June 1, 2021

The Secret Billboard Chart-Topper

by Crime Show

Background show artwork for Crime Show

Martha Wash was flipping through TV channels when, to her complete surprise, she happened upon a familiar voice: her own – coming out of the mouth of someone else. Problem was: stealing her voice wasn’t a crime.

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Martha Wash: I can't even remember where we were, but I was channel surfing in my hotel room.

Emma Courtland: This is Martha Wash. She's a singer. It's 1990, and she's on the road, getting ready for a gig. But she's got some time, so channel surfing.

Martha Wash: And I came across a video channel.

Emma: A music video channel. They're doing one of those countdowns, hits of the day type thing. Again, this was 1990. So they've got Madonna, Janet Jackson, En Vogue. For Martha, it's all background noise. Until ...

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Black Box music video: Oooh!]

Emma: She hears this voice.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Black Box music video: Oooh!]

Emma: It's rich and vibrant.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Black Box music video: Oooh!]

Emma: The sound is so familiar to Martha, she drops what she's doing and walks over to the TV.

Martha Wash: There is this woman.

Emma: This very leggy, very skinny woman, all alone on the TV.

Martha Wash: She's dancing and singing to the song.

Emma: And then the verse hits. And the voice that comes out of her ...

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Black Box music video: [singing] You won't belong to me, I let you down."]

Emma: It's got the gravitas of a disco house diva, but mixed with these deep gospel roots. It's just incredible.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Black Box music video: [singing] Sad and free, sad and free.]

Martha Wash: I stood there and I watched the whole video.

Emma: The video is "Everybody, Everybody" by Black Box, in case you didn't recognize it. The video's a little silly, honestly. The skinny, leggy woman is just sort of bouncing around and serving looks, but it's like it doesn't even matter because the gravitas of that voice just eclipses all of that silliness.

Martha Wash: And I said, "I can't believe this—blank."

Emma: Martha was pissed, because the skinny, leggy woman on TV was a model named Katrin Quinol. And the voice? The powerhouse vocals coming through the tube? That was Martha.

Martha Wash: I think what it was, it was just the stupidity of it. How did you think you would be able to get away with it?

Emma: Do you remember what you did afterward?

Martha Wash: I called my manager and told him. I said, "You won't believe this." I said, "Black Box has got this video of this girl. My vocals are being heard and she's lip syncing to it."

Emma: At the time for Martha, what happened to her felt like a crime. But it wasn't. There would be no trial. No arrests. But it still felt like something had been stolen from her. And the craziest thing is, it wasn't the first time this happened. And the path to address it was somewhat uncharted, because there weren't really any explicit rules against stealing vocals.

Emma: That year, Martha Wash would find herself the involuntary poster child for an ethical culture clash. A reckoning—long overdue—between the people who make music and the industry that sells it over credit and money, technology and the law. And Martha's case would be the one that put a stop to it all.

Emma: I'm Emma Courtland. This is Crime Show.

Emma: For Martha Wash, that day in the hotel room, when she sat and watched her voice coming out of someone else's mouth, may have been one of the worst, most dehumanizing days of her life. But what she couldn't yet see, was that that experience was part of something much bigger. Let me back up.

Emma: The music industry's biggest problem has always been, ironically, the musicians themselves. Businesses of all kinds rely on a certain amount of consistency, predictability. But people—and creative people in particular—are neither consistent nor predictable. Musicians have thoughts and feelings. They don't always say or do what you want them to do. They get sick, they age, they gain weight. And for a business that's trying to sell a product, all that humanity is really just less than ideal.

Emma: Lucky for them, singers are a dime a dozen—essentially fungible goods. So if an artist's humanity gets in the way? Boop! They could replace them. Like a broken piece of machinery. But if you had the goods, that irreplaceable something special, they may still jerk you around—I mean, look at what they did to Nina Simone—but you would never be entirely disposable.

Emma: This is the world Martha Wash entered as a young singer in San Francisco in the '70s. Like a lot of the greatest Black female vocalists of the day, she'd cut her teeth singing gospel in church. But she could sing a bit of everything: rock, jazz, disco, even some opera. And by the time she hit the mainstream, she'd earned a reputation as a rare talent. People had started to recognize her voice, and she was getting paid for her work.

Martha Wash: Oh, it wasn't a lot. I mean, look, for a background singer, hey, it could have been like 75 bucks, you know? Look, we're talking the '70s. Yeah, it wasn't a whole bunch of money to be made, but I was gaining experience.

