It was the smash hit of summer, played on dance floors across the country as midnight struck on New Year’s eve, chanted at street parties and blasted from taxis.
But from the moment Durban gqom outfit Distruction Boyz dropped their banger Omunye on their breakout album Gqom is the Future, rumours swirled that the musical composition on the track was ominously similar to the beats on Trip to New York by DJ LAG, released three months before Omunye.
Aside from considerable royalties that will be paid for the song’s blanket play across the country, the hit track has helped shoot Distruction Boyz to fame, seeing them secure lucrative local and offshore bookings.
Now a forensic copyright investigation has concluded that the music on Omunye is identical to the music on Trip to New York, even though the lyrics are completely different.
A music comparative analysis report, commissioned by DJ LAG’s management and designed to hold up in court, was compiled by song analysis expert and trained musician Sakhile Moleshe of Imilozi Music.
The 31-page report, seen and studied by City Press, concludes: “I have found that, as a result of the tempo, key signature, instrumentation and lead melodies being identical in both musical works, Omunye was indeed copied from Trip to New York.”
The authorship claims on Omunye list that the music was written by Siphesihle Njokweni.
But Distruction Boyz deny stealing DJ LAG’s beats. They say they bought the track from a young Cape Town producer DJ Mphyd, who in turn also denies biting DJ LAG’s song.
Siphesihle Njokweni is DJ Mphyd’s real name on several of his social media accounts.
DJ LAG was this week touring Europe. He did not want to respond to queries from City Press because he did not want to cause fights and fractures in the industry.
His manager Sevi Spanoudi, however, confirmed that after creating Trip to New York in April 2017, the track was released as an EP (extended play or album with just a few tracks) in July 2017 to over 1 000 fans and subscribers via WhatsApp, in a marketing ploy to build his fan base.
“The truth always prevails,” she says. “DJ Lag is taking gqom to the world. He is playing at the globe’s biggest festivals and events this year. Our work is to make sure he focuses on his future, while justice is being served.”
When City Press contacted Thobani “Que” Mgobhozi, one half of the Distruction Boyz duo, he was happy to give their version of events.
DJ Tira, the band’s business partner and mentor through his Afrotainment record label, said: “We reserve our comment.”
Que – who uses Omunye as his ringtone on his phone – told City Press: “We were listening to music online and heard this track by DJ Mphyd and contacted him. We were very shocked when we heard there was this problem. We’re friends with DJ LAG, we grew up with him. We’re creators. We never steal. Everything was done right. The only person who can tell you is [DJ Mphyd].”
DJ Mphyd responded to City Press’ queries over WhatsApp: “I have nothing to do with DJ LAG’s song. Plus it does not sound the same.”
He said the only similarity is that the two tracks are in the same key. He claimed that his original beat that was to become Omunye was released on June 25 last year and was originally called Gqongo (Bhengela Vox).
City Press, however, has verified the timelines provided in the report that indicate that DJ LAG’s track was uploaded to the cloud sharing service DataFileHost on April 6 2017, from where it was accessed by an outside party on April 22.
In addition, on April 8, DJ LAG posted a video of himself, with the track playing in a recording studio, on his Instagram account.
When he was told this, DJ Mphyd replied: “I don’t know about that.”
He asked City Press to send proof. When sent the information about dates of release from the report, he replied: “Mxim.”
Durban industry insiders questioned how – with the gqom scene being so small – Distruction Boyz had never heard their childhood friend DJ LAG’s July EP.
“These guys pass USB sticks to one another with their tracks on, play one another’s songs,” said one.
But Que rejected the rumours, saying: “We don’t usually share tracks with [DJ LAG], we just speak on the regular. We knew he had an EP, but never listened to it. We don’t play his tracks because his gqom is very different to ours. We have commercialised gqom, it’s different.”