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Despite the success of "I'm Real", there was controversy over the use of the single's sample and the structure of the song. The song contains an uncredited sample from Yellow Magic Orchestra's 1978 hit "Firecracker" (an electronic synthpop cover of Martin Denny's 1959 melody of the same name), while the remix on the other hand officially interpolates the Mary Jane Girls' 1983 song "All Night Long" as well as borrowing the melody from Rick James's "Mary Jane". There have been reports that the "Firecracker" sample was originally planned to be used for Mariah Carey's "Loverboy". According to the music publisher of "Firecracker", Carey called to license a sample of the song, which had never been sampled, months before Lopez called to do the same. Carey felt that former husband and music executive at Sony Music (Columbia Records), Tommy Mottola, was interfering with her career by arranging for the sample to go to Lopez. Upset by the conduct of Lopez and her ex-husband, Carey featured a reference to the song on the remix of her single "Loverboy", her first single released by her record company at the time, Virgin Records. The verse can be heard in Da Brat's rap section, where she sings, "Hate on me much as you want to / You can't do what the fuck I do / Bitches be emulating me daily" over the melody of "Firecracker". Irv Gotti, who produced the remix of "I'm Real", openly admitted during an interview with XXL magazine that Mottola contacted him with instructions to create a song that sounded exactly like a song he had made with Carey for the Glitter soundtrack entitled "If We", also featuring Ja Rule.

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