Emma: And sure enough, that experience paid off. Let me set the scene for you. The year was 1982, and Martha had just left singing backup for one of the biggest disco singers of the time, Sylvester. Her plan was to make music with another background singer from the band named Izora Armstead as a duo act. And seemingly out of the blue, they got a call from a songwriter who loved their voices and had a proposal for them.

Martha Wash: Paul Jabara asked us to come to his home in LA for lunch.

Emma: Paul Jabara was a superstar songwriter of the '70s. His credits include Donna Summer's "Last Dance," and a duet she did with Barbra Strieisand, "No More Tears."

Martha Wash: So then when we got to his home, we found out why he really invited us to lunch. He said, "I need you to record this song."

Emma: Now the song Paul was asking Martha and Izora to sing had already been turned down by both Barbra and Donna, which didn't seem like a good omen, but ...

Martha Wash: The song basically was already finished. All it needed was the lead vocals. So we went in and recorded the vocals in about 90 minutes and walked out. Said, "Okay, see you later."

Emma: What Martha didn't know was that those 90 minutes would soon make her famous for the first time, in her own right. Because that song, well, everyone knows that song. And everyone knows her voice.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, song: "It's raining men. Hallelujah, it's raining men!]

Martha Wash: As I have said many times, I want people to stop and kind of close their eyes and think about Barbra Streisand singing "It's Raining Men." And tell me what you visualize, you know, that kind of thing. So I said, "Mm-hmm. I couldn't see her doing it either."

Emma: The success of the song earned Martha and Izora a record contract with Columbia. They started calling themselves "The Weather Girls." And the duo went on to earn a Grammy nomination in 1983 for Best R&B Performance by a Group. And this all came from a song that had been turned down by Cher and Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, a song that the biggest female vocalists of the time treated like a joke. Seemingly out of nowhere, Martha's voice made it a hit. Martha and Izora had proved themselves on the radio. But in this moment, a new proving ground had just emerged.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, MTV advertisement: The first 24-hour video music channel in full stereo sound. The music will continue nonstop on MTV Music Television, the newest component of your stereo system.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, MTV advertisement: We'll be doing for TV what FM did for radio.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, MTV advertisement: You'll never look at music the same way again.]

Jason Newman: MTV becomes the bellwether on which the entire industry is based around.

Emma: That's Jason Newman. He's an editor at Rolling Stone. He says that when MTV premiered, the listening experience became visual. You didn't have to imagine a performance while listening to Blondie on your Walkman, now you could watch them in your living room.

Jason Newman: And, you know, things like clothing and choreography just obviously were important before, but they just take on, like, a much, much more greater importance in, like, the overall look and the selling of an artist.

Emma: Jason wrote a feature story about Martha back in 2014. And the reason he's talking about MTV isn't just because it's the forum for what ultimately happens to Martha. According to Jason, it's also a big part of the reason it happens.

Jason Newman: And so I think MTV did, as powerful as it was, is it sort of exacerbated this idea that beauty, if it doesn't trump talent, it at least has to be on an equal footing with it.

Emma: Martha and Izora had incredible voices. Nobody doubted their talent. But in this moment, vocal talent wasn't the premium on TV.

Jason Newman: The prized currency was, like, hot, sexy young singer. And Martha, by her admission, was not that.

Emma: Martha and Izora were two curvy, Black women, which essentially left music industry executives looking at Martha and Izora with the question: "How do we sell them in the age of TV?" And if impossible beauty standards weren't enough, at the time, Black artists weren't even on MTV. MTV denies this, but Michael Jackson—the biggest global superstar at the time—wasn't even shown on the channel at launch. To get the "Billie Jean" video on MTV, the head of his label said he had to threaten to pull all their music videos from the channel. And if it took a dire threat to get the King of Pop on the channel, what chance did Martha and Izora stand? She was essentially at the bottom of the hierarchy of what labels and MTV thought an artist should look like at the time. But Columbia had a hit on their hands, so they did make a music video for "It's Raining Men."

Martha Wash: Oh my God, that video.

Emma: It is the most bootleg-looking video I have ever seen.

Martha Wash: Let's just say that there was a budget, and it wasn't a large budget. And I'll just leave it at that.

