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Billboard

Why Hasn't The Hip-Hop Boom Pushed More Black Executives To The Top?

As hip-hop/R&B dominate pop culture, while people of color are making the most popular music, that doesn't reflect the top executives getting the credit.

As hip-hop and R&B dominate pop culture and drive accelerating music industry gains, there's an increasingly glaring discrepancy between the color of the artists making the most popular music and that of the top executives getting the credit.

Edging out rock as music's biggest genre in 2017, audio consumption of R&B/hip-hop grew 19.2 percent in first-quarter 2018 over the prior-year quarter, outpacing the industry's overall 11.2 percent gain to comprise over a quarter of U.S. audio consumption and 31 percent of streaming, according to Nielsen Music.

But executives of color are still relatively scarce atop major music companies -- at least, those they don't own themselves. That select group includes industry veterans like Warner/Chappell Music chairman/CEO Jon Platt, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone, Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam and Universal Music Group (UMG) executive vp business and legal affairs/general counsel Jeffrey Harleston.

"There's definitely a challenge in the music industry with respect to the pipeline for black executives, which is interesting when you think about the impact of the music that is being sold, because a lot of that is urban music and black culture," music attorney Julian Petty, partner at law firm Nixon Peabody, told Billboard in February. "You can't just have a few folks there. We've got to figure that out."

A former major-label senior vp lays out a typical scenario: "[White executives] think that because they cut the check, that it buys them favor with the young, often black artists from the hood. It's all good until the white executives can't communicate with the new millionaire and his management team. Then the executives stress out the black female product manager to get answers about the artist, his new album, video edits, etc., because the white head of the company doesn't want to offend the new young black millionaire. So the black executives do all the grunt work while the white executives get the credit."

There has been some progress. On April 9, RCA Records promoted Tunji Balogun to executive vp A&R from senior vp in that department and announced his joint-venture label, Keep Cool. Recently, Interscope Geffen A&M named music attorney Nicole Wyskoarko executive vp urban operations. Others who have risen through the ranks include Atlantic executive vp urban promotion Juliette Jones; Epic executive vp A&R Ezekiel "Zeke" Lewis; Capitol Music Group executive vp Dion "No I.D." Wilson; Def Jam executive vp/head of A&R Steven Victor; Columbia senior vp A&R Shawn Holiday; Warner Bros. senior vp/head of urban marketing Chris Atlas; and Priority GM William "Fuzzy" West. Presidents of black music include Atlantic's Michael Kyser and RCA's Mark Pitts.

But a decade ago, a similar-sized group of major-label decision-makers were black. Some left the majors by choice: Jay Brown, executive vp of Def Jam from 2005 to 2008, co-founded Roc Nation the year he left with former Def Jam president JAY-Z; Benny Pough exited Epic in late 2017 to be president of Roc Nation Records. 300 Ent.'s Kevin Liles, Translation/UnitedMasters' Steve Stoute and Maverick's Gee Roberson are all major-label veterans as well.

Other promising executives of color were casualties of the music industry's consolidation after revenue began to tank in 2000. In 2001, BMG dismantled its entire black music department, while Capitol and Priority merged; by 2003, Sony had combined its Epic and Columbia R&B departments under the Sony Urban banner; and Motown Records merged with UMG in 2005.

"Sometimes blacks get hung up in a great accounting process called ‘restructuring - it allows you to write off everything," former Motown president Jheryl Busby told Billboard in 2005. Even at that time, black executives asked why they were outnumbered: Was it just consolidation, or was bias at play? "With R&B/hip-hop being the leader now," says one still working at a major, "these questions have to be posed yet again. We're not being looked at for top positions -- at all."

Another record-company executive used a historical analogy: "It's like back in the day when sharecroppers tended the cotton fields, tilling the soil, sowing the seeds and nurturing the crop through all sorts of challenges. ​ When the crop proved to be bountiful as harvest time rolled around, the white overseers stepped in and took charge, reaping most of the profits."

As labels now scramble to sign new hip-hop acts at skyrocketing prices, that sentiment has crescendoed, according to recent interviews with over a dozen black executives. Among the challenges they've faced: being given a big title but not the full authority that usually comes with it, and seeing white colleagues with less experience promoted in their stead. And if white executives can speak black music, some sources ask, then why aren't black execs accorded the same consideration when it comes to jobs in pop, country and rock?

At the same time, there is a growing number of black entrepreneurs helming successful independent companies such as Roc Nation, Top Dawg Entertainment, Quality Control and Cash Money. Such ventures can offer more power -- and potentially more money -- than many major-label roles, especially as the acts they manage gain leverage.

"I get asked [by major labels] all the time to suggest names, but all the talented executives I know want to be on their own," says one rap manager. "What does bother me is that major labels aren't nurturing the black executive talent on their staffs."

