Azealia Banks Fires Back at Manager Jeff Kwatinetz’s Libel Lawsuit
More than a year after she was first sued for stalking and defamation by her ex-manager, Azealia Banks has responded with a cross-complaint accusing the Prospect Park label boss of posing as a “romantic suitor” to “steal” from her.
In new paperwork obtained by Rolling Stone, Banks says Jeff Kwatinetz was 49 years old and single when he presided over an “egregious” dealmaking process in 2014 that gave his company a 15-year license to her album Broke with Expensive Taste – an album she already owned that had been produced and paid for by another record company, according to her recent filing in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“[Kwatinetz] attempted to control and manipulate Banks so he could eventually steal from her, by charming the 23-year-old from Harlem and attempting to convince her that he loved her,” her filing states. “He would repeatedly tell her in e-mails that he loved her, had sleepovers with her and sent her gifts.”
The “212” artist claims Kwatinetz engaged in “blurring the lines between a fiduciary and a romantic suitor so that he could take financial advantage” of her. To bolster her claim, Banks alleges Kwatinetz once sent her an email detailing the end of his working relationship with singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson.
“She fired me [because] unbeknownst to me she was in love with me and when I told her to start working out because she had a lot of TV coming up, she took it that I was calling her fat and fired me,” Kwatinetz allegedly wrote in the purported email excerpted in the cross-complaint.
Banks is counter-suing Kwatinetz with claims of breach of contract and fraud. She alleges he and his company “failed for years” to pay her her fair share of the revenues from her album. According to her filing, it wasn’t until July 1, 2020, that Prospect Park supplied its first accounting under the deal and paid Banks the “minuscule sum of $15,344.94.” Her paperwork says Prospect Park reported album revenues of $1,490,460 and costs and expenses totaling $1,296,330.
“Under the circumstances, the amount of alleged costs and expenses is outrageous,” Banks’ cross-complaint states. She also alleges the company “refused” to provide her with “backup for basically any of the expenses.”
“Ms. Banks is a talented artist, but she has been acting irresponsibly and dangerously for years,” a rep for Kwatinetz said in a statement to Rolling Stone Thursday. “Ms. Banks’ cross-complaint has no merit and is nothing more than a PR stunt. Mr. Kwatinetz will vindicate his rights in court, where he will prove that Ms. Banks’ allegations are false and slanderous.”
For his part, Kwatinetz first sued Banks for defamation and stalking on Sept. 24, 2020 but moved to dismiss the civil action in March. He filed a follow-up complaint Sept. 20, 2021 with similar causes of defamation, trade libel and stalking.
According to Kwatinetz, Banks started ranting against him and Prospect Park in June 2020 with “blatantly false claims” alleging he was withholding royalties. “Banks’ claims run the gamut of the absurd and could easily be ignored and written off as the rantings of a lunatic, but her recent rants took an ominous and dangerous turn,” his complaint states.
He claims Banks posted messages on YouTube and other social media platforms that he believes “threatened the lives” of his wife and young child, in addition to himself. One post included a photo of Banks outside his home in Los Angeles, his paperwork alleges.
“All of this terrifying conduct appears to be a coordinated campaign of extortion. Sadly, for Banks, it all comes down to money to which she is not entitled, and there appear to be no means she will not use to get it,” his complaint states.
The next court hearing in the case is set for Feb. 1.