Emma: Straight up, the set looks like it's made out of cardboard. And Martha was fashioned as a kind of middle aged man-eater. When actually, at the time the video was shot, she was in her 20s. It's just so clear that the label didn't know what to do with two curvy, Black women, so they didn't really do anything. After a few years, Columbia dropped the duo. Martha and Izora separated soon after.

Jason Newman: So in, like, '88, '89, you know, Martha kind of finds herself at a weird point in her career before all of this nonsense happened.

Emma: The nonsense he's referring to is the subject of this episode: the lip-syncing scandal. Okay, so Martha's in this post-"Raining Men" phase. The Grammy buzz is long gone. She's back to singing back up, just like at the beginning of her career. Now she is landing some pretty good gigs, like, for Aretha Franklin, but she is essentially getting paid to be this disembodied voice. And it turns out there's a business for that: demos.

Jason Newman: So typically, a producer or someone at a label, typically an A&R person will, you know, contract someone for a flat fee to record demos for a song. You know, there is no intention to release them, they're more kind of guiding tracks, essentially, for whoever ends up being the finished vocalist.

Emma: So Martha's doing a lot of this demo work. She's getting calls to come into studios, belt out these hooks, and then, if the studios like the song, her temp tracks will get replaced. Pretty straightforward—if you can find a voice to replace Martha's. So one day, she gets a call from an old friend named David Cole. David was Martha's pianist during her "Raining Men" days. And David's like, "Hey I'm starting my own group. Would you come down and record some demos for us?" Martha says sure, but then she gets in the studio and ...

Martha Wash: That song is so high. It really was past my range, my high range.

Emma: The song was called, "Everybody Dance Now."

Martha Wash: It felt like I was literally hanging by my hands on the ceiling trying to get that note out. Seriously. And it's like, I'm just singing at the top of my lungs trying to get the note. That "Everybody dance now." You know, that part.

Emma: You know that part.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: [singing] Everybody dance now!]

Emma: And just so you know how difficult it is, when the average person tries to sing this—[singing] everybody dance now!—you probably sound like me, kinda in that falsetto, breath-y tone. Or maybe you can get it out, but how's your vocal quality? Does your voice resonate? Do you make it sound effortless? Not so easy, is it? Well, Martha did it, and then she kept singing at the same energy level. And it was about more than the big notes. You can hear all her musical influences in that song: gospel, rock, even the jazz scatting at the end. It was really a culmination of decades of vocal training and experience. And after about an hour in the studio, the recording is done. Martha gets paid a flat fee of about $1,000, and she goes on with her life. Until about a year later. The song hits the airwaves, under the banner of her friend David Cole's new group C&C Music Factory, with Martha's voice singing lead on the track.

Emma: When Martha heard it, she was kind of baffled. In this moment, she experienced the full weight of the music industry in a way that she never saw coming.

Martha Wash: Honey, this business called show? It's a bitch. It's a bitch.

Emma: And this wasn't the only time it happened.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: "You're My One and Only True Love"]

Emma: And then there was a third time.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: "Everybody Everybody"]

Emma: And if you listen to these side by side, even with all the filters being used to disguise her voice, even to the untrained ear it is so clear that these are all the same person. It's all Martha fueling these chart-topping radio bangers. But she never got a lead vocal credit. And again, legally speaking, these are all in a bit of a gray area since she was paid for her vocal work. But then the labels got really fucking brazen—they started making music videos.

Emma: All more or less the same as that one Martha saw in the hotel room in 1990, with Martha's singular voice coming out of the mouths of all these different skinny, leggy women. And these videos were gold in the eyes of MTV. Attractive thin women and power vocals? The video for "Everybody Dance Now" was constantly playing on the music video channel.

Emma: How did you feel about it?

Emma: Martha lit a cigarette, and took a drag before answering.

Martha Wash: It felt like, you don't want me, but you want my voice. That's what it felt like.

Emma: It was an injury that anybody should be able to understand. But was it a crime? By the measure of the law, no it wasn't. Throughout the industry, sampling was just starting to become popular. New technology allowed producers to take pieces of the songs they liked and reassemble them into new songs. And in 1990, the courts were just beginning to review cases that examined the ethics and laws around these works. But what happened to Martha went a step past that, beyond digital tools and producer magic. They misconstrued her contributions, so Martha would never be famous for her work, nor would she reap the rewards of her talent. Instead, someone else would.

