Why Trinidad James Earns A Percentage Every Time Grammy Award-Winning Record 'Uptown Funk' Gets Played
Photo Credit: Prince Williams / Kevin Mazur

Why Trinidad James Earns A Percentage Every Time Grammy Award-Winning Record 'Uptown Funk' Gets Played

It’s entirely possible that the lyrics to “Uptown Funk” can be heard as something else when singer Bruno Mars says, “Uptown Funk You Up” (you heard it, right?). The phonics there are similar to an explicit phrase known all too well to many. However, one person who’s not phonetically challenged is rapper and entertainer Trinidad James.

In Mark Ronson’s 2014 Billboard hit, he used a famous line from James’ song, “All Gold Everything.” The line in question –”don’t believe me, just watch.”

Due to its use, James receives a percentage of “Uptown Funk” every time it is played.

From Collaboration To Chart Topping Success

Bruno Mars sings lead on Ronson’s song, which had a wide range of appeal once it was released. However, the success of Mars and Ronson’s hit record was not just an effort from the musical duo. A list of other writers helped make the song the success the world knows today.

Among those writers is Nicholas Williams, professionally known as Trinidad James. Due to the contribution of the lyrics from one of his most popular songs, James is officially credited as co-writer of the 2014 hit single.

“I knew about it before the song came out…that he was going to do something. We didn’t know what. So when I heard him use the hook, I was like, ‘oh, alright, nice,'” James said in an interview with VladTV.

Trinidad James Gets His Just Do

Based on a 2015 end-of-the-year music report by Nielson Music, “Uptown Funk” raked in sales of approximately $5.5 million in the United States. James’ contribution earned him 8 percent of the popular funk song, as reported by Billboard.

While James is one of the most famous artists receiving co-writing credit on the song, “Uptown Funk” has eleven total writers listed as contributors (which did not start out that way).

Other writers outside James, Ronson, and Mars include Jeffrey Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Devon Gallaspy, and the five associated members of The Gap Band. The latter group was added after a court claim of similarity of their 1979 song, “Oops Upside Your Head.” This would mean that all eleven credited contributors have to split song revenue, according to the terms of their respective publishing deals.

“The original songwriters agreed to share credit with the Gap Band’s members — Charlie, Ronnie, and the late Robert Wilson, as well as keyboardist Rudolph Taylor and producer Lonnie Simmons — for a share of 17 percent. With those names now added to the song, they have to once again split the difference, with the original four writers’ shares dipping down to 17 percent. (Trinidad and Gallaspy’s shares remain unchanged.),” Vulture explained in May 2015.

The Aftermath

In a separate Billboard post, it is alleged that the Marvin Gaye estate’s suit against Robin Thicke was influential in The Gap Band making their claim.

The record “Uptown Funk” received two Grammy wins — one for Record of the Year and the other for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.