Last night, Kanye West delivered his latest Twitter soliloquy in which he sent a very clear message to his music label: “I’m not putting no more music out till I’m done with my contract with Sony and Universal.”

During his tweet spree, Kanye referred to the music industry as a "modern day slave ship" and said that he refused to watch his "people be enslaved." And while his slavery comparison might seem characteristically sensational, he's definitely not the first person to call out the industry's exploitation of Black artists, nor use the analogy of slavery in this context.

West was confined to a particularly nasty agreement with EMI that forbid him from ever retiring. While the two parties initially agreed to settle their legal battle last September, the case has since reopened and it's clear that West is still dissatisfied. He shared screenshots of a conversation with his legal counsel outlining a "lawsuit/termination nuclear option" where he could litigate and ask for his master recordings (the original version from which everything else stems) as part of the settlement in a "high risk but high reward strategy."

The above conversation references Taylor Swift's 2019 lawsuit, which concerned a legal fight between her and Scooter Braun, who bought the rights to her first six albums when taking over Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Label Group. Although she had been vocal about wanting to buy the rights to her own music, she reportedly wasn't given the option.

At the time, she wrote in a blog post, “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in.” She concluded, “I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past."

Of course, the irony of Kanye’s counsel referencing Swift isn’t lost on us, but it does hammer home the point that this affects many of the most successful and culturally important artists.

When Prince announced that he would release his album HitNRun exclusively to Tidal, he explained why he intended to sidestep a record label and offer the LP directly through the streaming service. “Record contracts are just like slavery, I would tell any young artist … don’t sign.” He said that record labels trap artists into “indentured servitude,” where they have little control or insight over how labels take their music and profit off it online.

While details of Kanye's case are yet to unfold, he's making moves to fight back on a united front. On Twitter, he appealed to fellow musicians Drake, J. Cole, and JAY-Z, asking for an end to "dissing each other on labels we don’t own.” This appeal echoes sentiments shared by David Bryne in his 2015 New York Times Op-ed — "The whole music industry, all of it, can flourish. There is a rising tide of dissatisfaction, but we can work together." — and while the fruits of these calls are yet to be seen, it would certainly be interesting to see how the inner cogs of the industry reacts if its top-grossing artists all went on strike.

What To Read Next

  • Image on Highsnobiety

    What to Wear to: Back to School Season

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Fallin' Through Stüssy's Fall '22 Lookbook

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Post Netflix Binge, Vans Goes Full Fanboy for Stranger Things

    Sneakers
  • urban outfitters sale

    Take 50% off Half-Price Stüssy, Dickies & More in This Sale

    Style
  • gore-tex sneakers

    These GORE-TEX Sneakers Are Looking for a Spot in Your Rotation

    Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Picking The Right Grooming Products is An Important Part of Self-Care

    Style
*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titelmedia (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titelmedia strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titelmedia has engaged UsableNet Inc, a leading web accessibility consultant to help test, remediate and maintain our Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Disclaimer

Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.