Kelis on Beyonce and Pharrell sampling her music: Its theft

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Beyonce released her seventh studio album, Renaissance, on Friday, July 29. It was going to be a big deal no matter what since it is Beyonce, but the album has caused some unexpected trouble. Days before the album release, a Kelis fan page posted that Beyonce’s new song “Energy” would be sampling Kelis’ iconic song “Milkshake.” That July 25 post was the first time Kelis learned that her song would be sampled, and she posted to that effect, noting the “disrespect and utter ignorance of all 3 parties involved.” Aside from being bothered that Beyonce failed to notify her, Kelis is upset with Pharrell and Chad Hugo — with whom she worked on the original song — for not crediting her then and using it now without telling her.

In a pair of videos posted to her Instagram business account, Kelis explained at length why she’s so upset – the disrespect but also, the fact that, in her version of events, it reminds her of how she’s been screwed out of royalties and music rights by her former collaborators, who she explained continue to license her music without even asking if she minds.

“I’m a human being, so I get pissed off and I get ticked off. Alright? I’m an artist, so I am as Erykah [Badu] said: ‘I’m sensitive about my s—.’ The reality is that my real beef, is not only with Beyoncé, because at the end of the day, she sampled a record, she’s copied me before, so have many other artists, it’s fine, I don’t care about that,” Kelis said in the first video.

“The issue,” she continued, “is that not only are we female artists, Black female artists in an industry where there’s not many of us… We’ve met each other, we know each other, we have mutual friends. She can contact me, it’s not that hard.”

“Ashnikko, who’s what, 20? She’s a young white girl, she reached out when she freakin’ like, it’s just common decency. It’s common decency. Especially because, as so many of you pointed out — I know what I own and what I don’t own. I also know the lies that were told. I also know the things that were stolen. Publishing was stolen, people were swindled out of rights. It happens all the time, especially back then. So, it’s not about me being mad about Beyoncé.”

“She’s one issue, because it was stupid and disrespectful and she should have at least reached out,” Kelis added before also explaining she’s mad at her former collaborators Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. Hugo, she said, “is an amoeba, he’s spineless, it’s a miracle he can keep his neck up.” As for Pharrell, she said he “knows better. This is a direct hit at me. He does this stuff all the time. It’s very petty.”

She called out the lack of “human decency” by the parties involved for not simply calling to ask if she’s OK – and she accused them of doing that on purpose.

In a follow up video, Kelis included a written message: “I just heard the record everyone is saying has my sample . But it’s beyond this song at this point . This was a TRIGGER for me . Milkshake alone is one of the most licensed records of our generation. I am a creator, I’m an innovator, I have done more then left my mark on an era of music and style that will go down in history. But there are bully’s [sic] and secrets and gangsters in this industry that smile and get away with it until someone says enough is enough. So I’m saying it today. I’m coming for what’s mine and I want reparations. Peace .”

And in the video itself, she called out “the hypocrisy” of Williams, who she said talks about artists rights but doesn’t actually respect them.

[From The Wrap]

So it sounds like Kelis is rightfully upset about two things. Since she and Beyonce are, at least, acquaintances and have mutual friends as Black female artists in the music industry, Kelis believes Beyonce should have reached out to her and given her a heads up as a courtesy. Even if Kelis doesn’t own the copyright and Beyonce doesn’t technically have to, that would have been the right thing to do. Black artists are appropriated without proper credit by other groups so frequently that I could see how this would be especially galling coming from a peer. Then, Pharrell and Chad Hugo are another story. That issue goes back 20 years to the creation of the song and Kelis not receiving proper credit for her contribution back then, which has had long-lasting implications financially. Considering how prolific “Milkshake” has been in pop culture in the years since, it must especially sting that Kelis isn’t able to benefit from the royalties or royalties in the same way. This really sucks and I’m glad Kelis spoke up for herself and alluded to some of the issues in the music industry. Songwriting credit and song ownership is more complicated than it should be; and the way songs are passed around and given to other artists to “Play” seems (I’m) Real(ly) unfair (ahem, J.Lo). Most people associate Robin Thicke with the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, but Pharrell was part of that too.

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