Veteran Dancehall/Reggae singer Sister Nancy has one more reason to celebrate her legendary rendition of Bam Bam. The song appears as one of 47 tracks on Netflix’s new series Maid.
Maid, an adaptation of a bestselling memoir, is about the struggles of a 25-year-old single mother Alex, played by actress Margaret Qualley, who finds her living as a housekeeper. The 10-episode series, which premiered last Friday, has vowed critics enough to grab a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score right out of the gate.
Bam Bam appears as the background track for a scene in season one, episode three at around the 9-minute mark. As Alex cleans an apartment robustly, the horns blare with the lyrics, “One ting Nancy cyah understand, wah mek dem talk bout me ambition? Seh, what mek dem a talk bout me ambition, some a dem a ask em wet me come from.”
Recorded in 1982, Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam took inspiration for its chorus from the Toots And The Maytals 1966 song of the same name and the instrumental samples Ansell Collins’ 1974 song Stalag 17. The song appeared on Sister Nancy’s One, Two album.
Having been sampled over 100 times, Billboard Magazine said “Bam Bam is a strong contender for the title of most sampled reggae song of all time.”
Superstar Jay-Z sampled Bam Bam for his song aggressive Hip Hop hit Bam on his 4:44 album. Bam features Damian Marley and also sampled Jacob Miller’s Tenament Yard and Prerogative by Nicodemus, Super Cat and Junior Demus.
Sister Nancy, who appeared in the music video for Bam said, “I just freestyle Bam Bam, just like that I didn’t write it”. Jay-Z, also known for free-styling his rhymes, responded, “it must feel good to make something so timeless”.
“Good music will last, it will last it won’t go nowhere, and even when I am gone where I am supposed to go my daughter is gone be here saying that’s mommy’s Bam Bam,” the Gwan A School DJ responded.
Some of the other famous samples and placements for Bam Bam include Lauryn Hill on her song Lost Ones, Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa on the 2011 song Bomb, and Kanye West and Rihanna’s 2016 song Famous on the Life Of Pablo album. Beyonce also sampled Bam Bam for her live performance of Hold Up from her 2016 Lemonade album.
In 2015, the Winston Riley produced song topped the Reggae iTunes chart after being featured in the Sony film The Interview. It has also been featured in the EA skateboarding game Skate and the Hip Hop cult movie Belly.
For more than 34 years Sister Nancy had not collected any royalties for use of the song. It wasn’t until 2014 when she saw the song in a Reebok ad and decided to seek legal advice on her music rights.
She received 50% ownership and ten years in past compensation. “Yes, I’m getting the royalties now,” Nancy told NME in 2018. “Now I own 50% of the ‘One, Two’ album. At least I’m getting something now, I never used to get anything.”
Meanwhile, a few weeks before his death, Toots Hibbert and his manager had told The Jamaica Observer newspaper that they had instructed a team of intellectual property rights managers to launch a thorough forensic audit to find out which musicians have covered Bam Bam and which entities and individuals have been collecting publishing and royalties, without giving him requisite credit.
Under the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) rules, musicians must seek permission from the original copyright owners or their agents such as their record company or music publishing company, before covering or sampling the work of others.
However, Toots, who was the writer, composer, singer, and producer of the original song and is listed as the principal songwriter in the US Copyright Office in Washington DC, had said he never collected royalties for it.
Toots Hibbert died on September 11, 2020 at the age of 77. It now remains to be seen what future actions will be taken by his estate to recover royalties from those who have covered or sampled his legendary hit single.