Emma: The industry had always found new ways to cleave artists from their art, but this was so new there wasn't even an explicit rule to break. Maybe that's why this was all so hard to see coming. And also why it was hard to know if this thing was happening to other artists as well. We still don't know that. What we do know is that it happened to this one very established artist—that is, to Martha—on at least three completely separate occasions. The question was: what was she going to do about it? Martha knew it would be safer to let the whole thing go, to keep her head down or just look away, as she'd been doing for years. But with this? With these chart-topping hits, not just backed by Martha's talent, but built on it, and then attributed to other people? Martha couldn't look away anymore.

Martha Wash: It was too much. Too close to each other. And it was just something that I had to say something about.

Emma: She was willing to stake her reputation on this, and she had a secret weapon. One of Martha's oldest friends was a veteran music attorney named Steven Brown.

Martha Wash: I've known Steven, my Lord, since the '70s. He said he hates record companies, so that kind of gives him fuel, too, you know? But he's been doing this a long time, and he knows what's what.

Emma: Steven had represented some of the greatest singers to ever get screwed over by the industry: Nina Simone, Liza Minnelli, Dionne Warwick. So when Martha called Steven and told him about the music videos, this is what he said ...

Steven Brown: I said, not only are we going to get them, but you're going to be famous because I'm going to do this very publicly. [laughs]

Emma: Okay, so in 1990, when all this stuff was happening with Martha, the music industry was also reeling from a different lip-syncing scandal.

Martha Wash: People were still talking about the Milli Vanilli scandal that had happened. It had not died down when my situation started happening.

Emma: Milli Vanilli. The European R&B duo with the locks and the aggressive shoulder pads. They had just been caught lip-syncing during a live, televised outdoor concert when their recording skipped. People discovered they didn't sing live. And then they discovered Milli Vanilli didn't sing their songs at all. Once people realized Milli Vanilli were just pretty frontmen, their careers ended swiftly. I was just six years old when the group got stripped of their Grammy for Best New Artist, but even after many hours of VH1 coverage that I watched in the following decade, my memory of what happened with Milli Vanilli is still, essentially, people found out that these guys didn't actually sing on their album, listeners got mad, the group got humiliated, and was stripped of their accolades. What I didn't realize was that their fans filed a class action civil suit against the group for fraud. It was a big deal.

Emma: So when Martha's songs were first released and began to climb in the charts, music reporters, producers, friends and family, they saw what happened and instantly compared it to Milli Vanilli. And they wanted answers.

Martha Wash: I start getting phone calls. "Wait a minute. What's going on? Why is she singing to you? Why is she lip-syncing to your vocals? Why? Why?"

Emma: At the time, Martha was still grappling with her own take on the situation, and she was trying to deal with the producers privately. They'd offered Martha one percent of the royalties and a backing vocal credit for one of the songs she recorded in the studio. But Martha felt she deserved more. She was the lead vocal on that track—a hit track. And the going rate for a lead singer was ten times that amount. But the producers didn't see the situation in the same way, and negotiations eventually went silent. Martha had the world knocking on her front door, looking for her to explain why her voice was on TV, coming out of another woman's mouth. Someone had to answer. And that's when Steven stepped in. He knew what she was experiencing in a way she wouldn't communicate to anyone but her closest friends.

Steven Brown: I remember the emotional tenor of that conversation more than the specific words, but it was basically, "That's not right." You would never hear her say, "They hurt me." You would hear her say, "That's not right." And I could tell from the tone of her voice, because I knew her. I could hear the hurt, and what was ultimately a pain.

Emma: Steven took that pain and anger, and got out in front of the story on her behalf.

Steven Brown: I drafted up an incendiary lawsuit. It was true. I mean, there was no hyperbole in it, but I knew how to write it in a way that would read like a press release.

Emma: But what's a lawsuit to a record company? What really hurt them was embarrassment. Milli Vanilli-level embarrassment. So Steven also drafted up an actual press release, stating that Martha was the singer of "Everybody Dance Now," and not the woman featured in C&C Music Factory's video—Zelma Davis. And then he added one more thing.

Steven Brown: That Martha challenged Zelma to a live sing-off, and the loser had to pay the winner's favorite charity $10,000.

Emma: Martha didn't have $10,000 to throw around, but Steven was that certain Martha would win.

Steven Brown: Guess who wouldn't take the challenge!

