Culture

Spotify Has Pulled R. Kelly And XXXTentacion’s Music Off Playlists Over Abuse Allegations

It's part of their new policy around "hate content and hateful conduct".

Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault

As part of a new policy around “hate content and hateful conduct”, Spotify has announced that they will no longer promote music from R. Kelly, due to the multiple allegations of sexual assault and abuse surrounding the artist.

While users will still be able to listen to R. Kelly, his music will not be pushed the company’s official playlists, including those generated by algorithms.

“We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values,” Spotify said in a statement. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

The decision comes after the grassroot #MuteRKelly campaign was co-signed by the Time’s Up movement last week.

Over the years, the R&B singer has faced multiple allegations and lawsuits of sexual assault and abuse of women and young girls, denying all accusations. In 2008, he was acquitted of charges related to possession of child pornography.

Spotify also outlined that the policy changes would also target Florida rapper XXXTentacion, whose sophomore album ? was released this January to critical and commercial success.

The rapper was recently allowed off house arrest for a national tour while facing charges of aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and witness tampering.

Previously, Spotify’s policy was primarily used to remove music related to hate speech. Most notably, Spotify removed several white supremacist artists last August in the aftermath of Heather Heyer’s death while counter-protesting neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Explaining the change, Spotify outlined that they “thought long and hard about how to handle content that is not hate content itself, but is principally made by artists or other creators who have demonstrated hateful conduct personally.”

The Response

In a statement, R. Kelly’s team has called Spotify’s decision “shortsighted” and reasserting the singer’s innocence. “R. Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire,” the statement says.

“Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit. It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers.”

Both artists have also argued that Spotify’s focus on them is hypocritical, given that many other artists on the platform also face allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

“I don’t have a comment, just a question,” XXXTentacion’s spokesperson Aishah White wrote in an email to the New York Times. “Will Spotify remove all the artists listed below from playlists?”.

White then included the names of musicians who have been accused of sexual and physical assault, including Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre and Ozzy Osbourne.

While a diversion tactic, it’s clear that Spotify’s new guidelines open a Pandora’s box of public criticism, where the platform will now seemingly assess each-and-every artist they promote.