless the brand is bolstered by “promotional support from the celebrity in the form of public appearances” in addition to “regularly updating and refreshing the brand with ‘flanker’ launches and new line extensions.”

Adding insult to alleged injury, the fragrance company said the rapper rejected a design for a Gold Jay-Z bottle with an 18-karat gold exterior that was worth over $20,000, but that he pocketed the prototype.

Jay-Z promptly countersued. He accused Parlux of failing to hold up its end of the deal, furnishing him with inadequate accounting reports and promotional resources, among other things. Notably, he said the company still owed him $2.7 million in royalties.

The rapper appeared for a video deposition earlier in the case. Judge Andrew Borrok said Jay-Z should appear “the old-fashioned way,” according to The New York Post.

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This story is developing

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