Gucci Mane is leaving his longtime label, Atlantic Records, over claims that it is “polite racist.” His move comes as many musicians are becoming increasingly vocal about industry-wide racial inequality.
The BBC reports that in a since-deleted message posted on Twitter yesterday, Gucci announced that he will be leaving Atlantic Records this summer, writing, “Leaving #AtlanticRecords July 3rd these crackers polite racist.” In further tweets, the Atlanta rapper encouraged other artists to follow suit, using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and saying “f*ck these racist *ss labels burn them down too.”
Gucci Mane has been signed to Atlantic Records since 2016, in that time releasing eight projects including the most recent mixtape East Atlanta Santa 3 in 2019. He previously announced his intention to leave Atlantic in 2017, vowing to go “100 per cent independent and drop a mixtape every other day.” While he hasn’t commented further, Gucci is not the first artist to criticize the rampant racism in the music industry in the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
According to an investigation by Rolling Stone, the music industry was built on a history of racism and is often exploitative in its dealings with black musicians. As the report puts it, “the record industry does a very good job of keeping black people out of the room.”
On June 2, the music industry took part in the #BlackoutTuesday campaign in solidarity with worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, however, people are demanding change within the music industry itself, in particular relating to the often predatory record label contracts for Black artists.
In a typical record deal, for example, an artist gives up the rights to their music, often indefinitely, in exchange for an up-front check. As an A&R described it: “you give someone something for eternity and you never get it back.” Inequality even permeates the executive level. Black executives are concentrated in “urban” departments, which focus on hip-hop and R&B, while their white peers are free to move as they please.
In an effort to shift the balance of power, many artists like Gucci Mane are speaking up and Atlantic Records’ parent company, Warner Music, has established an internal task force charged with finding ways of improving equality at the company.