Fans of the Houston singer Just Brittany are currently irate on Twitter, claiming that Rihanna's latest single, "Bitch Better Have My Money," is a rip-off of Just Brittany's "Betta Have My Money," because both choruses feature the phrase "bitch better have my money." While I appreciate and respect fandom, especially the particular amount of dedication it takes to be a fan of a fledgling independent artist, I have to say that Just Brittany's fans are wrong.
There is no characteristic I dislike more than a biter: the person who can't think for themselves, who goes around stealing other peoples' ideas and swag, who straight-up copies those souls lucky enough to be born with originality.* I also despise plagiarists, dickriders, johnny-come-latelies, and people who are rude in an unfunny way. Rihanna, of course, has been accused of biting some stuff that I like with a modicum of credibility; songwise, though, she's never been in any kind of "Blurred Lines" situation.
Of course, the decision to award Marvin Gaye's estate in the "Blurred Lines" copyright case had a lot of musicians shook—would it become another landmark that would tamp down creativity the way the sampling/copyright rulings of the '80s and '90s reversed the tide in hip-hop. (And, ironically, paved the way for more original production in rap music, a shift from which Pharrell Williams benefited greatly.) But it's one thing to sample and interpolate, quite another to outright copy, and everyone knew "Blurred Lines" was a direct rip. It was the right ruling.
In the case of "Bitch Better Have My Money" vs. "Betta Have My Money," though, the similarities start and end with the phrase "bitch better have my money," a trope that's such a pervasive part of culture as to feel ancient. Some people, including Billboard and The Fader, have pointed out that the "hook is identical save for the melody," which is true but also absurd because that just means they... are the same... lyrics... as previously established...
Syncopation-wise, both follow the rhythm pattern and syntax the phrase practically demands, as heard everywhere from 1988's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka to AMG's 1991 classic Bitch Betta Have My Money to Tyga's 2012 version sampling it. There is a nearly predetermined way to say "bitch betta have my money" with the right inflections and emphasis and this is it, plus both of them are hitting the notes with a staccato that's pretty standard in rap today. (One could make the argument, for instance, that this Just Brittany flow is basically one by Migos. That's just how shit works now.)
Are the beats kind of similar? Sure, but they are also identical to basically every song on the radio. (Yes, I am slightly disappointed by Rihanna's latest single, though it is the anthem whilst lit.) Do people in music rip each other off all the time? Oh god, yes. Is this a case of that? Very likely not. Who knows if anything will come of it—neither Just Brittany nor Rihanna have commented—but at the least, I'm diving into Brittany's Soundcloud and there's some good shit so, thanks for that Just Brittany fans! Sorry about the rest.
*I can trace this back to the time in fourth grade when I told my friend I wanted a particular pair of Reeboks but could not afford them, and three days later she came to my birthday party wearing the exact same pair, brand spanking new. THAT BITCH IS DEAD TO ME. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.