I was contacted by Paul Porter from Industry Ears about a month ago about how Atlantic Records tried to get Keke Palmer of the “Akeelah and the Bee” to rerecord Adina Howard's “Freak Like Me”. I did not post about this at the time because I suggested that Paul offer Keke's story to one of the major Black entertainment blogs such as Concrete Loop, Sandra Rose, Bossip or Crunk& Disorderly. I specifically told Paul to contact Natasha over at Young Black & Fabulous because I can remember several times when Natasha has said nice things about Keke's red carpet pics. So I held off writing about it so they could shop it around as a web exclusive to one of the blogs that can get as many hits as I get in an entire day, in one hour. The story has now been posted on so I am assuming they didn't take my advice so I am free to post about it here. I want you to read this letter Paul sent me from Keke and her mother, Sharon and then y'all know moi will have some candid reflections to offer. I hope Paul forwards this post to Keke.
Here is a letter that was forwarded to me on October 4, 2007.
Oct 4th, 2007Keke and Sharon, please read this well-known fable:
Hello, my name is Keke Palmer, I am 14 years old, and I played Akeelah, in the movie, Akeelah and the Bee. Please read my letter.
My mother and I are writing this letter together, so we will start from the beginning................
I signed a record deal with Atlantic Records in March of 2006. From the very beginning their A&R representative tried to get me to record inappropriate music, and my parents and I resisted. We became tired of fighting the negative images that the label kept trying to force on me, and started looking for a management company that could deal with the situation. We settled on DAS Entertainment, a management company out of New York, they also represent John Legend, and we love his positive music. Well, the label fought them too! Kept telling them that Keke is "urban", and should be singing urban music. My parents got me in touch with Mr. Edmonds( Babyface) and he and I worked really well together and came up with a good commercial R&B song, but when it came time to pay for the song the label said no, he was "too expensive".
The Senior A&R rep, Mike
Caren, was the main antagonist, he kept on saying , " Keke is urban", so as long as we refused to record the raunchy tracks that he sent us, he refused to pay for the good clean music we brought him, at one point even stopped Keke from recording by not paying for studio time. Unfortunately, management was ineffective dealing with the label, they kept on telling them as well, " we will not promote her unless she records urban music". This statement confused us, because I am an African American young lady from the south side of Chicago . I grew up listening to Brandy, Aaliyah and TLC, so it was not like I was recording rock music! I was recording good music, with great beats, with good positive lyrics, my music is what all kids want to hear no matter where they live. I was blessed to worked with some of the top producers in the business, some cut their price down so that the label would not have an
excuse not to pay for the songs.
The only thing my parents and management could figure out was that the subject matters that I chose to sing about were not as, " urban " and they would have preferred. I am only 14 years old, and when I signed my deal I was only 12 years old, what did they think I would be singing about? Anyway, they kept their word and did very little to promote my cd. They refuse to provide us with a marketing report, management kept asking and on Sept 14th we received the report, 4 days before my cd release date of Sept 18th.
Needless to say, it was not a good report, there was absolutely no plans to pay for a national announcement to tell kids that my cd was even being released! They kept their word and did not promote me, because I refused to go " urban", and sing words that disrespect me and other young girls. My parents tried to promote the release in Chicago( our hometown), they called the press on their own, and managed to get me on some morning shows, but that was only in Chicago. My debut cd that I worked so hard on sold 1,325 copies, the label supposedly shipped 69,000 copies. I was in a Disney Channel movie called, JUMP IN, that over 8 million household tuned in to watch it's debut, also the soundtrack to that moviedebut at#5 on Billboard. Iwas the only artist to have 2 songs on that soundtrack. TheAkeelah DVD sold 1.2 million copies and on that DVD I have a music video, so my audience, kids from 8-15 know who I am. I also sung the end title credit to the block-buster movie NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, which grossed over 270 million, my voice is the first voice you hear coming out of the movie. Fox tried to get Atlantic to go half on a music video for Keke, but Atlantic declined stating, "that song is NOT "Keke's image" so we will not pay, of course they regretted that after the movie grossed so much! This was way back in February, 2007, this was a forshadowing of events to come!
Yesterday, my mother, Sharon,received a call from an employee of Atlantic Records, a confidential call off the record. The caller told my mother that the president of the label is so disappointed with low sales that she may pull Keke's cd off the shelf. The caller was so upset by this statement that she wanted my parents to know what was being said behind closed doors. I am so disappointed that the label refused to promote me , and now they are blaming me for poor sales! I thought that Congress was working to make the labels promote positive music, well my music is positive , but the label will not spend a dime to promote it because I refused to sing raunchy lyrics, and I dare to call myself Pop/R&B and not urban / Hip-Hop. I am only a kid, my parents would kill me if I sang stuff like that, would they want their daughters to sing negative music? They knew my age when they signed me, they came to me after seeing Akeelah and the Bee, and begged me to sign, so why did they not think that I could
really be like Akeelah a good girl?
