This article has been updated to reflect Kelis’ official response to the situation.
Kelis, the R&B/hip-hop superstar of the early 00s, took to Instagram last night to speak out about Beyoncé sampling her 1999 song “Get Along With You” on “Energy,” the fifth song on the singer’s hotly anticipated album Renaissance. The news comes a day after the album was leaked two days before its official release, presumably due to CD copies being prematurely put on shelves in Europe.
In a reply to a post from fan account @kelistrends on Instagram, Kelis used her cooking account @bountyandfull to address the sample. “I heard about this the same way everyone else did,” the singer said. “Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled.” In a response to a fan who said the two should collaborate, she said, “it’s not a collab it’s theft.”
Kelis has been outspoken about struggling to gain ownership of her past work. In an interview celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album Kaleidoscope, in which “Get Along With You” is taken, the singer told The Guardian that she did not receive any money from her first two albums, both of which were produced by The Neptunes. The singer also had no songwriting credits on the albums. Kelis claimed that after choosing to work with a variety of producers for her 2003 album Tasty, The Neptunes were offended and did not work with the singer again. In the official songwriting credits for “Energy,” Kelis’ name is not included. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the two producers who make up The Neptunes, are credited.
UPDATE: Kelis responded to the situation in two Instagram videos. After a performance in the U.K., the singer sat down to address the comments, saying “The reality is that my real beef is not only with Beyoncé . . . it’s common decency because, as so many of you pointed out as though I don’t know but let me help you, I know what I own and what I don’t own.”
She goes on to say those blindly defending Beyoncé are “sheep,” saying that it was “stupid and disrespectful” to not reach out. “The real issue is that the people, like Pharrell and like Chad . . . Pharrell knows better,” Kelis explains. “This is a direct hit at me. He does this stuff all the time. It’s very petty.”
Kelis further asserts that “it has to do with the fact that, from one artist to another, you should have the decency, the courtesy and the common sense to call a manager, an agent, anybody just to be like ‘Yo, heads up. This is what we’re thinking. This is what we’re doing.’”
In a second video, Kelis adds that “this is not about Beyoncé . . . the reality is that this is more about the fact that there’s a lot of hypocrisy and there’s a lot of nonsense.” She cites Pharrell working with NFT creators to help protect artists’ rights and compares it to her own situation when working with the producer. “When I was signed to him, I had the same manager that he had and he has writing credits on my records, all my singles coincidentally, and he never wrote a song or a lyric a day in his life.”
She calls out Beyoncé’s message of female empowerment, saying “All this female empowerment stuff only counts if you really do it.”
Below, revisit Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” and Kelis’ “Get Along With You.” and check out our most anticipated albums of July here.