Emma: C&C never actually turned down the challenge. And when we talked to Zelma recently, she said she doesn't even remember there being a challenge. It wasn't really even her fight to begin with. She joined the group way after the producers recorded the song, and she did sing on the bulk of the tracks on their hit album. These days, C&C maintains that they never intended to deceive anybody. They've said that they wanted Martha in the group, but that she'd turned them down to pursue her solo career. And Martha doesn't dispute this now. But back in 1992, C&C were singing a very different song.

Emma: That year, they used whatever platform they had to deny that there was lip-syncing involved in this at all. At the American Music Awards that year, C&C won five trophies, including Favorite New Dance Artist and Favorite Dance Single for "Everybody Dance Now." And during their acceptance speech, Martha's old friend David Cole said this ...

[ARCHIVE CLIP, David Cole: The real thing I want to say is I really am deeply grateful to you all for believing in us, and not falling prey to this whole lip-syncing thing, because we are not a lip sync group.]

Emma: In later interviews, David Cole—the same man who used to play piano for her—said Martha was trying to ride the coattails of the group's success. But one of the nastiest blows came from the rapper of the group, Freedom Williams. This is him talking about Martha in a TV interview on A Current Affair.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Freedom Williams: I'll tell you this. I don't mean to be rude, harsh, callous, malign, or vilifying, but I'd rather look at Zelma on stage.]

Emma: You heard that right. He said he'd rather look at Zelma.

Steven Brown: He actually said that. And that made my blood boil. I was going to fry him, metaphorically, of course, for that. And I did. Because that was disgusting. It was a vile thing to say. And I thought it was true that he believed that. And I thought it was true that the labels had that in mind as well. They didn't have to pay her the amount of money she was worth, and they could have an image that they thought was more saleable.

Martha Wash: I've always had weight fluctuations over the years and stuff, but I knew I was not gonna be a small woman. So the thing is, you either accept me or reject me. You know, I am who I am, who I am. I'm a large woman. Take me as I am.

Emma: Martha never gave a public response to those remarks, but Steven Brown was seething. And when they went low, he dropped it to the floor. Steven booked Martha on an even bigger stage.

Steven Brown: Martha went on The Arsenio Hall Show.

Emma: At the time, the Arsenio Hall show was considered the late night talk show of the MTV generation. It pulled millions of young, hip viewers every episode. So when Martha was a guest on the show, she was essentially in front of the same demographic of people who had seen the music videos with her stolen vocals. And in the interview, Arsenio is sitting across from her, beaming in his loud purple suit with his shit-eating grin like he's about to ask her something controversial. And there is really only one thing to ask: who sang lead on "Everybody Dance Now?" And when Arsenio asks this, what he's really saying is: prove it was you.

Martha Wash: I was saying, "I hope I can hit those notes." Because I was sitting down. I said, "Oh, Lord. Wait a minute. Can I hit those notes?" Standing up? Yeah. Sitting down—and it was a low seat on top of that, I said, "Okay." Get my diaphragm together.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Arsenio Hall: Just everybody, sing that part so they'll know. If you can hit that note.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Martha Wash: [singing] Everybody dance now!]

Emma: It was undeniable evidence on national television that Martha sang the song. C&C could refute it if they wanted to, but in the court of public opinion, Martha had won her case. Now all of this public feuding was no doubt deeply entertaining, especially if you were a Martha Wash fan. But it was also distracting. Because what was happening to Martha was not merely a matter of a couple bad apples. Yes, C&C and Black Box had stolen her vocals. They'd garnered fame and fortune and some awards at her expense. But there was someone further up the food chain that was profiting. Remember, Martha's vocals had been stolen by at least three different groups, which meant that somewhere out there, producers were getting the idea that this was an okay thing to do. Maybe even a good thing to do. A profitable thing to do. Here's Jason Newman, the Rolling Stone editor again.

Jason Newman: I think it is a stretch of the imagination to think that no one at the label had any idea, and that C&C were just these guys who went rogue and didn't tell anyone at the label. I think what's trickier is getting to the nuts and bolts of who knew. I think that's something that has very conscientiously not come out.

Emma: Jason pointed out that Zelma Davis, the singer in C&C Music Factory, didn't want to lip sync in the video, and told people on set what had happened. And it was people from the label who allegedly told her to keep quiet. So while all these executives were shielded from the public embarrassment, Steven made sure they shared in the financial sting by naming the labels in his lawsuit. He summarized the case to one point.

