The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
As the editor of a lifestyle publication that covers hip-hop more than any other musical genre, I was faced with a conundrum when rapper XXXTentacion first rose to prominence on the scene. My readership wanted to know each new step on his journey to the top of the industry, and yet his was one overshadowed by accusations of brutal assault against his pregnant girlfriend at the time. Alarmingly, many see these accusations as the catalyst for X’s rise to stardom; his Top 5 Billboard single only climbed the charts after the announcement of his arrest report, which details âaggravated batteriesâ and serious domestic violence.
I have chosen to cease all unwarranted coverage of X and his ilk and, as we move forward, to report only on matters so clearly at odds with the moral integrity of our publication with extreme caution. It is a policy that straddles the line of morality, a policy that can be seen as “organized” or “selective” censorship. If this sounds familiar to you, it might be because most of us do it on a daily basis; in a post- # metoo world, captains of all industries are counting with their misdeeds, and simultaneously, we struggle to properly accommodate their now tainted legacies that remain in the public eye long after their creators have left. .
Look no further than the most recent headlines regarding XXXTentacion for the latest iteration of this concept. As more and more charges keep piling up against R. Kelly and the troubling details behind its so-called “sex cult,” Spotify abruptly chose to remove all of the singer’s tracks from the platform’s promotional playlists. XXXTentacion was also included in that ban, although no new atrocities have been documented in the same way that appeared to despise Kelly’s streaming service disavowal.
These changes have occurred within the framework of Spotify New policy addressing âhateful content and hateful conductâ. The company did not respond to our request to comment on this story regarding this update, but the streaming giant said Billboard at the time of its unveiling, âWe are removing R. Kelly’s music from all playlists and algorithmic recommendations owned and operated by Spotify such as Discover Weekly. Its music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it. We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions – what we choose to schedule – to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something particularly harmful or hateful, it can affect how we work with or support that artist or creator. Not wanting to be left behind, Apple Music and other services quickly followed suit.
It is, in a nutshell, the same policy that I instilled in my own editorial platform, a policy which does not discredit an artist on the basis of his behavior but which allows us to choose from a list of artists that we – as a private company – deem unacceptable, according to our own subjective standards. It’s not a bad system, but it’s a broken system – a system that XXXTentacion effectively wiped out in a single tweet sent by its camp in response to Spotify’s erasure of its work from their promoted features:
As the X team correctly postulates, Spotify still has a lot of work to do if they plan to fully adhere to this policy. While they may be incredibly serious about their desire to remove both X and R. Kelly from their promotional material, that ignores the gargantuan roster of artists facing equally grim accusations that still feature in said material. As X’s list points out, artists as varied as Dr. Dre to Michael Jackson to Sid Vicious to Ozzy Osbourne to Miles Davis have all been charged with assault, and yet no one – Spotify or otherwise – is trying to do them. silence or deny them their platform.
And if that wasn’t enough, Spotify’s actions against Kelly and X contrast directly with the company’s behavior in the exact same scenario regarding the PWR BTTM Group. Last year, the beloved queer punk band came to an explosive end after multiple sources came forward to accuse band leader Ben Hopkins of misconduct on the eve of the release of what was widely believed to be the ‘one of the records of the year, Historical reconstitution. Of course, this did not happen. Just days before its release, iTunes removed PWR BTTM’s entire catalog from its service, while Spotify chose not to upload its second album, a decision which, at the time of release, remains in place.
Taken at face value, this extreme gap in disciplinary action taken against artists who violate Spotify’s freshly drafted code of conduct sets a dangerous precedent. No one, let alone a powerful multinational, should begin to equate one case of trauma with another. Unlike the new crop of albums that look set to be released week after week, assaults cannot be categorized and categorized with a set of identifiable markers or analytical ratings. An assault is an assault, period, and it is not for anyone outside of a court to pass judgment on its consequences.
Not only does Spotify’s recent shift close the door to impartiality and suggest troubling results in future cases, but the company itself is clearly not able to enforce (or unwilling to enforce) its policy as it is. ‘it is written. As XXXTentacion argued in its response, the music world has an exhaustive list of artists accused of misconduct, and literally none of them are subject to the guidelines that the company has established for this specific purpose.
According to the principles set out in its own policy, Spotify has exhibited an outrageous bias – only inflicting sanctions on those whose wrongdoing is a hot topic. It is a heinous capitalization of real-world suffering that is also devoid of all of its consequences, protected under the guise of enacting “real change” when (and only when) conveniently tied to the last news cycle.
The problem is, this situation is far from unique to Spotify. It is a microcosm of our time unique in pop culture; a lot of old and new misdeeds as our idols crumble around us. The point is, there is no easy way to approach these scenarios. We see that the temporary or partial erasure of disturbing numbers is inherently flawed in design, and that a fully engaged movement towards achieving the desired end by this system of complete suppression or censorship for all parties will not occur. never. Complete censorship of the work of all those accused or convicted of acts of cruelty throughout history until total erasure would amount to a total abolition of art in its entirety.
This is not to say that the company’s current efforts to manage these moral conflicts of interest are in vain; few would doubt that it is in our collective interest not to see the appearances of a suspected child sex sect leader appear on our weekend reading list. But Spotify’s belated and uneven reaction – which has been repeated over and over in all fields – is yet another reminder that our current way of interacting with public figures accused of misconduct is in need of a serious overhaul. In the current state of things, it is totally lacking in cohesion and, taken to its logical extreme, it becomes madness.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and for a problem with such deeply systemic roots that affect all levels of society, we shouldn’t expect it to be. At the very least, we can try to standardize a system of public disallowance that eliminates the pseudo-meritocracy of the punishment experienced today. In the case of Spotify, the company must not only decide how to handle these cases in the future, but also how to apply each case with the same procedural rigor to ensure fairness at all levels. That would be a good start – but we shouldn’t let that stop our imaginations from knowing where to go from here. For example, companies that continue to host abusers’ product might donate a portion of their fees to charities aimed at addressing domestic violence, or those products might be accompanied by disclaimers regarding the content of the abuse. conduct of their creators. The only thing we shouldn’t be doing is doing nothing, which, unfortunately, is basically what’s being done right now.
If you have been sexually assaulted, there is Resources to help you.
For more, read our initial take on XXXTentacion’s troubled rise here.