Spike Lee, the African American film director, producer, writer and actor has released dozens of films, all which are referred to in their credits as “A Spike Lee Joint.” A year ago four Maryland musicians collaborated to form a punk/pop band. Lead singer G’Ra Asim, 24, drummer Brandan Bessel, 21, bassist Steven Edward Taylor Jr., 24, and guitarist Frederick Ashworth, 28 call themselves “A Spike Lee Joint.”
Nearly two weeks ago the Silver Spring based band gained their first national exposure after being featured in a Washington Post article where they were labeled “budding irrepressibles.” This week the band-mates received a cease and desist letter from Lee’s legal department demanding that they change the name of their band. The letter states that the use of the filmmaker’s name was unauthorized and lists each website in which the band’s name appears and demands that they take down any and all content that references Spike Lee.
Prior to choosing the band’s title, Asim had been performing under his own name and had written numerous raw punk inflected tracks. In punk culture band names typically reflect a well known social or cultural term. Asim chose to name the band “A Spike Lee Joint” because he felt “the best idea was to take a black cultural reference point and re-purpose it into a new context.”
“This is a little disappointing. We definitely feel like there is a common aesthetic between our music and Spike Lee’s film making. It would be nice if artist to artist he could recognize that we named out band out respect to his film making,” Asim said.
The band plans to abide by Lee’s recent request and will desist to use his name. Songs they recorded under the band name “A Spike Lee Joint” will be available on their website, and moving forward and will be listed under the lead singer G’Ra Asim’s name.
Asim says that he has a message for Spike Lee, “I would suggest maybe if he is not cool with us using his name, perhaps he could consider enlisting us in contributing music to one of his film soundtracks.”
When contacted for their take on the Maryland punk band’s use of “A Spike Lee Joint,” Lee’s legal team had no comment.