What’s Going On With Kelis, Beyoncé, and Pharrell Williams?

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Update, Wednesday, August 3: Beyoncé is in the process of removing the “Milkshake” interpolation from “Energy,” after Kelis’s criticism. Rolling Stone reported on August 2 that the “la-la-la” vocals at the end of the song were removed from Apple Music and Tidal. The song no longer credits Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo on her website. The interpolation has also been removed from the song’s YouTube lyric video, but still appears on certain streaming versions. Vulture reached out to Kelis and Beyoncé for comment.

Original story follows.

Beyoncé’s latest studio album is breaking the internet in more ways than one. Though some artists the singer decided to sample or pay homage to on Renaissance have expressed excitement — Robin S. said she was going to “bask in the moment” when her song “Show Me Love” was interpolated on the lead single, “Break My Soul” — not everyone is happy about being included. Kelis, known for hits like “Bossy,” is publicly criticizing Beyoncé for not receiving a heads up that her 2003 song “Milkshake” was being used on the Renaissance cut “Energy.” But the issue is larger than just the one track: Kelis is also criticizing the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, whom she worked with on her first album, for not crediting her to begin with on the original song and then, almost 20 years later, using it without even telling her.

It all started on July 25, when a Kelis fan page on Instagram posted that Beyoncé would be sampling a Kelis song, thus breaking the news to Kelis herself. The R&B singer soon commented on the post, expressing her disbelief: “My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance of all 3 parties involved is astounding. 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.”

Kelis has since released two videos on Instagram accusing Beyoncé, Williams, and Hugo of not notifying her of her song being interpolated for the track. Kelis called Williams “petty” and that he “does this shit all the time” in order to spite her. “I have the right to be frustrated,” she said. “Why? Because no one had the human decency to call and go, ‘Hey, we’d like to use your record.’ The reason I’m annoyed is because I know it was on purpose.” She also claimed Williams “swindled” her out of her older music. In a follow-up post, Kelis said that “all this female empowerment stuff only counts if you really do it if you’re really living it and walking the walk” and then noted the hypocrisy when it comes to Williams and music ownership, citing a Variety interview where he championed artist rights and ownership of their work.

“He has writing credits on my records, all my singles coincidentally, and he never wrote a song and lyric a day in his life,” she said, adding that “Chad is really an amoeba, he’s spineless, it’s a miracle he can keep his neck up.” This is not the first time Kelis has complained about the Neptunes’ treatment of her. In 2020, she revealed to The Guardian that she allegedly did not make any money from the sales of her first two albums, which were produced by the duo. When talking about her agreement with the duo, Kelis told the British outlet, “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.’”

In an interview this May with Vulture’s Craig Jenkins, Hugo sidestepped Kelis’s initial complaints to The Guardian. “I heard about her sentiment toward that,” he said. “I mean, I don’t handle that. I usually hire business folks to help out with that kind of stuff. We made some cool records back then with Kelis.”

This post has been updated once Renaissance was released that Kelis’s song “Milkshake” was being interpolated, not “Get Along With You,” as previously reported.

What’s Going On With Kelis, Beyoncé, and Pharrell Williams?