The rapper-singer-flutist has responded to plagiarism allegations that she didn’t credit previous collaborators for the opening line of her smash “Truth Hurts”: “I just took a DNA test / Turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch.”
Last week, producer and songwriter Justin Raisen took to social media to claim he and his brother and collaborator, Jeremiah Raisen, were partially responsible for the “100 percent that bitch” lyric.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Wednesday, Lizzo’s attorney Cynthia S. Arato revealed the artist has taken legal action against the Raisen brothers.
“Today we filed a lawsuit on Lizzo’s behalf to establish, in a court of law, that the Raisens are not writers of Truth Hurts and have no right to profit from the song’s success,” the statement reads. “The Raisens did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create the song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek to profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago, as the lawsuit makes abundantly clear.”
“Although it is all too commonplace for successful artists to be subjected to these type of opportunistic claims, it is nevertheless disappointing that Lizzo had to take this step to put an end to the Raisens’ false claims and their campaign of harassment,” the statement continues.
Justin Raisen denies that he and his brother relinquished any claim to the work in writing, though, and tells PEOPLE, “I never agreed to anything like that — it didn’t happen.”
Instead, he claims that this is a “legal technicality” Lizzo’s team derived from a phone call he had with the singer back in March after he and his brother had put “Truth Hurts” into dispute (while a song is in dispute, all parties involved — regardless of whether they’re credited songwriters — must agree to syncs, which are music licenses that allow the licensee to synchronize music with some kind of visual media output) for its similarities to the song they wrote together in 2017 called “Healthy.”
“In September 2017, I reached out when there weren’t many streams and the song was not popular,” he says. “So it was obviously a matter of principle. The teams were talking for two months in hopes of just trying to deal with it amicably and fairly and for whatever reason, her team was brazen. Finally we had no choice but to put the song into dispute. We continued trying to talk to the people while it was in dispute but were being completely ignored.”
“It was something me and Jeremiah were dealing with for a year and a half,” he continues. “Then in March, I was told Lizzo wanted to talk to me. I didn’t know if that was really a good idea, but I got on the phone with her and she basically was claiming that she didn’t think we deserved credit. I said, ‘Well, we wrote a song together and you took parts of the song we wrote together. Like, I don’t get it.’ She was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know, I just have different feelings about it.’ Then she said, ‘Of course if we’d never had the session then that would’ve never happened, that part.’ And I was like, ‘That’s what I’m saying.’ I’m like, what am I missing here? I said, ‘Well, I can’t force you to do the right thing, Lizzo, so you’re going to have to decide for yourself.’ She said, ‘Okay, cool, can you give me a weekend to think about it and get back to you?'”
Justin Raisen claims he never heard back from Lizzo and three weeks later, he says he got an email from Lizzo’s legal team saying that he agreed to take the song out of dispute.
“I don’t remember what Jeremiah’s response was but it was like, ‘I don’t even care anymore ’cause we’re freaking nervous here,'” he says. “Then after that day, the song was taken out of dispute. That’s all that ever happened … I never went in and signed a paper and signed my rights away or signed a claim or waivers. But that’s why, for a second, the song went out of dispute. So the song came out of dispute and that’s what they are referring to as us waiving our claim. That is what they’re referring to. All I ended up saying on the phone call was, ‘I can’t make you do the right thing,’ which I guess you can assume means to do what you want.”
As “Truth Hurts” started gaining steam and rising on the charts, the Raisen brothers decided to invest in their own musicology report to compare “Healthy” and “Truth Hurts.”
In the report, which was provided to PEOPLE by Justin Raisen, musicologist Anthony Ricigliano writes, “I concluded that the song ‘Truth [Hurts]’ clearly contains lyrics and musical material contained in the song Healthy.”
“The most striking similarities between these works include the use of essentially the same lyric phrase ‘I just did (took) a D-N-A test turns out I’m a hundred percent that bitch,'” the report continues. “Also note that both begin the next lyric phrase with “even when I’m … The duplication of these distinctive elements in ‘Truth [Hurts]’ makes it difficult to argue that these similarities are the result of coincidence or that ‘Truth Hurts’ was independently created and did not copy these elements from ‘Healthy.'”
“After considering all of these similarities it is readily apparent that ‘Truth [Hurts]’ contains some strikingly similar lyric and musical elements to those in ‘Healthy,'” the report concludes. “Therefore one may conclude that ‘Truth Hurts’ would not exist in its present form without the existence of and the borrowing from ‘Healthy.'”
