Stop Calling Kelis Crazy For Wanting The Respect She Deserves
The Beyhive swarmed Kelis after she accused Beyoncé of failing to credit her for a sample.
July 29, 2022 at 6:32 pm
The Beyhive recently rallied around its queen in response to what has been deemed an online attack against Beyoncé for failing to credit singer Kelis for sampling her song “Get Along with You” on “Energy,” a track from Bey’s Renaissance album. The defense is that Kelis is not the owner of the song’s publishing and thus had no right to know about the sample. While this isn’t the first time the two singers have been entangled in controversy, Kelis isn’t exactly wrong for demanding some respect on her name.
Kelis is a pioneer
All too often, people forget how and why they might know someone’s name. Kelis isn’t some random singer looking to latch herself on to a trending topic. She’s a music pioneer who shifted the culture of Black women in R&B at a time when the upper echelon of celebrated stars were staying in a similar lane a la Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
Kelis’ take on music, fresh from the project stoop in Harlem, combined R&B, soul and rock with the funk influence of Betty Davis, Afrobeats native to her Caribbean heritage and the hip-hop interminglings of then-rising producers Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams. Interestingly enough, social media feels Kelis’ beef should be with The Neptunes as they own the rights to the track used in the new Beyoncé song that they also produced.
As a single, “Get Along with You” did not achieve high commercial success, but its parent album, Kaleidoscope, charted on the Billboard 200 and reached as high as number five on other charts. It certified gold in real-time and has since gone on to sell a quarter million copies. Kaleidoscope introduced Kelis to the industry and solidified her placement as a fan favorite and someone other artists looked to for fusion-inspo. But the thing to consider here is that the song was impressive enough to be used again by the people who had a hand in creating it.
Overall, the singer who is most widely known for hits like “Caught Out There,” which she previously accused Beyoncé of copying for “Ring the Alarm,” and international crossover “Milkshake,” has sold more than six million records worldwide and has won a bevy of awards, recognitions and praise from industry vets across genres.
Mental health shaming is dangerous
Whether Kelis is speaking from a place of grief due to the recent passing of her husband, Mike Mora, or reacting to years of what she might feel to be industry disrespect, shaming her mental health by calling her crazy or delusional ain’t it.
Mental health shaming is an incredibly damaging form of abusive language that minimizes the experiences people express by reducing the form of expression to mental health challenges. As the people who have taken to social media to use such disparaging words to attack Kelis’ mental health have not likely had the opportunity to evaluate her state of being, this attack is unmerited and quite frankly, gross.
One thing Kelis has always appeared to give her audiences is honesty. She took a social media break immediately following her husband’s death and has only recently returned to engage with fans in this manner. Alleging that someone who feels wronged in another area of their lives is simply speaking from a place of grief shows a lack of sympathy and grace.
To call her crazed and delusional is to speak about someone you likely do not know in real life by summarizing the things you’ve read about her to support your fandom of another artist. Such a weird flex, but go off, I guess.
Black women have all too often been reduced to our emotions and called names when we simply express how we feel harmed in certain situations. Just because you do not agree with Kelis’ stance doesn’t give you the right to shame her or erroneously reduce her complaints and concerns to mental health issues.
What is legal isn't always ethical
So, Kelis doesn’t own the rights to the song. Why does she not deserve the courtesy of being told work that she did was going to be used on one of the most-anticipated albums of 2022?
House music legend Robin S., who received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a note from Beyoncé in advance of the release of “Break My Soul” neither owns nor is the original singer or songwriter of “Show Me Love,” which Bey sampled. Yet, homage was still paid. Robin S. did not turn on the radio one day and wonder how it all went down; she was alerted. And she appreciated that more than anything, as Blavity previously reported.
None of the people involved in the production of “Energy” have a legal obligation to inform Kelis of anything. But, the funny thing about legality is that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Being ethical is a social responsibility, and as one Black woman in the industry to another, Bey could have given Kelis that respect.
We know Kelis has a rough history with The Neptunes; however, we don’t exactly know why the team involved with the newer track didn’t at least give her a heads-up. But, put yourself in her shoes. Wouldn’t you feel a bit incensed to hear something you worked on used in a way that you were previously unaware of? We can speculate about why there was no notification given, but what we need to end right now is acting like Kelis is just in her feelings for no reason at all. We can love and celebrate Beyoncé and still understand Kelis’ plight for respect in this situation.