Music

Spotify Might Put XXXTentacion Back On Playlists, Reportedly Thanks To Kendrick Lamar

XXXTentacion and R. Kelly were removed from Spotify's official playlists two weeks ago over allegations of abuse.

Kendrick Lamar

Two weeks after implementing a new approach to “hate content” that saw Spotify remove alleged abusers XXXTentacion and R. Kelly from curated playlists, the streaming giant has reportedly told industry heads it is dialling back the policy after artists including Kendrick Lamar threatened to pull their music from the service.

The new policy extended an existing Spoitfy policy on “hate content and hateful conduct” beyond its previous use — primarily, to delete music by white supremacist artists — towards their own curated and algorithm-created playlists, stating the company wouldn’t promote artists with “harmful or hateful” values or behaviour. Unlike the supremacist artists, this music would still be available on Spotify, should users search for it.

Spotify’s original statement singled out Kelly and XXXTentacion and announced it would assess artists on a case-by-case basis. It’s unclear if any other artists have been affected yet — Junkee has reached out to Spotify for clarification.

As reported by Bloomberg, the policy has been controversial within both the wider music industry and Spotify itself due to its vague definitions and implications. Speaking to several anonymous Spotify employees, Bloomberg alleges the policy caused dissent and threats of walk-offs within the company, as employees raised the impracticality of assessing each and every artist on the platform, and the Pandora’s Box of ‘what about’ criticism they were now open to.

Which is true — when the New York Times broke the Spotify story, XXXTentacion’s team defended the rapper by simply providing a list of other artists with allegations of sexual and physical abuse who remain on playlists.

Several industry heads also met with Spotify to raise concerns of censorship — most notably, Top Dawg Entertainment president Punch, who manages Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q, among others.

Previously, Punch called the changes “dangerous”, and now, according to Bloomberg, he met with Spotify to voice his and Lamar’s concerns over Spotify’s penalising of African American men above other artists. Multiple sites are also reporting that Punch threatened to pull Lamar and co’s music, though it’s unclear if Lamar himself co-signed this.

In response, Spotify is reportedly planning to return XXXTentacion’s music to their curated playlists but not R. Kelly, not that he needs it. In the two weeks since the playlist removals, R. Kelly’s Spotify streams increased.

Meanwhile, according to Pitchfork, Apple Music has quietly removed XXXTentacion from its playlists, creating little public or industry outcry.