R&B

Will Keri Hilson’s Shade-Filled Past Harm Her Planned Musical Comeback?

Can the Maleficent of R&B rise above her mean rep?

By Michael Arceneaux

When I told a friend that I would be writing about Keri Hilson’s return to music, she immediately responded with the question, “Who’s looking for her to come back?”

Therein lies the issue with the singer-songwriter as she plots a return to music. Like many music writers and bloggers, I received an email announcing Hilson’s return along with a link to two new tracks, “100” and “Scream.” Months prior, the likes of Timbaland teased fans with new works like “Listen.” Around the same time, Hilson herself teased us with audio of “Dinero,” although singer Monica sold the new track far better than she did.

The songs we’ve been teased sound more interesting than what’s come in full, but whatever we do get in terms of a new Hilson album, one wonders whether or not the public cares anymore. “100” and “Scream” were leaked to the Internet in full, but in terms of volume, both generated more of a “hi and bye” than conversation. Whenever Hilson does make an official return to music, she’s got her work cut out for her.

Two years ago, the Atlanta-bred artist took to Twitter to lament about the years of “verbal abuse,” noting, “You have no idea what your hateful words could do to someone’s spirit.” She was mostly referring to the Beyoncé fans that consistently berated her for her not so subtle shots at the Queen Bey. To this day, Hilson acts as if other people misinterpreted her past comments and actions about Beyoncé.

No one did, though, and regardless of whether or not she’ll ever own up to it, the reality is Keri Hilson is responsible for her reputation as the Maleficent of R&B. Like I noted at the time, she’s been equally shady to her other contemporaries, which is why many dislike her. At the very moment, a few people are reading these lines and thinking, “But it shouldn’t matter if you like the artist. What counts most is the music.” That’s cute, but that’s never been the case— likability has always factored into one’s success. In fact, one could say in an age where buying music is a choice an increasingly less amount of people opt to make, it matters more than ever.

And to be blunt, when it came to Keri Hilson openly shading Beyoncé in public spaces, it was just a dumb decision. Not only is Beyoncé one of the biggest pop stars on the planet (and to some, the biggest), she’s also known as one of the nicest. It was like Ciara taking an unnecessary shot at Rihanna on Fashion Police. In that instance, Rihanna simply read Ciara her rights via Twitter, but both Ciara and Hilson looked like the Jan Brady to their Marsha.

Ciara overcame that with “Body Party,” but she’s also never been perceived as much of a rabble-rouser as Miss Keri Baby. Not to mention, whenever it does appear that Keri Hilson has moved on from being a pariah, she steps back into nonsense.

Last month, when most Black people were rolling their eyes in unison at that fake Black woman, Rachel Dolezal, Hilson took to Twitter to argue, “Let’s just all thank #RachelDolezal. Identity, pathological, & parental issues aside, she’s doing more than most of us do for ourselves.”

After Twitter users immediately clapped back, she wrote, “I’m not sayin she doesn’t have serious ISSUES, I’m just sayin don’t knock her intentions or discredit her efforts.” Yeah, Dolezal lied about hate crimes to secure a position in an organization that didn’t require her to be Black given its own history.

Keri Hilson has a right to her opinion, but the pattern here is that whenever Keri Hilson tends to share her opinion, chaos ensues. She generates the kind of backlash that overshadows her music career. To that end, if I were working with Keri Hilson, I’d give her a few tips.

One, hand your Twitter password over to a publicist. You can keep Instagram, so long as you keep the captions light and bright and don’t publish any word memes.

Two, you better make sure every song you drop is fire. Like, if you can get Jesus on a track (she’s apparently rededicated her life to Christ), get him in the studio. You need all the help you can get.

Three, humble thyself. Listen, it’s awesome if you managed to still collect $100,000 to perform in an empty arena, but bragging about that defensively is not as cute as you think it is. It just highlights why no one came to see you.

Four, don’t ever say a bad thing about Beyoncé again. Learn from your mistakes, beloved. You should probably pull a Taylor Swift and apologize.

Good luck. You need it.