Tori Alamaze on Kelis, The Music Industry and New Project


In 2004 I was visiting LA while living in Atlanta, scanning the radio dial (remember when we used to do that?) I turned to Power 106 and heard a song that I KNEW was a smash, it was raw and honest and had an edge, that song was “Don’t Cha” by Tori Alamaze. 

“What I do know is when we’re caught off guard AND it’s a trigger our initial response can be regrettable.” 

Tori Alamaze
tori alamaze

Coming from radio, I knew radio nationwide would jump on this record.

A couple of months later I heard a different version that sounded less raw and more produced. It was the Pussycat Dolls version which offered little to no originality from Tori’s version. There was a different kind of marketing push behind it, one that I have seen in the industry many times before. 

There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the controversy surrounding the song detailing that it was co-written by Busta Rhymes and CeeLo Green, CeeLo produced the song.  Wikipedia is not always 100% correct and I would bet there is more to the story from my own experiences in the industry. 

Tori’s version, according to Wikipedia, and completed album were shelved after she made the decision to walk away from her deal with Universal Music which meant the song and a finished album were left on the table and open to being reworked … or was it? 

Tori Alamaze is a singer, songwriter, author, and social entrepreneur and she has a story to tell about her tenure in the music industry she admits there was a time that she was ready to tell it but her husband intervened as she explains here. 

There are usually many sides to a story and I didn’t pry to get her to talk about it and I think her process about the situation is correct and it takes a lot of humility, growth, and maturity to handle the situation the way she has.  

Advocates are generally thanked in the dark and shunned in the light and astute political moves always win especially in the entertainment industry. I have had to learn this lesson myself. 

I surmised who better to ask about the recent Kelis controversy over Beyonce using a sample from Milkshake than an experienced industry insider like Tori. I wanted to know what her opinion of the situation was after she posted this on Facebook… 

“Folks be caught up in Ego & Emotion and be effing up opportunities.

U can get so caught up in wanting to be right that u become blind to your “cutoff”.   Trust me. I’m not releasing music because one day I decided to.  There was absolute Fuckery in my career early on.  I’m here because of grace, humility, and playing the long game.  And when the time came to ask for what I want, I got a solid YES.

Blasting folks, in your feelings (legit or not) just isn’t smart.”

What is your experience in the music industry?

 Like PJ Morton shared in a recent post, I’ve worked in many spaces in the industry and some may not know all the versions of me. For example, I started as a pro makeup artist and toured with several artists like Xscape, Blaque. I’ve worked with Usher, Erykah Badu, Outkast & more. I’ve sang bkgrnd vox for Ceelo Green, Outkast and toured the world with them. I’ve also worked as a recording artist signed to Universal/Motown at one point.

For those who don’t know … as a music industry pro, was Kelis’ attack targeting Beyonce, Pharrell, or both?

Kelis’ position initially seemed to focus on all 3, but eventually was more focused on unfair dealings with Neptune producers, Pharrell & Chad.

Should this have been her response? What’s the benefit or loss because of it in your opinion?

What I do know is when we’re caught off guard AND it’s a trigger our initial response can be regrettable.  I know I’ve been very angry in the past or even as recently as mid-2020 around my own situation in music. I was well prepared to go live on social media, names prepared and all, but my husband stopped me. 

She states it is common for points and production credits to be stolen in the industry, what are your thoughts about this?

It unfortunately is common practice for fuckery/stealing publishing in the music industry, especially early in your career.  You’re really lucky if someone who benefits from you helps to educate or position you properly, but that rarely happens. Life is the greatest teacher.

Do you think this will have an effect on Pharrell’s credibility?

Pharrell is so talented in what he does I really don’t think this will negatively affect his career.  At this point, it’s how one chooses to be morally. 

Some say Beyonce removed the credit and the sample because of Kelis, others say it was Pharrell, and some say it was both. What are your thoughts?

I try not to jump into the minds of ppl who haven’t asked me my opinion, lol.  From the outside looking in and understanding the legalities Beys move was spot on.  Berating her, challenging her moral standards and calling her out of her name was all she needed – especially when she followed proper protocol for clearances. A heads up/phone call is nice but not standard practice. 

With your experience in the industry, what would you tell your younger self today?

My younger self would’ve asked for publishing, even if I didn’t actually write it.  Why?  Because my song style, tone & cadence, in addition to the lyrics, sells the song.  

Work with people that want to work with u.  Most importantly, besides talent, be professional & be kind.  That’s what people will remember – and how they felt around you.  

I used to work with Destiny’s Child (when I worked as a makeup artist) and would bump into Beyonce & Kelly at airports or tours and she was always and consistently kind. Your reputation precedes you and goes a long way.  

Tori has been working on a new project and because of her aforementioned patience, grace, and humility pertaining to her early career, she was able to make several calls to industry notables and get a yes and cooperation on her new project. For radio, DJs, and music fans and sites, she has a great story that can inspire new talent and give great insight into how the industry works. You can reach Tori at [email protected]

Hear new Tori Alamaze music Magick, Blessings & Bullsht Vol. 2 – EP here.

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