After bingeing the album into the wee hours of the morning, Drake fans began to dissect the contributor list on the Toronto rap-tors Certified Lover Boy album, and one unexpected name came up in the songwriting credits for the track “TSU”: R. Kelly.
The skittery song wraps in the symphonic intro from R. Kelly’s 1998 single “Half on a Baby,” according to WhoSampled, which explains why the disgraced R&B singer — currently on trial in New York for federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges — is credited as songwriter on the eighth song on CLB.
Kelly is credited along with Drake, the producers on the song — Harley Arsenault, Noel Cadastre, OG Ron C — and another unexpected group of artists thanks to a sample of ‘NSYNC’s 1997 version of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing, which adds Justin Timberlake, Timbaland and Cross to the lengthy credit list.
Prior to his latest legal troubles, Kelly’s music was frequently sampled by rappers, including The Notorious B.I.G. (“Unbelievable”), Nas (“Poppa Was a Playa”), Jay-Z (“A Woman’s Threat”), Childish Gambino (“I. Crawl”) and, on 2017’s More Life mixtape track “Lose You,” Drake, who tapped one of Kelly’s most beloved tracks, “Ignition (Remix).”
The sample is especially noticeable after a week in which a number Kelly’s alleged victims gave shocking testimony about the alleged sexual and emotional abuse they suffered at the singer’s hands; Kelly has repeatedly denied all the allegations. The week’s testimony also featured the first public airing of the details of Kelly’s secret marriage to a then 15-year-old Aaliyah, the late singer whom Drake has publicly fanboy’d about repeatedly, and whose face is emblazoned on a giant tattoo on his back.
A spokesperson for Drake had not returned requests for comment on the Kelly sample at press time.
According to Rolling Stone, a version of “TSU” has reportedly been floating around since 2018, popping up several months before the devastating docuseries Surviving R. Kelly exposed the depth and breadth of Kelly’s alleged decades-long pattern of sexual, emotional and physical abuse of young men and women. The inclusion of the instrumental bit in the midst of the Kelly trial seems particularly odd given that it does not appear to play a crucial role in the song’s melody or structure.
Twitter had a few things to say about the sample, with a number of commenters comparing it to Drizzy rival Kanye West’s controversial inclusion of Marilyn Manson and DaBaby on his Donda album. Manson is facing lawsuits from four women alleging sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and allegations from more than a dozen of same — he has denied all the charges — while DaBaby is enmeshed in an ongoing controversy over homophobic remarks he made at the Rolling Loud Miami festival in July.
Listen for the Kelly sample around the 00:20 mark of the song below, and see some of the online reactions.
R. Kelly, while currently on trial for sexual abuse of countless Black women and girls, is going to be making money off the most anticipated album of the year thanks to Drake giving him a songwriting credit on #CertifiedLoverBoy
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) September 3, 2021
wym drake sampled r kelly….. so you mean I gotta cancel drake and kanye in the same week????????? pic.twitter.com/f5CEFJY3v7
— metrosexual (@thegentledyke) September 3, 2021
Drake has heard "I'll see Ye featuring Marilyn Manson and raise him an R. Kelly songwriting credit." pic.twitter.com/en9wL6SBpD
— Hunter Felt (@HunterFelt) September 3, 2021