In closing, we are asking your advise, should we just let it go, accept the fact that this label will not promote this album. Or should we try to get the message out on our own. I want to try to get the message out because I worked extremely hard on this music and it is good, and the early reviews online are good. I think the kids would like it if they knew that it was out. My parents are so tired of fighting the label. We are not rich and to launch our own promotions may cost a lot of money , so my parents don't want us to go broke trying to push a cd that the label should be pushing, we go broke to break the album, and the label just becomes richer.
My mother read an article online about you two, so we decided to write you a letter in hopes you could help guide. If nothing else, thank you for reading our letter.
Keke & Sharon Palmer
Keke, have a seat and let moi break some terrible news to ya'. Keke, the record industry is full of VIPERS also known as snakes. Now their poisonous nature should have been evident when they tried to turn you out and have a 13 year old sing “ let me lay it on the line I got a little freakiness inside,” but in case there was any doubt, moi is tellin' you now. So you have what some folks like to call a Dilemma.
A young man on a spiritual journey makes a trek to the top of a mountain. Upon reaching his goal, he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke: “I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.” “No,” said the youth. “I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me.” “Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you.” The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leapt, biting him on the leg. “But you promised—” cried the poor youth. “You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away. SOURCE
I am sure that part of the reason you are telling your story after the album's release is so that folks will know it is out there, and hopefully they will go buy it. However, you and I both know that you at most are making $1 for very album you sell. That means the other $10-12 is going to the pit of Vipers in the Entertainment Industrial Complex. So if folks rush out to purchase your CD, Atlantic Record's reward for trying to “turn you out” at 13 years old would be to have them make a bundle on your album sales.
Well here at What About Our Daughters? our motto is “Stop Funding Foolishness!” ( get the shirt already). This blog does not promote fattening the pockets of attempted musical child pornographers. So I can't tell my readers “Y'all make sure to go cop Keke's album to show her our support!”. This isn't advice, but quite frankly, this album tanking might be the best thing that ever happened to you. You ought to be thanking the Universe for letting you see who you are dealing with NOW as opposed to later.
You have achieved tremendous success without Atlantic Records. If the record tanks then maybe they will release you so that you can be free to start your own record label and get your own distribution . Own your own music. If your previous works have done as well as you say then you KNOW you can do better than 1,300 records.
Keke, you are very lucky because you have been born into the Golden Age of the Internet. You don't need Atlantic Records to promote your work. You can do it yourself. Thousands of independent artists are doing that same thing right now and they are making money in many cases making more money than a lot of household names. If you want to learn how they do it, you ought to go to the SXSW Music festival. Not a lot of Black artists there, but a TON of artists from around the world who are touring, selling, and promoting independently. They don't have a lot of money either.
So no, I am not going to help you be successful within the system of slithering simpletons. I want you to own your own music, determine your own destiny, and when you go platinum on I-tunes on your next project, print out a copy of the report, frame it and have it couriered to the head of Atlantic Records and say “THIS is why your industry is DYING!”
I am glad that you are telling this story. Because of your success, you are in a unique position to buffer yourself from recriminations from the record label, however, you are also in unique position to show young African American girls that they can be entrepreneurial and produce and distribute their own work without having to put up with foolishness of becoming an indentured servant to some morally bankrupt record label ( I know that is redundant y'all). I'm about to go take a class on how to work with Sonar/Cake Walk so I can start producing music in response to Levell Crump's “Ignorance Personified Tour”. You're 14. I'm 31. If I can learn to do it, I know you can. I am also working on my first screenplay called “Get Those Church Folk Off My Lawn: The Debra Lee Story.”
So Keke hold your head up, have your Mama drive you to the public library and check out a book on how to start your own record label, how to produce your own music, and how to put together your own tour. (Okay, y'all can probably afford Barnes and Noble). Its not as easy as having Atlantic do all of this for you, but if you take off, you do it on your own terms and you get to keep the money. Then when you own your own stuff, I will be more than happy to promote your work.
So I won't tell folks to run out and buy your album. I will however call the head of Atlantic Records a traitor to her gender and a multimedia-crack dealer. I'd call her the Devil, but another female entertainment executive has exclusive rights to the WAOD “DEVIL” designation.
I look forward to the day that you are a mogulette just like Mary Kate and Ashley. Just don't become anorexic or a druggie. Maybe Raven is a better example.
In other words. Move on. Success is the absolute best revenge and you be sure to remember WAOD when Forbes has you listed as one of the richest entertainers.
Let that marinate!
*goes to sit on the WAOD steps and watch the comments fly by*
Visit Keke's site.