Judge Greg Mathis has been giving orders for 24 seasons on his eponymous daytime court show and isn’t stopping anytime soon. The 52-year-old is set to have a full docket of cases that both engage and excite viewers from coast to coast. In addition to laying down the law in the courtroom, he’s slowly becoming America’s favorite family man with his E! series “Mathis Family Matters,” which shows him and his loved ones navigating fun, everyday life situations in Los Angeles.
In this exclusive conversation with REVOLT, Judge Mathis breaks down the lawsuit between Swizz Beatz, Timbaland and Triller; talks his daytime talk show entering its 24th season; and gives advice to the youth amid PnB Rock’s passing. Read up!
You’re back in the courtroom for the 24th season of “Judge Mathis.” How has the show helped you grow as a justice and on-air personality?
I think the show helped me in the sense that I’m able to vicariously experience the reality that working and poor people engage and have to live the circumstances and the reality in which they have to live…because I grew up in that reality among working and poor folks, which I’m not saying to say those are the majority of our litigants. That’s why many of them don’t come to court because poverty breeds, and there’s a lot that goes into that. So that’s the growth — me being able to stay in touch with the realities that I want to continue to understand and to give wisdom and fight to instill better realities for our communities.
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland sued Triller for $28 million. After buying Verzuz from them, Triller failed to make payments and defaulted on the agreement, but was able to reach a settlement with Swizz and Timbaland in September. Any legal advice you would have shared with the producers?
No, I think because they pursued it precisely as they should have. Still, I’m proud that these brothers and all the others from the hip hop community, including our brother who I love — but I keep him in check on my posts — but I love the strength Kanye West showed as well. As for Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, I’m proud of these brothers for not being slaves. Prince wore “slave” on his forehead because the corporate entertainment industry was unfair, he believed, and it proved to be because they capitulated — and in this case, that happens all the time.
Corporations think that guys from the street or uneducated people are somehow unsophisticated about their business when it’s the opposite. If they ran these companies they negotiated with, they would get more money. If they were to rent Triller, they would make more money without them. So because of their street wisdom, which gives them the survival in the business acclamation that JAY-Z, Kanye West and Puffy have shown to have, these brothers are showing the same. I think they’re doing precisely what they should be doing.
Would it have been more challenging for Swizz and Timbaland to just buy back their creation in the midst of the lawsuit?
Yes, it would’ve been because you have to finance that operation and that’s a risk. You’re in the risk business then, which is why you hear that only Tyler Perry and a few others own their content because they gotta put up money and risk it. Eighty percent of all entertainment projects from music, television, and film fail.
I remember when I first got to the industry…my buddy who’s been in the industry in music for many, many years, I asked him, “Oh, why don’t you make your own?” ‘Cause he had a studio and everything. I asked, “Why don’t you publish your own, etc.,” to which he said he’d instead go to [learn] the movie business we’re talking about. He said, “I’ll make the same money if I go to Vegas right now, and I’ll make it quicker or I’ll lose it quicker, so I’ll save time going to Vegas because the 80 percent odds…all are going to fail. I wouldn’t get in the risk business like that — I would just do partnerships like the other rap heavyweights have done.”
In the midst of the legal battle, could Triller have still hosted Verzuz episodes without Timbaland and Swizz’s consent since they bought the entity?
Absolutely not because they breached their contract…the hope is that the lawyer gets a cease and desist because you’ve breached the contract, and everything should stop until it’s resolved in court.
Looking at the overview of the case, do you think Swizz and Timbaland should’ve collected in whole or do you feel it’s best to collect in installments?
It truly depends on the tax treatment, to be quite frank. I think it should be based on that and who knows what that would be. You can get it all at one time with you paying 40-50 percent at once at that income level, or you get it sporadically, then you pay 30 percent on $500,000 each year instead…if the deal was $20 million, you pay $10 million all at one time.
What should Swizz and Timbaland look for – red flags and/or positive signs – in their next joint business deal, so they don’t land in that kind of legal situation again?
