SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Cardi B got into a heated argument Wednesday with the attorney of a man who alleges the rapper abused his image for the cover of his sexually suggestive mixtape.
The Grammy winner fought with Kevin Michael Brophy’s attorney, A. Barry Cappello, over his prosecution in a $5 million copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court in Southern California. Brophy claims that he did not consent to such use of his image in the 2016 artwork, which featured a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs.
But Cardi B pointed out that you can’t see the man’s face. Cappello asked the rapper to calm down, but she responded to his feeling that she knew about the photo-editing software used to put the back tattoo, which has been featured in tattoo magazines, on the male model used in the cover of the mixtape.
“It’s not your client’s back,” he said of the image, which shows the black model posing for photos, while Brophy is white. The rapper said that she posted a photo of what she calls a “famous Canadian model.”
Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She had previously said that the cover, created by Timm Gooden, was a transformative fair use of Brophy’s image.
Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was later told to find another tattoo after submitting an initial draft. He said Gooden Googled “back tattoos” before finding an image and pasting it on the cover.
His attorney, Peter Anderson, said Brophy and the image on the mixtape are unrelated. He said the model had no tattoos on her neck, which Brophy did.
“It’s not him,” the rapper said. “To me, he looks nothing like his back. The tattoo was modified, which is protected by the First Amendment.”
The trial began Tuesday with Brophy saying he was humiliated by the risque artwork.
But Cardi B questioned that Brophy’s life was interrupted and he suffered any kind of heartbreak. She said the image has not prevented Brophy’s employment with a popular surf and skate clothing brand or her ability to travel the world in search of opportunities.
“He hasn’t been fired from his job,” said Cardi B, who hinted that the mixtape was not lucrative for her. “He has not been divorced. How has he suffered? He is still in a surf shop where he works. Please tell me how he has suffered.
Cardi B said that she feels like Brophy has been continuously harassing her for the past five years. She said she missed a special moment with her youngest child, who just turned one last month.
“I have empathy for people,” he said. “I care about people. I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I missed my son’s first step by being here.”
Cardi B continued to defend herself, while Cappello, who was pacing back and forth, continued to ask her stern questions. Their testy exchange was enough for Judge Cormac Carney to intervene and send the jurors into the courtroom.
Carney told both the plaintiff and the defense that he intended to have a mistrial. The judge took a short break before returning and decided to place limits on the examinations of both sides.
“We’re at a point where it’s just not productive,” he said. “We are arguing among ourselves. It is unprofessional and our (US District Court) brand is being watered down.”
Brophy, a self-described family man, said he sent a cease and desist letter to Cardi B’s representatives to remove the tattoo, but never received a response. The rapper said that she had not seen the letter.
At one point, Cardi B said she doesn’t check her mailbox because that’s for “seniors,” a statement that drew some laughs.
As Cardi B left the courthouse, she was surrounded by around 30 high school students trying to take selfies with her. As the rapper confidently walked to her vehicle, she smiled and waved before telling them that she would respond better after the trial.
Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from a pair of fights at New York City strip clubs that forced her to perform 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a famous news blogger who posted videos falsely claiming he used cocaine, had herpes and engaged in prostitution.
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