There are a lot of reasons not to support major labels, several of which hardly require elucidation at this stage in their sordid history. Yet every year around this time, the surviving big three–Sony, Warner, and Universal–and their myriad sublabel properties receive an inordinate amount of praise-by-proxy from the corporate-owned music media's Best Of The Year So Far features. These perpetually subservient outlets' perverse need to bootlick for access all-but ensures that the artists with the most money behind their careers get the most attention, the most coverage, and the most praise.
In truth, there is little reason, beyond that money, for major label acts to continue to dominate these conversations, in hip-hop or any other genre for that matter. And when we, as journalists and critics as well as consumers, talk about how these companies specifically use their resources–which comes often directly from revenue generated by consumption–we ought to consider that they do not do so in our best interests:
The amount of money given isn't as important as who it goes to, namely to anti-choice politicians representing the dangerously regressive party that is today's GOP. We have quantifiable proof that Sony, Warner, and Universal provided material support to Republican candidates and elected officials who campaigned on ending abortion access for millions of women, girls, and anyone else with a uterus. And so this past Friday, when the egregiously right-wing faction of the Supreme Court struck down a nearly 50 year precedent, no amount of performative PR could undo these companies' complicity in eroding the civil and human rights of the American audiences whose streams and purchases fill their proverbial coffers.
Lawyer-vetted publicity statements about corporate values and employee healthcare offer cold comfort to those who will now be forced to give birth in states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. At the time of this writing, there are nine such states where the SCOTUS decision instantaneously made abortion illegal in practice, often with no legal exception for rape, incest, or cases where the lives of mother or fetus are in danger, medically speaking. Another dozen states including Tennessee and Texas are presently poised to do the same, or otherwise set new draconian restrictions surrounding abortion, in the very near future.
Among the sick parts of all this is just how easy it will be for Sony, Warner, and Universal–not to mention all the other big companies and C-suite executives who've been funding the GOP–to get away with it. Considering that banning abortion or severely limiting access to it negatively impacts poor people and women of color the most, the decision makers behind the political spending at these companies are responsible for the misery inflicted on their listeners. But next week or the week after another rap star will drop a surprise album or a guest-stacked single and the conversation will be there, not here. And that will be, in part, because we lack the kind of music media willing to stand up, call out the industry over this, and hold the right people accountable.
By now, you've probably realized that there isn't an interview with Drake at the end of this. Sorry about that. And I know I promised a new podcast episode for this past Friday. Sorry about that too. Today's CABBAGES newsletter was supposed to be Ten Hip-Hop Albums You May Have Missed In 2022 So Far, or something to that effect. Unfortunately, the idea of writing about music this weekend wasn't something I felt comfortable doing. Instead, I chose to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the people in my life that mean the most to me. I won't apologize for that.
I also won't apologize for using this newsletter of mine to share my pro-choice stance on abortion and to raise awareness about those organizations in this music industry who undermine the right to choose with their dollars. This isn't a call for a boycott. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism. But I believe you have a right to know where your streaming money goes. And now, you do.