Kelis Accuses Beyoncé of 'Theft' for Sampling Her on 'Renaissance'

Kelis Accuses Beyoncé of 'Theft' for Sampling Her on 'Renaissance'

Update 8/2/2022: After already having agreed to re-release "HEATED" without the ableist slur, it appears that Beyoncé has removed the Kelis sample from "ENERGY." While not originally credited on the track, the version containing samples of "Milkshake" and "Get Along With You" are slowly being pulled from streaming services and no mention of The Neptunes can be found in the writing credits any longer. Neither Beyoncé nor Pharrell have yet to publicly comment.

On the eve of the release of Beyoncé's highly anticipated new studio album, the excitement surrounding Renaissance was palpable with a steady trickle of new images and info tiding over the Bey Hive until the clock struck midnight. Whether it was the hyperpop girlies excited to see A. G. Cook in the producer credits to the House nerds pouring over the record's various references, the album hype seemed to be universal, with one notable exception.

According to a new post by a Kelis fan account, the "Milkshake" singer is just one of the many artists such as Donna Summer, Right Said Fred and Robin S sampled on the album — a fact that was unbeknownst to Kelis herself. The artist took to the Instagram comment section to voice her frustrations. "My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance of all 3 parties involved is astounding," she wrote.

Arguing that "it’s not a collab it’s theft," Kelis went on to write, "I heard about this the same way everyone else did. Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled." It's worth noting that Kelis' issue was less with Beyoncé, but more so with Pharrell, who is credited as producer on the track.

Kelis has previously spoken out about she never saw any profits from her first two albums as the result of an exploitative contract she signed with Pharrell and fellow producer Chad Hugo under The Neptunes' Star Trak imprint. According to an interview with the Guardian, Kelis and the producers initially planned to split the album profits three ways in an even "33/33/33," but she was "blatantly lied to and tricked." She went to explain that, "Their argument is: 'Well, you signed it.' I'm like: 'Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it."

Later Thursday night, Kelis went on to upload two subsequent videos further clarifying her comments about Renaissance. Even though she doesn't have a songwriting credit on the track, she's mostly irritated that Beyoncé didn't give her a heads up that she sampled one of her songs. Kelis pointed out that other artists like Ashnikko previously reached out to use her work even if they have no legal obligation to do so, emphasizing that the real issue is how Pharrell and Hugo (whom she referred to as a spineless amoeba) knew exactly what they were doing, calling the move "passive aggressive."

In the subsequent post, Kelis further railed at Pharrell, calling out the hypocrisy of him advocating for artists to renegotiate contracts and make sure they are equitably compensated for their work given that he directly benefitted from the same exploitative practices back when she was signed to his label. Kelis talked about about practicing what artists like Pharrell and Beyoncé have preached, and that this may finally be the thing that catalyzes her to actually do something about the situation.

Photo via Getty/Araya Diaz


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Story by Andrew Nguyen / Photography by Diego Villagra Motta / Styling by Angelina Cantú