March 14, 2018


Sister Nancy, The Dancehall Icon Sampled By Jay-Z & Kanye West, Is Just Now Getting Her Royalties

Getty Images
Getty Images

Ever since its release in 1982, Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" was heard everywhere: on the radio, at parties, on the speakers in the kitchen as your mom cooked Sunday dinner. But despite the global prominence of the genre-defining single, the artist hasn't reaped the benefits of its success until now.

In an interview with NME, Sister Nancy revealed the struggle behind the song that catapulted her into the mainstream spotlight. "Yes, I’m getting the royalties now. I wasn’t getting anything for 34 years, but in 2014 after they used it in a Reebok commercial I decided to sue them. Now I own 50 percent of the One, Two album. At least I’m getting something now, I never used to get anything." Since "Bam Bam" wasn't technically credited to Nancy, artists like Kanye West could use it as a sample without asking permission.

“No, he didn’t have to ask me because I don’t own the song," she said of the rapper sampling "Bam Bam" for The Life of Pablo's "Famous." The song is owned by Westbury Music, who are based in England. Kanye would have had to go through them, and then they gave him authorization to use it. Then they make sure I get my royalties from the sample too." The track was also recently used by Jay-Z, as the rapper featured it on his 4:44 standout "Bam." "It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone sample ‘Bam Bam’. When I heard him do it I just thought: ‘Well, that’s good for me,'" she explained. "Whatever way he takes it, it’s very good for me because it keeps me moving. Do you know what I’m saying? It keeps me working. Then Jay-Z did the same thing. It’s a blessing."

Nancy continued, "He wanted me to appear in the video for ‘Bam’ that he was making with [Damian] Marley. I spent three days down there with him. It was nice, but a man is just a man. Jay-Z is just a man, same as you. He’s no different." Jay-Z shot the video for "Bam" in Jamaica and Nancy made an appearance, giving the track more authenticity. The artist made history in Jamaica by becoming the first female DJ in the dancehall genre. But despite her not being able to financially capitalize off her music until recent years, the significance of "Bam Bam" still remains strong after almost 40 years. The song has been sampled over 80 times and shows no sign of slowing down its cultural impact.

Next, take it back to 2005 when Kanye West deems himself the "rap version of Dave Chappelle":