Even on TikTok, few songs blow up like “Vibe (If I Back It Up).”
The track, which has been used in more than 1.9 million videos on the app, is completely unforgettable. If you’ve spent any significant amount of time on TikTok, you’ve probably heard its bass-pounding, whip-cracking breakdown in a makeup tutorial, or a skating video, or this clip of Doja Cat dancing.
When a song goes viral like that, it can spiral into something bigger than its creator. That, according to New Jersey-based singer Cookiee Kawaii, is exactly what happened with “Vibe.”
Cookiee posted the 84-second song on Spotify in 2019, nearly a year before it blew up on TikTok in early 2020. As the track continued to grow, it became harder to let people know that she was the one who wrote it.
“As time went on, I don’t think a lot of people knew [it was mine],” Cookiee told In The Know. “I was seeing so many people who were like, ‘This is your song?’”
The singer has been fighting for credit ever since then. In October, one of her efforts finally broke through — in the form of a vulnerable, honest video on the same platform that made her song a hit.
“For the past eight months now, I’ve been on Twitter going crazy, fighting for my recognition and my proper credit for my song,” Cookiee says in the TikTok.
In the clip, which has drawn nearly 10 million views, Cookiee explains a situation that can feel commonplace on TikTok, where songs can be taken and used freely within the click of a button.
It’s a situation not unlike what happened to Joshua Nanai, the 17-year-old Polynesian producer who made the famous “Laxed (Siren Beat),” one of the app’s most popular audios. Nanai’s instrumental eventually got so big that Jason Derulo borrowed it as the backing for his song “Savage Love.” Originally, the teenager wasn’t credited for his contribution to the track.
Cookiee’s case is different, although she makes a similar case. The artist told In The Know that even though she saw millions of people using her song on TikTok, she struggled to benefit from its success.
“It still blows my mind like, ‘How didn’t people know?’ All of my handles are the same … and I’ve been promoting it,” she said.
The singer added that, before her most recent TikTok, she’d posted several other videos trying to let people know that she’d made the song. She suspects she was “shadowbanned,” a term used to describe content the app hides from its all-powerful For You Page.
Cookiee wasn’t just fighting for her own song. She wanted to carry the torch for Jersey club music, a genre of house and electronic music specific to the Garden State. While the style has its own fanbase and history, it’s not something you’d find regularly on TikTok, according to Cookiee. That’s why, in her opinion, “Vibe” was able to stand out so easily.
“If you put Jersey club music on TikTok it’s just gonna stand out because there’s nothing else like it [there],” she told In The Know.
It’s been an uphill battle, but some of Cookiee’s efforts are finally paying off. Her music video for the track, released in August, has nearly 2.5 million views. She’s even worked with rapper Tyga on a remix of the song.
In addition to working tirelessly on promoting “Vibe,” Cookiee has also been working on plenty of new music. Her most recent project, “Club Soda Vol. 2,” was released in August, and she told In The Know that she’s now putting together a full-length album.
She also wants to encourage music fans to explore the genres they hear — on TikTok and elsewhere — and look deeper into their origins.
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