I would suggest for them to structure the deal differently. It would have to take some innovative thinking, however, I would say that they should continue a partnership and find a better partner and they’re out there. You don’t hear much of this from JAY-Z’s empire or Puffy’s empire as they have partnerships. Even Russell Simmons and Magic Johnson have partnerships. Johnson’s partnerships work better than anyone. Partnerships with major corporations are good because you’re not risking your own money. Secondly, I don’t do a contract [with] anybody that has less money than me (laughs).
If you were to sell the Judge Mathis brand, what approach would you take?
If I was selling my daytime talk show, I would make sure to get paid at the same time as the corporation. I would do a partnership with a major corporation like Warner Brothers ’cause they own it, and so it would have to be a joint deal. Warner Bros. would have to agree to allow me to be a part of the deal and I will make sure I’m getting paid every check. Whenever they get a check, I’m getting one and if they don’t get a check, I don’t get one (laughs).
When it comes to celebrities conducting business with global brands and entities, what’s the best piece of advice you can share?
Don’t count on back-end percentages because even though you might get payments stretched out, don’t let your contract price be based on some [perceived] percentage of profit at the end of each year. The accounting games that corporate America practices — particularly in the entertainment industry — you can get 5-10 percent, or if you want 20 percent, fine, and then you won’t see your profit if things go awry. I advise that when big corporations and brands say they are gonna give you a banking percentage, make sure they give it to you upfront as an advance against those profits whenever they come. If they say they are gonna make $10 million profit on your back-end, right, “Oh OK, well, just give me $5-7 million then since you’re certain we’re gonna make it on there as a profit.”
Andre Mathis will be the second Black Tennessean to serve on the Circuit Court and the first Black man from the states to be appointed. Do you feel the legal system is becoming more inclusive?
They’re trying, but it’s always a question of whether it’s sincere or it’s paternalism or fear. I don’t know [if we can] trust the government and elected officials in particular, so I can’t say that they are committed to moving forward. They’re committed to getting our vote and telling us we’re gonna have the Voting Rights Act passed and how they’re gonna have a George Floyd Policing Act passed in the U.S. Senate to get our vote, and then it never happens. I’m not so committed – I feel it’s based on what the liberal elite think we should have…that’s called paternalism.
Our issues are quite frankly in climate change as we don’t think we’re gonna be around long enough. Our issue is overcoming poverty, quality education, safe and clean neighborhoods, inclusivity and diversity in corporate America, economic justice – those are our issues so when you use our vote to advance issues that don’t have a significant effect on our community or aren’t the priorities in our community…they will try to say we need greenhouses. Do you think the Black people in the inner city living in poverty cares anything about that? That’s where detachment comes in because they either don’t know or are not committed or don’t care enough about our reality to address it [even though] we are the strongest partner that the Democratic Party has.
Unfortunately, we lost Philadelphia rapper PnB Rock to gun violence on Sept. 12. Any advice you would like to share with the youth to prevent these violent acts from reoccurring?
My advice is to stop being suckers. We all claim to be so tough and macho, yet we fall for the trap that has either been set or has occurred as a result of economic deprivation and denial of equal education. In addition to what I mentioned, when you add the dumping of guns or drugs, it’s a trap, and if you go for it, then you’re a sucker – you’re not a wise street guy at all. You even have some suckers right now supporting someone here in LA for mayor who has never been supportive of their community — yet a woman who has spent 100 percent of her adult life and is an experienced congressperson, the street guys are supporting the new guy who is a developer that has never developed affordable housing for their parents or for them.
Here comes this Black woman who is the foundation of our community, and you pass her up because you get the “Law and Order” commercial that used to scare back then, which caused mass incarceration. I want to know if people understand the murder rate with gunfire assault went up 20 percent as gun ownership went up 20 percent. The number of guns on the street has a counter-effect on the number of shootings and killings. Some of the root causes come from our brothers not being aware that they are being pawns to a system that demonizes them already, and you’re given an additional weapon from those who want to demonize you. Part of the police shootings, in my opinion, come from the demonization of the Black man because [the belief is] the “Black man should be feared.”