Less than month ago, Spotify installed its controversial "Hate Content and Hateful Content Policy," under which certain artists were removed from its popular, curated playlists. One of them was Broward rapper XXXTentacion, whose success in music has been overshadowed by felony charges including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and witness tampering.
"While we believe our intentions were good," Spotify said in a statement (apparently unaware of that old saying about the road to Hell), "the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn't spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines."
It might have been one of those key partners who influenced the streaming giant's decision. Anthony Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment — the label of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, and others — revealed he had reached out to Spotify's director of artist relations and threatened to pull his label's music. Lamar, who recently won a Pulitzer for his album Damn., is himself a fan of XXXTentacion, whose given name is Jahseh Onfroy, and last year tweeted his admiration of Onfroy's album, 17.
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“I don’t think it’s right for artists to be censored, especially in our culture," Tiffith said in an interview with Billboard . "How did they just pick those [artists] out? How come they didn’t pick out any others from any other genres or any other different cultures? There [are] so many other artists that have different things going on, and they could’ve picked anybody. But it seems to me that they’re constantly picking on hip-hop culture.”
For more about XXXTentacion, click here.
XXXTentacion's legal team made a similar point when his music was pulled from playlists. His attorneys responded with a list of artists from a variety of genres and backgrounds who had seen trouble with the law. The backlash might have been avoided had Spotify chosen its targets more wisely: The policy seemed to focus on black rap and R&B artists who were in the news recently for serious crimes. Aside from targeting XXXTentacion, the policy also pulled R. Kelly, who has been accused of heinous sex crimes, and Tay-K, the young San Antonio rapper who allegedly recorded his hit song "The Race" while on the run for murder. In a post on Twitter, Tay-K himself summed up the gap between the policy's intent and its misguided rollout.
"My songs have been removed from playlists because I’m being accused of something that I haven't been convicted for," he wrote. "I don’t make hate music. I rap about what goes on in every hood in America."
So, for now, X's single "Sad!" has returned to the major Rap Caviar playlist. During the first four days of the ban, streams of the song dropped by 17 percent per day and 9 percent across all other streaming services. A Billboard estimate showed that a continuation of this decline in streams would have resulted in a $60,000 loss of revenue.