RELATED VIDEO: Lizzo Reveals She Was Depressed, Almost Quit Music After Dropping Breakout Hit ‘Truth Hurts’
Once they got the musicology report, Justin Raisen says he and his brother took it to Lizzo’s team. When they didn’t respond, he says he had no choice but to put the song back into dispute.
“For seven straight weeks, they would dangle settlements in front of our face,” he claims, adding that Lizzo’s team told them that they’re no longer going to settle the case because he and his brother spoke to the New York Times.
“If I lay in the dirt, it’s not doing the right thing for future songwriters and musicians who are going to come up against a more powerful force,” he says. “I’m just looking to be credited for the song and get 5 percent.”
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Lizzo (real name: Melissa Jefferson) wrote: “As I’ve shared before, in 2017, while working on a demo, I saw a meme that resonated with me, a meme that made me feel like 100% that bitch. I sang that line in the demo, and I later used the line in Truth Hurts.”
Lizzo, 31, vehemently denied the claim in her post, in which she said she wrote the entire song with producer-songwriter Ricky Reed.
“The men who now claim a piece of Truth Hurts did not help me write any part of the song. They had nothing to do with the line or how I chose to sing it,” Lizzo wrote. “There was no one in the room when I wrote Truth Hurts, except me, Ricky Reed, and my tears. That song is my life, and its words are my truth.”
Lizzo went on to clarify that the lyric in question was inspired by a meme she saw online — which was posted by singer Mina Lioness — and said she is “sharing” the success.
“I later learned that a tweet inspired the meme,” Lizzo added in her post. “The creator of the tweet is the person I am sharing my success with … not these men. Period. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my song.”
Lioness, on Wednesday, confirmed she is now credited as a writer for “Truth Hurts,” tweeting: “I just took a DNA Test, turns out I’m a credited writer for the number one song on Billboard.”
I just took a DNA Test, turns out I’m a credited writer for the number one song on Billboard.— Legendina (@MinaLioness) October 23, 2019
On Oct. 17, Justin Raisen claimed, “On April 11th, 2017, we wrote a song called ‘Healthy’ w/Lizzo, Jesse St. John and Yves Rothman at our studio. ‘I just took a DNA test turns out I’m 100% that bitch,’ was taken from ‘Healthy’ and used in ‘Truth Hurts.’ We were never contacted about being credited for the use of the parts of ‘Healthy’ (melody, lyrics, and chords) that appear in ‘Truth Hurts.’”
Justin Raisen added: “We’ve tried to sort this out quietly for the last two years, only asking for 5% each but were shut down every time. Coming forward publicly to family, friends, artists, and colleagues seems to be the only way at this point in relieving some of our emotional distress caused by this. The last thing we want to do is throw any negativity toward Lizzo’s momentum and movement as a cultural figure. If we believe in what she’s preaching, believing in ourselves & our own voices is something we thought she’d understand.”
At the time, Lizzos’ attorney denied that the Rainsen brothers were responsible for “Truth Hurts” in a statement to the New York Times.
“The Raisens are not writers of ‘Truth Hurts,’” Arato said in the statement. “They did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create this song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago.”
This is not the first plagiarism accusation Lizzo has faced since she rose to fame. This week, singer Cece Peniston claims the Lizzo hit "Juice" is a copyright infringement of her 1992 song “Finally.” In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Wednesday, a Warner Chappell spokesperson said: “There’s no substantial similarity between ‘Juice’ and ‘Finally’, and there’s no valid claim there.”
Houston native Lizzo released “Truth Hurts” in 2017, but it didn’t begin to climb the charts until this spring, when it appeared in the Netflix movie Someone Great. The song — which appears on the deluxe edition of her major label debut, Cuz I Love You — has since spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; it is tied with the Iggy Azalea track “Fancy” for the longest-running chart-topper by a solo female rapper.
This summer, Lizzo told PEOPLE she almost quit music because the song did not initially perform the way she had hoped it would.
“The day I released ‘Truth Hurts’ was probably one of the darkest days I’ve had ever in my career. I remember thinking, ‘If I quit music now, nobody would notice. This is my best song ever, and nobody cares.’ I was like, ‘F— it, I’m done.’ ” she told PEOPLE in June.
“Now the song that made me want to quit is the song that everyone’s falling in love with me for, which is such a testament to journeys: Your darkest day turns into your brightest triumph,” Lizzo added at the time.