Rap mogul Jay-Z testified Friday in a Manhattan courtroom against claims he reneged on a deal to promote his eponymous fragrance, Gold Jay Z — sniping he is “not a lawyer” during the testy exchange, where he admitted he “did not read” the contract but insisted he “did a lot” for the launch.
The “Empire State of Mind” rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is named in a breach of contract lawsuit filed by Parlux Fragrances accusing him of failing to push the Gold Jay Z fragrance line as part of a 2012 agreement. Jury selection in the civil case started early last week.
Carter, clad in a black suit, white shirt and black face mask, entered Manhattan Supreme Court early Friday prior to the hearing for his first courtroom appearance in the case.
I’ve done a lot for the Gold Jay-Z launch. I didn’t have to show up for one weekend, I had a year to complete these,” he testified when asked about the agreement to make promotional appearances for the fragrance.
Parlux’s attorney, Anthony Viola, showed the “99 Problems” rapper a contract stating he was required to do at least three appearances and a number of promotional spots for Gold Jay Z.
“And you didn’t do that, right?” Viola asked the hip-hop legend.
Viola then said Carter, 51, had previously given a sworn deposition in 2019 that he never read the contract in the deal that he personally signed twice.
“Hey man, I’m not a lawyer,” Carter shot back.
At the time you signed this contract, you did not know that you personally would have obligations separate and distinct of your company?” Viola asked.
I’m not a lawyer,” Carter reiterated. “All I can say is I have creative control over what I do with myself and my body. No, I did not read the contract.”
The Brooklyn-born rapper, who married music megastar Beyoncé in 2008, also testified Friday he knows a “little bit about promoting,” but claimed he couldn’t recall if he had anyone from his company look into Parlux prior to signing the deal.
The exchange then escalated when Viola pressed Carter about the sworn deposition and details of the deal.
How long did you spend preparing?” Viola asked, prompting Carter to say about 90 minutes with his attorney on Thursday.
“That caused you to change your testimony from your position where you said you didn’t even remember that Parlux products were sold at Barneys?” Viola sniped.
“I didn’t change it, I refreshed myself on the facts,” the rapper responded.
“So, you didn’t remember then, but you remember now?” Viola pressed.
“That’s how memory works,” Carter snapped back.
While being quizzed by Viola at one point after a lunch break, Carter quipped that Spiro was a “bit clairvoyant” while making his trademark chuckle, prompting laughs from the jury and throughout the courtroom. Spiro had just raised an objection, cutting off Viola before he finished asking Carter a question.
Carter made the playful comment after Viola previously grilled him on whether he and his team had “clairvoyance” about a racial profiling scandal at Barneys.
Parlux claims in a suit filed in 2016 that Carter failed to promote the perfume during appearances on “Good Morning America” and in Women’s Wear Daily, as well as refusing to do a promotional spot at Macy’s.
The company claims it lost $18 million because Carter allegedly didn’t live up to his end of the deal, naming Carter and his company, S. Carter Enterprises, as defendants.
Carter, meanwhile, countersued, claiming he’s still owed $2.7 million by Parlux as part of the deal.
During opening statements last week, Viola told jurors Jay-Z and his team “not only abandoned Parlux and its people, but constantly threw sand in the gears” and prevented it and parent company Perfumania Holdings from getting what it wanted in the deal.
He personally did not do one thing to promote this brand,” Viola said. “His failure to do so is a breach … What Parlux and Perfumania are asking for is what they would have earned if Jay-Z and his company had lived up to their obligation.”
An attorney for Jay-Z, meanwhile, insisted to jurors during opening remarks that Parlux got what they were due under the agreement – to use the rapper’s name to make millions on the perfume.
“Parlux got exactly what they were entitled to under the terms of its contract with Jay-Z, but having extracted that value, having used his name, and his likeness and his reputation,” attorney Alex Spiro said last week. “They manufactured grievances and excuses.”
One year after its late 2013 launch, Gold Jay Z was the best-selling celebrity fragrance, ousting David Beckham’s aftershave, Page Six has previously reported.
But sales dipped in 2015 from a projected $35 million to $6.1 million because Carter was too busy on other projects to focus on his fragrance and was unavailable for meetings on spinoff scents for five months in 2014, according to the civil suit.