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What Happens When Nicki Minaj Borrows Your Beat Without Asking?


How three unknown teenagers scored a major label deal

On the final day of 2013, Nick Minaj announced she was back in "album mode" with a surprise remix of a raw, 2012 YouTube gem, "Boss Ass Bitch." She has released two more remixes since: adding a show-stealing verse to a star-studded version of YG's platinum single "My Nigga" and taking on Young Thug’s loud-buzzing “Danny Glover,” where she mimicked Thug’s seemingly un-cloneable flow and threatened to fuck your wife. She has generally used the tracks to reclaim her status as the King and Queen of New York rap, and maybe just rap, period.

The original “Boss Ass Bitch” was first released 17 months ago by a trio of Los Angeles teenagers—Kandii, K Duceyyy and Alizé—known collectively as P.T.A.F. (the acronym stands for Pretty and Taking All Fades, meaning they're cute and ready to fight back, if necessary). Minaj's remix credited her as the main artist and P.T.A.F. as featured guests. "S/O to PTAF," she wrote on Instagram the day the track was released. When I called them up to learn how Minaj had had picked up their track, they said it came as a surprise, and that they hadn’t been asked permission for their beat’s use. Asked if they had been big Minaj fans, they said no, and were disappointed to have been caught off guard. “I thought she could have tried harder to contact us,” said Kandii. Still, the girls were generally grateful for such a high-watt cosign. “I guess for her, putting out the song was a way of trying to get in contact with us. I thought she was complimenting us and getting us out there," said Alizé.

So how did Nicki Minaj come across P.T.A.F., and why had she not consulted the group prior to releasing her album-announcing remix? A rep for Minaj returned several requests to speak with FADER, but Minaj was ultimately unavailable for comment. It's possible she chose the beat to demonstrate that, at 31, she's still plugged into what young rap fans love; or perhaps the song was just tossed out in the studio one day, and the playful result was too fun not to share. Either way, the track's long journey has an air of magic, a fairy tale success story befitting Minaj's cartoonish superpower. We know what borrowing the song got Nicki—a ton of plays and association with an unforgettable hook—but what did it do for P.T.A.F.?

P.T.A.F.’s three members met as students at LA’s Crenshaw high school. They made “Boss Ass Bitch” at a freewheeling after-school class in the spring of 2012. “A guy would come after school every week and he would let us play music, do a video, record a song, whatever. He was there basically for us to have something to do, if we didn’t have anything to do,” Alizé explains. One afternoon, hanging out and beating on a desk, K Duceyyy yelled out “Boss Ass Bitch!” Kandii made a bare-bones beat, the trio recorded their verses and the next day, shot a video. Uploaded to YouTube a couple weeks later, the clip has now been viewed more than 11 million times.

“We just did [the video] so all of our friends could see it,” says Alizé. “We didn’t think it was gonna get big and viral all over the world.” The video spread slowly for almost a year, then blew up in the summer of 2013. Alizé credits its eventual popularity to Vine, where users began uploading short videos of themselves dancing along to the song, tagged #BossAssBitch.

At that point, K Duceyyy called her cousin, Devon “DeVoe” Reed, a producer with his own entertainment company. A stranger had posted “Boss Ass Bitch” to iTunes and was unfairly collecting sales profits; DeVoe helped the girls get that taken down and get registered with BMI, the organization that distributes royalties to songwriters and music publishers. He made cover art and in November 2013, rereleased the song on iTunes, through his company DeRe Entertainment.



“I thought she could have tried harder to contact us.” —Kandii from P.T.A.F.

Above: P.T.A.F.'s Kandii, Alizé and K Duceyyy.

Since making their debut video, Kandii, K Duceyyy and Alizé have all graduated high school. Kandii, whose father died just two weeks after she was born and spent her childhood in and out of homeless shelters, has moved into a house. Alizé and K Duceyyy are now both mothers to young children. “I’ve had to slow down. I can’t really party like I used to. Knowing that I have a child to take care of makes me work harder.” For a while after the initial release of "Boss Ass Bitch," P.T.A.F. were turned off by music, Alizé says. "We wasn’t really excited about the video at first because it was more negative comments. The negative comments kinda pushed us away." But DeVoe encouraged them to record new songs over beats he'd produced, and they eventually got back to it. (One as-yet-unreleased track, “Grimy Nigga,” condemns how regularly men treat women badly.) When Nicki jumped on their beat, DeVoe rushed out a new single, “Do Your Shit.” According to DeVoe, this frustrated Kandii, who felt the group should have prepared better promo photos and cover art for the song.

Towards the end of 2013, before Nicki’s remix, P.T.A.F. attracted the attention of Eesean “E” Bolden, an A&R for Capitol Music Group. With Bolden’s help, P.T.A.F. signed a single deal with Capitol in January. The label—which, like Nicki’s labels Cash Money/Young Money and Republic, is owned by Universal—connected P.T.A.F. with Nicki's management team. Capitol hopes to officially release a version of "Boss Ass Bitch," co-starring Nicki. "There are ongoing talks between camps to record an official remix featuring Minaj," says P.T.A.F. rep Max Gousse. Earlier this week, Capitol rereleased the original single yet again on iTunes, without Nicki. For now, the label will work on "establishing P.T.A.F. as a brand," says Bolden; they’ve set up with an engineer and introduced them to new producers. (According to a rep, DeVoe is no longer affiliated with P.T.A.F.) "Capitol is excited about the signing and 100 percent behind the P.T.A.F. movement, as there's a huge void in the market place for female voices in hip-hop," Gousse says.

Moving forward, now that they've been surprised by a major star and seen how a song meant to be shared among friends can spread to a broad audience, P.T.A.F. is proceeding with caution. “I would change how we were talking about sex in 'Boss Ass Bitch,' because I know a lot of young girls are listening," says Kandii. "I don’t want them thinking it’s okay to have sex and do all that. Some girls, they think it’s okay to ditch school, or maybe their mom is not pumping them up to go to school. So I think our songs have to have some kind of motivation behind them.”

What Happens When Nicki Minaj Borrows Your Beat Without Asking?