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Over the years, Jay-Z has released seminal hip-hop albums including his debut album Reasonable Doubt and his 2001 magnum opus The Blueprint. Many of Jay-Z’s iconic albums have been identified by their album artwork, which included photos shot by photographer Jonathan Mannion.

Jay-Z, who was in a lawsuit against the photographer behind some of his biggest album covers, posing for a photo wearing a black shirt and sunglasses
Jay-Z | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jay-Z was in a lawsuit against the photographer behind some of his album covers

Jay-Z filed a lawsuit against Jonathan Mannion and his company Jonathan Mannion Photography, LLC in June 2021. The rapper claimed that the photographer was profiting off his name, image, and likeness without his permission. The official complaint cited prints of Jay-Z that Mannion was selling on his website for thousands of dollars; when Mannion was asked to stop selling the photos, Mannion allegedly demanded tens of millions of dollars.

Mannion has photographed many of the albums from the first decade of Jay-Z’s career. Mannion captured the images for 1996’s Reasonable Doubt, 1997’s In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1998’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, 1999’s Vol. 3… Life & Times of S. Carter, 2000’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, 2001’s The Blueprint, and 2003’s The Black Album.

Mannion is no stranger to shooting album covers, creating iconic images such as DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, Nas’ God’s Son, and Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP.

Jay-Z and the photographer settled their lawsuit

According to court documents obtained by AllHipHop in January 2023, Jay-Z and Mannion asked a judge to vacate the trial and indicated that they’ve agreed to settle the case themselves. The documents state that the two have been working “diligently” toward finalizing a settlement. Had Jay-Z and Mannion not agreed to settle, the case was due to go to trial in March.

“Parties have engaged in settlement discussions and agreed in principle on the terms of the settlement, which includes a stipulated dismissal of this action, subject to execution of a long-form settlement agreement,” the documents read.

In the original lawsuit, Jay-Z accused Mannion of making “an arrogant assumption that because he took those photographs, he can do with them as he pleases,” adding, “It is ironic that a photographer would treat the image of a formerly-unknown Black teenager, now wildly successful, as a piece of property to be squeezed for every dollar it can produce. It stops today.”

While Jay-Z’s words seemingly stung, Mannion’s lawyer Sarah Hsia emphasized that her client had nothing but respect for Jay-Z; at the same time, she asked that he respect Mannion’s First Amendment rights to sell prints of his copyrighted work.

“Mr. Mannion has created iconic images of Mr. Carter over the years, and is proud that these images have helped to define the artist that Jay-Z is today,” Hsia said. “Mr. Mannion has the utmost respect for Mr. Carter and his body of work, and expects that Mr. Carter would similarly respect the rights of artists and creators who have helped him achieve the heights to which he has ascended.”


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Mannion has shown Jay-Z love

Even though they were involved in a lengthy legal dispute, it never stopped Mannion from showing love to Jay-Z. After Jay-Z’s nomination to to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, he congratulated Hov on the achievement.

“ROC & ROLL HALL OF FAME. Congratulations to the mighty HOV on the [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] class of ’21 induction nod,” he captioned an Instagram post of a photo from the Reasonable Doubt photo shoot. “An obvious, if not mandatory, choice. Earned and deserved. It has been an honor to witness and document his phenomenal journey.”