About a week ago, Joe Budden and Lupe Fiasco went on IG Live – well, Lupe went on live and Joe Budden hopped in the conversation – and talked about the music industry. The conversation was mostly centered on a round of Oppression Olympics, where Joe continuously devalues how bad Lupe was (allegedly) mistreated by Atlantic Records (before his departure in 2015) by concluding that the folks over at Atlantic were smart in their tactics (allegedly, I’m not tryna get sued lol) against Lupe and that it’s all a part of the business.
Joe then began to offer that the only way out of such a one-sided relationship where an artist is getting screwed over by their label (an experience that is not in any way unique to Lu) is to push for Black folks to create their own labels. He alluded that the inequities that are faced in a traditionally white-run music industry would virtually be erased if it was a bunch of Black folks running the show.
And I have to disagree.
I think the biggest part of my disagreement comes in the form of a conversation centered on access and how has the ability to pull off a stunt like an all-Black owned distribution/record label/music corporation situation. That has to be a group of people who already have access and resources to do something like that. For me, that’s Pharrell, Diddy, and Jay-Z. Not in that order and not with equal responsibility. The three of them COULD create something like that, where there’s no one above them; their label could handle distribution, recruitment of artists, etc. There’s 2 things with this: 1) white folks are (mainly) the ones with the information on how to DO something like this, and Jay-Z et al. would be learning/have learned it from someone white and 2) gatekeeping – because Black folks aren’t just given the golden key with how to do this kind of stuff, they have to learn it from other Black folks who have the information already; those Black folks with the knowledge can then decide who is worthy to have it or not. So white folks are inherently a part of this new system from a knowledge standpoint, and the Black folks that learned it from them are just copying and pasting what the white folks are doing.
Following Noname on Twitter has kind of opened up the door for me to think more about how Black capitalism is just as disruptive (if not more) as regular (lol) capitalism. There’s an assumption that just because Black folks do it, it’s better or less exploitative. When that’s not necessarily true. And I think that the argument hat Joe makes falls right in line with this.
Creating a new system based off of an existing system just duplicates the same system. If someone makes pancakes for a bunch of folks who want french toast, and I decide that the only way to fix the problem is to add food coloring to the batter to make green pancakes, all I’m doing is recreating a system that isn’t working in the first place. I’m just throwing some green on that thing. Now, if I see someone making pancakes for breakfast, but no one is eating the pancakes because they want french toast, and to rectify it, I decide to make the best french toast ever AND teach the folks about the ins and outs of the process, then that is solving the problem by giving the folks what they want and showing them how to do it themselves. That way, the old system is being replaced by something new and something beneficial for the people for whom the system was built.
We can’t just keep assuming that just because something is “Black” means that it’s necessarily better for Black folks. Black police officers are still upholding the same unfair criminal justice system. Black capitalists are still upholding the same socio-financial system that is rooted in racism and classism. Just because it has a Black face doesn’t fix the problem. The saying “all skin folk, ain’t kin folk” exists for a reason.
I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of the music business to dream up an entirely new system that fixes every single problem. But my first instinct is that whatever that new system ends up being HAS to be working for the benefit of the artists and not for the benefit of a financial come up. And that completely switches up the game for a lot of people; there are folks that make music just to make money, they couldn’t care less about the music making process or making sure that art and artists are empowered. But that shouldn’t mean that the Black folks who actively enjoy writing and making music have to opt into a system that doesn’t work for them and isn’t putting their needs first. That shouldn’t mean that someone’s life story gets pimped out for a couple million dollars.
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Because Miss Rona (aka COVID-19) is out here in full force, my social-distancing has led to a strong creative urge. So I’m starting another story series on thursday email called “My Favorite’s of All Time.” This series – and the accompanying list that will exist here, once I’m finished setting it up (if you click … Continue reading My Favorite’s of All Time #1: Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar”