Whitney Houston's Cousin Slams Kanye West Over Drug-Laden Album Cover

By Paul Gaita 05/30/18
West is receiving backlash for using a tabloid photo of Houston's bathroom as album artwork for one of his artists.
Damon Elliott and Kanye West
Whitney Houston's cousin Damon Elliott and Kanye West Photo via YouTube

A cousin of the late Whitney Houston has called out Kanye West for paying $85,000 to use an image of the late singer's bathroom, in which drug paraphernalia can been seen, as the cover art for rapper Pusha T's new album, Daytona.

Grammy-winning producer Damon Elliott, who is the son of singer Dionne Warwick—Houston's first cousin—told People that West's decision to use the photo has hurt his family, and he wants an explanation and apology for the choice.

In an interview with Angie Martinez, Pusha T said that West decided to change the artwork for Daytona at the last minute, and footed the $85,000 bill for worldwide licensing rights.

Elliott said that he became aware of the image's use through a "frantic" phone call from his daughter.

"She sent me this picture from the album cover and I immediately got sick to my stomach because it took me right back to six years ago," said Elliott, referring to Houston's 2012 accidental death from drowning in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. A coroner's report later found that heart disease and cocaine use were contributing factors to her death.

Elliott also noted that he never spoke to West prior to the use of the photo, though the two reportedly collaborated on a single by singer Keyshia Cole.

"To do something for a publicity stunt to sell records, it's absolutely disgusting," he said. "It hurt my family and my daughter." 

"What were you thinking?" Elliott said. "Did you think this through? And if you did, why did you do this? Because you're hurting people."

In the interview with Martinez, Pusha T said that West called him at 1 am to announce his decision to use the image for the album cover. "Now this other artwork (the image) is 85 grand," said Pusha. "I said, 'Hey, I don't want you to pay for that. And I wasn't even going to ask you to pay for that. We picked what we picked.'"

He noted that West said that he would pay for the licensing rights, adding, "'This is what the people need to see to go with this music.'"

In regard to the use of the image, Pusha said, "It's just a picture that to license it worldwide is 85 grand. I'm not really too, too entrenched in the art world like that. I'm just going to let him do that thing. And he's paying for it."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.