Jason Derulo under fire for ripping off Polynesian teen's viral TikTok hit, internet says 'pay him his dues'

Jason Derulo under fire for ripping off Polynesian teen's viral TikTok hit, internet says 'pay him his dues'
Jason Derulo (Getty Images)

Jason Derulo has courted controversy after the sample on his upcoming track, 'Savage Love', was revealed to have been used without giving proper credit or acquiring official clearance from Josua Nanai, a 17-year-old musician from New Zealand who created the tune.

Derulo initially shared a small portion of his new track on TikTok, captioning it 'Savage Love'. The track very obviously sampled Nanai's viral track called 'Laxed (Siren Beat)', but it gave no credit to the original. After he was called out by fans of the song, Derulo posted another TikTok with the song, this time crediting Nanai by stating, "Had fun remixing @jawsh_685 siren beat #SavageLove summer vibes." He also gave a shout out to the musician on Instagram in a comment stating, "@jawsh_685 killed this beat."

While Derulo's choice to not credit Nanai might seem like an honest mistake, the reason it became a talking point is due to the fact that 'Laxed' was a tribute to Nanai's Samoan and Cook Island heritage. The song also makes reference to the calling code for Samoa, '685', and kicked off a TikTok 'Culture Dance' trend where users posted videos celebrating their own heritage in costumes that reflected their cultural roots.

Samoan performers pose after boarding their Royal Australian Air Force flight to Sydney from Faleolo International Airport on October 12, 2019, in Apia, Samoa (Getty Images)

Called a 'siren jam', the style of music Nanai creates stems from the chilled out Dembow and reggae-style music that Pacific Islanders make by playing their beats through siren speakers attached to cars or bikes. Due to its origins, this style has a unique sound that is reminiscent of Jamaican dancehall and reggaeton. To put it more succinctly, Nanai's music has cultural roots that Derulo's track explicitly ignores. His choice to not credit Nanai further obscures the song's cultural ties in addition to drawing attention away from an underrepresented group in popular music.

To make matters worse, Nanai was in the process of signing a deal with Columbia Records following a concerted effort from Sony Music to find him, following his viral TikTok fame. Sony went to great lengths to locate Nanai, even reaching out to his mother via Facebook and tracking him down through his gym and school. Along with his deal, Nanai was also in talks with various artists, including Derulo, to create other versions of the song. Derulo, however, chose to release his remix without Nanai's permission. At present, it is unclear if Nanai was appropriately compensated for the track being used on 'Savage Love', though reports suggest both sides are in contact and Nanai will get paid.

Nonetheless, the Polynesian community isn't too happy about the events that transpired.

"Give credit to the NZ producer that made the original beat," stated one Twitter user. Others were concerned that Nanai would not get the full credit for creating a song that has taken TikTok by storm, stating, "This, also pay the kid his royalties annnd hook him up with some gigs... imagine how much money Jason Derulo is getting and og creator ain't get none of it!! Eff the lame a** credit just pay him his dues." Another user chimed in stating, "You not slick Jason Dorito, we seen you delete it the 1st time cos it was getting flooded with hate. Make sure you give love ($) to jawsh685 for the beat you ripped."

Samoan dancers perform as fireworks explode during the Closing Ceremony at the Apia Park Sports Complex on day five of the Samoa 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games on September 11, 2015, in Apia, Samoa (Getty Images)

Similar comments flooded Derulo and Nanai's various social media pages, including YouTube and TikTok, where Nanai's fans expressed their anger at the young artiste not getting the credit he deserves. One YouTube user shared, "Our pacific islanders and other islands should be thanked for showing this sound especially jawsh 685." TikTok user Lakewood Papi stated, "Just in time for Pacific Islander history month, Jason Derulo honored the Polynesian community by completely stealing an entire beat from a teenage Polynesian artist." Papi further added, “Pacific Islanders have been trying to make it mainstream for years. But it's hard when big artists like Jason have to steal stuff to stay relevant."

While the community continues to weigh in on the matter, Nanai himself is excited about his musical prospects. He stated, "Feeling thankful for all of the support so far,” he said in a statement, before shouting out to his South Auckland suburb. “Focusing on all the positive things to come and getting Manurewa 67 on the map! Keep it loud and styla."

Check out 'Laxed (Siren Beat)' HERE.

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