Steven Brown: It happened to Martha for financial reasons, because Martha wouldn't let them use her name. Martha said, "If I'm not getting a full artist royalty and this record's not about me, I can create these recordings, but these are going to be studio recordings, but you're not going to make money off of me." And they thought that meant that they could just create somebody else.

Emma: And Steven was certain he was going to get Martha a big payout. Money's the language that the labels could understand. They could look at contracts by other top artists and pay Martha what her talent was worth. And that's what they did. In all three cases, Martha reached financial settlements with the record companies, though the exact number still hasn't been disclosed publicly. She was also properly credited on all the works, as well as given credit on all the music videos. After this, go Google the videos on YouTube. You'll see a disclaimer in all of the descriptions. And in the process of finding a settlement, something crazy happened. One of the executives at RCA reached out to Steven mid-negotiations and said this ...

Steven Brown: They said, "Honestly, the more we listen to these tracks, the more we realize how really wonderful she is. Why don't you make two records for us?" And I said, "Sure, as long as you know that as soon as we finish making that deal, I'm going to go back to court and kick your butt. I mean, we're not done. What you did was unspeakable, and you're gonna write a big check."

Emma: Martha came out on top—big time. She got that money. She got that credit. And she got a record deal. Not long after, there was also a wave of legislation that aimed to seal the door on stolen vocals for good. Legislators in New York and New Jersey passed laws requiring musical performances to disclose if a performer is lip-syncing. Many artists and journalists trace all this rule-making back to Martha and her courage in speaking up.

Jason Newman: It forced Sony to sort of make this unprecedented disclosure to MTV by giving her credit at the end of the C&C Music Factory video. And it really is—like, it's incredible, like, how many doors she kicked down that I think people just don't even realize, or just take for granted maybe.

Steven Brown: The important takeaway for anybody listening to this who can hear what I'm saying is, is you can eat lunch in this town again, you can stand up for yourself if you have talent.

Emma: She says that she still gets praised.

Martha Wash: I've had a lot of people come up to me, people in the business, people that I know and others in the business that have told me, "Thank you. I'm glad you did what you did. It wasn't right." You know? And the thing is, it could possibly still be going on now, you know? You kind of never know what goes on behind closed doors, and what kind of deals and things are made. But it could still be going on.

Emma: We asked Jason about this, and he admitted that it's hard to know for sure. People are still sampling vocals, of course. And they're still getting sued when they do it without permission. But Martha's case really seems to have put the kibosh on the kind of straight-up theft/misattribution that Martha experienced. There have, however, just recently been cases of a new kind of musical misattribution.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.]

Emma: You hear that? That is not Jay-Z rapping Hamlet's soliloquy. It's a computer program trained to mimic Jay's speech patterns. Now this wasn't created by a record label. It was created by an anonymous YouTuber called Vocal Synthesis. Their page has these samples of voice-to-text deep fakes for Frank Sinatra, Kanye, Tupac—even Mr. Rogers. Just to be clear, the creator isn't passing these off as the real artist, or trying to make radio hits from these videos. But it does present a new tool for voices to be stolen without regard for the artist.

Emma: Ironically, the thing that ultimately protected Martha—the singularity of her voice—is the same thing that's making all of these other artists susceptible to impersonation. As long as there's enough recorded material for the program to learn from, and their speech patterns are distinct enough, these can be created from essentially anyone's voice. And when I say they can, I mean not just technically, legally there is no rule against what they're doing. Jay-Z filed a request to get this recording taken down, saying the video violated his rights to his voice, but the video is still up. YouTube essentially wiped their hands of the situation and asked Jay-Z to make a stronger case, because the grey area in the law makes it hard to prove how the video violated the mogul's rights.

Emma: And with no explicit rules against this type of deep fake, many artists will have to wait for a big court decision to shake things up. And when that day comes, Martha said she could help Jay-Z get in touch with Steven.

Martha Wash: [laughs] Well now, yeah, I can give him his number. You know, he'll argue something. I just know he would.

Emma: Crime Show is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. This episode was produced by Jerome Campbell, along with me, Emma Courtland. Crime Show is produced by Jerome Campbell, Cat Schuknecht, and Jade Abdul-Malik. Our senior producer is Mitch Hansen. Editing by Devon Taylor. Production oversight by Collin Campbell. Fact checking by Nicole Pasulka. Theme song by So Wylie. Mixing and sound design by Daniel Ramirez. Original music by So Wylie and Dara Hirsch. Special thanks to Rachel Strom.