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Drake Courts Controversy With R. Kelly Sample on ‘Certified Lover Boy’

While Kelly stands trial for sex trafficking and racketeering, he gets a songwriting credit on “TSU” for “Half on a Baby” sample

Republic Records; Amr Alfiky/AP

Drake’s Certified Lover Boy arrived Friday with a track list that features songwriting credits for the sampling and interpolating of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” the Notorious B.I.G., Right Said Fred and, most controversially, R. Kelly.

According to WhoSampled, Certified Lover Boy’s stripper ode “TSU” utilizes the same symphonic intro found in Kelly’s 1998 single “Half on a Baby.” Due to the sample, Kelly is also a credited songwriter on the track, alongside Drake, the track’s producers (Harley Arsenault, Noel Cadastre, OC Ron G) and Christopher Cross, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake; N’Sync’s version of Cross’ “Sailing” is also sampled on the track. (A rep for Drake declined to comment on the Kelly sample. However, the credit was confirmed via multiple streaming services.) The Kelly sample occurs at the 20-second mark below:

While Kelly’s music had frequently been sampled by hip-hop artists prior to his more recent legal issues, “TSU” marks the most high-profile usage sampling since the singer was indicted on federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges in Brooklyn — where he currently stands on trial — with Kelly also facing both a federal trial and state charges in his native Chicago.

The sampling also comes following a week of testimony at the Kelly trial focused on the singer’s illegal marriage to an underaged Aaliyah, an artist that Drake has frequently professed his love and admiration for; Drake has an Aaliyah portrait tattooed on his back, and at one time was working on a posthumous Aaliyah LP featuring the track “Enough Said.”

“It just speaks to his genius and the demand for his work,” Kelly’s attorney Devereaux Cannick said on Friday (via Vulture). “He’s a literary genius, it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think it’s that much about the money, I think the public and other artists want his participation. I’m sure he’s totally unaware of it because he’s consumed right now but I will share with him.”

A version of “TSU” has been kicking around in demo form since 2018 — just months before Surviving R. Kelly and the subsequent legal charges that followed that docuseries — but the decision to include the “Half on a Baby” sample — and, in doing so, giving Kelly songwriting royalties — has drawn criticism on social media.

The Kelly sampling also comes less than a week after Kanye West gave writing credits and features to two other artists who have drawn widespread criticism — Marilyn Manson and DaBaby — on his Donda track “Jail Pt. 2.” 

From Rolling Stone US