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Megan Thee Stallion is the latest superstar to be trapped in a bad early contract

Megan Thee Stallion has enjoyed the kind of rise that few rappers achieve in a year. Release a winning debut album, engineer one of the year’s defining memes, and appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone alongside SZA and Normani. It’s only expected that with this rapid ascent, label forces would strain to keep their piece of the pie.

Over the past several days, she’s been talking openly on Instagram Live and Twitter about her label, the independent and Houston-based 1501 Certified Entertainment, refusing to renegotiate her contract and preventing the release of new music. Label head Carl Crawford, a former MLB star outfielder who signed to a huge player-friendly contract, has reportedly been unwilling to let her opt out of a deal that she signed at age 20 and didn’t entirely grasp.

As TMZ first reported, she’s been granted a temporary restraining order to release new music, which she’s been teasing this week, and has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $1 million in damages from the label. The suit alleges that Megan’s original contract with 1501 was “purposefully and deceptively vague.” Further, she accuses Crawford and his friend, Rap-a-Lot Records founder J. Prince, of resorting to “strong-armed intimidation tactics” and perpetrating “a physical threat of harm.” She also claims the two were involved in a smear campaign, leaking her mugshot from a 2015 arrest that was dismissed entirely in 2016.

Crawford, for his part, has been standing firm with the original deal on the 1501 Instagram account. “At a time when loyalty is at an all time low it’s nice to be link with [J. Prince] who is steady teaching me how to move in this cutthroat industry,” he writes. “And I know that terrifies some especially the ones who double cross me #Paybacksabitch #1501 #mobties.”

It’s unclear if the contract was conceived as a true 360 deal, but it seems to give the label a significant share of all facets of her business. As Pitchfork points out, it grants 1501 and Crawford 50% of her publishing, 30% of her touring income, 30% of her merchandising, control of all merchandising rights, along with a cut of her “passive income,” or money accrued from sponsorships and endorsement deals. Additionally, the lawsuit notes that 1501 currently takes 60% of Megan’s recording income, leaving 40% to be split between her team of producers, engineers, mixers, and other collaborators. Megan claims that she’s only been paid $15,000 from 1501, on the back of two platinum singles.

Crawford’s career-making, 7-year $142 million contract he signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2010 was a hilariously bad one for every team to inherit the deal. Despite being a productive player and four-time All Star with the Tampa Bay Rays, he didn’t produce a full season since signing the huge contract and was at best a slightly above league-average player when active (during those worst stretches, he was one of the worst hitters in the league.) The Dodgers inherited his deal in a 2012 blockbuster trade, and ultimately paid out the rest of his contract for partial seasons, and in the case of 2017, $21.8 million when he was no longer on the team. Nevertheless, he knows a thing or two about exploiting early-career success.