Breaking Down the 'Jaw-Dropping' Lawsuit That Has All of Reggaeton in Its Sights. A copyright case claims that virtually every big song in the genre was illegally copied from a 1989 track.
Two dembow progenitors are suing superstars including Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – in a case that also names Justin Bieber – claiming that they deserve credit for birthing the genre. With the release of their song Fish Market in 1989, the Jamaican duo Cleveland “Clevie” Browne and Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson inadvertently changed the course of pop music. The track featured the first known example of what would come to be known as a “dembow” rhythm – the percussive, slightly syncopated four-to-the-floor beat that travelled from reggae to become the signature beat of reggaeton, today the world-conquering sound of Latin American pop. Now, more than 30 years after Fish Market was released, Steely & Clevie Productions is suing three of reggaeton’s most celebrated hitmakers – El Chombo, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – for what they characterise as unlawful interpolation of Fish Market’s rhythm (or “riddim”), and are seeking the credit – and royalties – they say they deserved from the start.