Why R. Kelly’s Writing Credit Matters

  • R. Kelly is credited as a cowriter on Drake’s new album, “Certified Lover Boy,” released on Friday.
  • Kelly’s “Half on a Baby” is sampled in the eighth track, “TSU,” which means he’ll receive royalties.
  • Marilyn Manson, another accused abuser, also has writing credits on Kanye West’s new album.

Drake’s long-awaited new album arrived on Friday with a motley crew of contributors — including R. Kelly, the R&B singer who’s currently on trial in federal court on sex trafficking charges.

Kelly’s 1998 single “Half on a Baby” is sampled in “TSU,” the eighth track on “Certified Lover Boy.”

To be clear, Kelly is neither a featured artist nor a collaborator. The credits for “TSU” include eight cowriters, including Kelly, who is the only lyricist and producer credited for “Half on a Baby.”

(Note: Drake’s “TSU” also appears to sample two more songs: *NSYNC’s cover of “Sailing” by Christopher Cross and “Until the End of Time,” which was written and produced by Justin Timberlake, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosely, and Floyd “Danja” Hills. They are all also credited as cowriters.)

Because Drake’s song clips the violin recording from Kelly’s, the latter is entitled to a writing credit — and, therefore, to royalties. 

It’s extremely common for hip-hop producers to sample old instrumentals. It’s also standard for the original authors of a sample to receive a share of the new song’s revenue, in addition to a one-off licensing fee.

Much of that share will typically go to the artist’s label. Most of Kelly’s hits appear to be covered by a publishing deal that Kelly signed with Zomba, which Universal Music Group acquired in 2006, according to Billboard.

But as the lead or sole lyricist on most of his songs, Kelly is still entitled to a good chunk. Reports indicate he’s been trying to sell his publishing catalog, but potential buyers are understandably wary of being associated with an accused abuser.

r kelly

R. Kelly during a 2019 hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court building.

Antonio Perez/ via AP Pool

Even though Kelly didn’t have a direct hand in the creation of ‘TSU,’ he’ll still benefit from the year’s most hotly anticipated album

Drake is one of the biggest rappers in the world. “Certified Lover Boy” is all but guaranteed to be a commercial hit. It’s unclear how much Kelly stands to make from this sample, but it seems safe to say it won’t be insignificant.

The resulting royalties could go towards Kelly’s growing legal fees and debts, but whether the money goes straight into his pocket is irrelevant. Drake’s open association with Kelly has been read by many critics as apathy — or worse, complicity — towards Kelly’s heinous allegations. (Kelly has pleaded not guilty to all charges.)

“By sampling that song, Drake is letting R. Kelly stay relevant when he doesn’t need to,” journalist Ernest Owens wrote on Twitter. “A lot of people are now going to go back and listen to ‘Half on a Baby’ because of Drake. R. Kelly is back in the conversation again because of an unnecessary sample add that didn’t need to happen.”

It’s also worth noting that Drake has collaborated repeatedly with Chris Brown, who pled guilty to felony assault after punching and choking Rihanna in 2009. He has since been accused of assaulting several more women, sexual battery, and rape.

Brown pled guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2014 after punching a fan seeking a photo with the singer. He denied assault and domestic violence accusations in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He filed a false accusation complaint after he was questioned on suspicion of rape in Paris in 2019 and released without charge. He has not addressed his most recent battery allegation.

DaBaby Kanye West Marilyn Manson

DaBaby, Kanye West, and Marilyn Manson at West’s “Donda” livestream event.

Brian Prahl/MEGA/GC Images

Of course, Drake isn’t the only A-list rapper who’s willing to credit an accused abuser on his album.

Just last week, Kanye West was widely criticized for welcoming Marilyn Manson to his livestream event in Chicago.

Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, currently has multiple sexual assault cases pending. His ex-fiancée Evan Rachel Wood, who began dating the singer when she was 19, has said he groomed and “horrifically abused” her for years. She is one of more than a dozen women who have accused Manson of abuse.

Manson called Wood’s allegations “horrible distortions of reality.” A member of Manson’s team told the Cut that he “vehemently denied any accusations of assault.”

Manson is credited as a cowriter for “Jail Pt 2,” the 24th track on West’s new album “Donda.” Brown was also welcomed to the fray, credited as a cowriter for “New Again.”

Much like Kelly, Manson and Brown are poised to benefit from West’s much-hyped album, whether it’s financially or in terms of reputation and exposure. With the deeply troubling allegations attached to these men, fans are bound to question whether they deserve to.

Leave a Comment