When “Break My Soul” was released as the lead single off Beyoncé’s latest album, RenaissanceThe crowd was wild in June. It was loved by the Internet. Fans loved it. It was loved by the critics. And a lot of them loved the fact that the song, an homage to dance pop and house music, interpolated the synths of house legend Robin S.’s early-’90s song “Show Me Love.”
“While the interpolation itself is fairly subtle,” wrote TIME’s Cady Lang, “Beyoncé shows an admirable dedication to giving credit where credit is due to the artists whose work has touched her albums.”
But late Thursday night, when the album was released in full, one artist in particular—the R&B and hip hop icon Kelis—was frustrated by what she claims was a failure to do just that, or at least to do it in a way that demonstrated basic “human decency” when it came to an interpolation of her work on Renaissance.
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How and where Kelis’ sample is used on Renaissance
Album art for Beyoncé’s Renaissance
Beyoncé, photo by Carlijn Jacobs
If you were cognizant of pop culture in 2003—and most likely even if you weren’t—you’ve heard the Kelis hit “Milkshake.” (You know the one: “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”) Now, the once ubiquitous bop is back, interpolated into “Energy,” the fifth track on Renaissance.
It appears in the song’s credits alongside an interpolation of the 1998 song “Ooo La La La” by Teena Marie. The Teena Marie snippet is much easier to catch: “‘Ooh, la-la-la,’” Beyoncé croons in the second verse. She then adds her own spin: “That’s the way dem boys sound when I walk through that block.”
The “Milkshake” bit, however, is harder to hear: It crops up most notably in the last chorus, which features Jamaican American rapper BEAM and Big Freedia, known for her work in bounce music, a New Orleans hip-hop genre. “He was on stop mode, got froze,” BEAM raps. “Ah, ah, ah, la-la-la-la-la-la,” Beyoncé responds. “Froze front page Vogue, no pose,” BEAM raps. “Ah, la-la, ah, ah,” Beyoncé sings.
In the last 15 or so seconds of the track, those “las” that Beyoncé softly sings are an apparent reference to the earworm pre-chorus from the Kelis track. (“La-la, la-la, la/ Warm it up/ La-la, la-la, la/ The boys are waiting.”)
How Kelis has responded—and what she’s said about Beyoncé
Earlier this week, following Beyoncé’s recent announcement of Renaissance’s long list of contributors, Kelis made it known—via a comment from her Instagram cooking account on a post by a Kelis fan page—that she found out about the interpolation “the same way everyone else did.”
“My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance of all 3 parties involved is astounding,” Kelis commented. “Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled.”
The three “parties involved” that the singer referenced are Beyoncé as well as Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. Kelis was a member of the Neptunes duo, formed by the latter two producers, during her early career in the late 90s and early 2000s. They Renaissance credits listed on Beyoncé’s website state that “Energy” contains an interpolation of “Milkshake,” which was “written by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and performed by Kelis.”
“My real beef is not only with Beyoncé—because at the end of the day, she sampled a record, she’s copied me before, she’s done this before. So have many other artists,” Kelis said in an Instagram video posted on July 28. “The issue is that not only are we female artists, Black female artists in an industry that—there’s not that many of us. We’ve met each other. We are friends. Our mutual friends are there. It’s not hard to keep in contact.” She goes on to discuss Williams and Hugo, referencing comments she’s made in the past about being “blatantly lied to and tricked” about how the profit-sharing from her first two albums would work.
Beyoncé’s history of crediting collaborators
Beyoncé, however, has a history of dutifully crediting all of her many collaborators and contributors (even if those contributions are unwitting)—hence the lengthy “credits” section under each song on her website. Contemporary music like Beyoncé’s, and especially hip hop and R&B, often credits a host of artists given its heavy use of sampling and interpolation.
But what’s the difference? Popular in hip-hop and rap, Sampling splices original parts of other artists’ songs. Interpolation is a technique that records part of the melody of an already recorded song using the style and voice of another artist. This means that the final 15 seconds of Energy may have sounded a bit like Kelis, but they were sung by Beyoncé.
Kelis argues that, while Beyoncé did credit her, she should have also notified her ahead of time that “Milkshake” would appear on the album.
“No, it’s not a collaboration,” Kelis said on InstagrAm. “It’s called thievery. Because the definition of collaboration means that we are working together.” She went on to add: “All of the stuff she sings about, all this empowerment stuff, I don’t talkIt’s all about you. I am about it. All this stuff about female empowerment is only meaningful if you actually do it. If you’re really living it and walking the walk. Don’t just talk the talk.”
Representatives for Beyoncé and Kelis had not responded to requests for comment at the TIME of publication.
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