Some prefer the security of salaried, major-label jobs, the highest-ranking of which can command millions of dollars a year. "Why wouldn't I want to aspire to become the next [L.A.] Reid or [Sylvia] Rhone to head a major label?" asks one major-label veteran, recalling his frustration when neither he nor one of his black colleagues were named president of Def Jam in 2012. (Though 15 candidates, many black, were interviewed for the post, sources tell Billboard, Island Def Jam and Universal Republic's then-chairman/CEO, Barry Weiss, appointed Joie Manda, who has since ascended to become one of the top brass at Interscope, now executive vp.) "I became so disappointed with the corporate music culture that I left to do my own thing," says the executive.

The majors are working to diversify. Announcing UMG's involvement in the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative last November, UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge wrote to staff: "The best way to foster an environment where new ideas are generated and innovation can flourish is to create a workplace that attracts and promotes and truly includes people from all kinds of backgrounds -- one that matches and supports the incredible diversity of our artist roster." WMG's leadership program, Topline, aims to boost diversity that's "certainly more present at the junior level," Warner Music Group executive vp human resources Masha Osherova told Billboard in January, adding: "Part of the problem boils down to historical biases." Sony Music Entertainment, which hired black executive Dasha Smith Dwin as executive vp/global chief human resources officer in February, states it is "proud of its diverse population of talented employees, including many senior executives. We are committed to doing additional work to promote, retain and make opportunities available for a more diverse and inclusive workforce."

Still, says a major-label senior vp, "We need to fight for our seat at the table."

This article was originally published on Billboard.

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Kanye West Calls Out Drake For Sneak Dissing: "Stop This Already Bro"

Clearly, Kanye West is still holding onto some ill feelings about Drake. The rapper recently reignited his feud with Drizzy in an epic rant on Twitter on Thursday (Dec. 13) until the OVO artist was forced to call him back.

It all started when Kanye shared a screenshot of a text asking whether he wanted to give Drake clearance for the 2009 song, "Say What's Real," which samples Ye's past track. Seems like a simple request, but it turns out, Kanye has been trying to get in contact with Drake for the past six months to no avail. So, Kanye unleashed a series of tweets, putting Drake on blast.

"Been trying to meet with you for 6 months bro You sneak dissing on Trav records and texting Kris talking bout how’s the family," he wrote, mentioning his past collaboration with Travis Scott on "SICKO MODE."

He also brought up past allegations in which Kanye was accused of telling Pusha-T about his secret son. "I told you I ain’t tell Pusha about your son," he added. "It’s all love bro bro but don’t play with me. You stay too close to be playing all these industry games bro... I would never intentionally try to hurt you bro I never even heard none of the diss records That ain’t my MO never did a diss record."

Kanye also furthered the rumor that Drake bought out the first two rows at Pusha-T's show in Toronto and hired people to try to jump him. "Buying first two rows at Pusha show got me hot bro," he continued. "Stop this already bro. You getting people hurt out here And over what."

After 34 minutes of ranting however, Kanye revealed that Drake had finally picked up the phone to call him, most likely in response to the madness online. A happy Kanye responded: "Mission accomplished." Drake seemingly responded to the rant on Instagram shortly after the call as well, with a string of laughing emojis.

So clearly all you have to do to get Drake on the phone is tweet about him until he gives up. Check out Kanye's tweets below.

This proves shit faker than wrestling pic.twitter.com/E9wzNycJna

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Still need that apology for mentioning the 350s and trying to take food out your idols kids mouths

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Been trying to meet with you for 6 months bro You sneak dissing on trav records and texting Kris talking bout how’s the family

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

I told you I ain’t tell Pusha about your son

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

It’s all love bro bro but don’t play with me. You stay too close to be playing all these industry games bro

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Sending purple emojis When I’m dealing with mental shit I need my apologies now Not through scooter either Not through Travis

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

I would never intentionally try to hurt you bro I never even heard none of the diss records That ain’t my MO never did a diss record

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

This ain’t about who could pay to have something done to somebody This man to man bro This been bothering me too long

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Buying first two rows at Pusha show got me hot bro

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Stop this already bro You getting people hurt out here And over what

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Drake finally called

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

Mission accomplished

— ye (@kanyewest) December 13, 2018

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Bibi Bourelly Shares Striking Video For "White House"

Singer-songwriter Bibi Bourelly continues to use her talented pen to spread a timely message. For her latest, the "Ballin" singer debuted the poignant video for "White House."

Images of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center to footage of children detained in immigration facilities are depicted within the three-minute reel. The visual also puts into perspective the dire circumstances humans are currently living through and the future issues from the environment to politics that will alter the lives of generations to come. Bourelly also shared a mission statement behind the piece:

I am a girl.

A regular girl. I am not a pop star Or a politician. I am not a Straight A student. I am an artist. I try to tell the truth because My father taught me that lying hurts. Not only those around us , but ourselves. It hurts everyone. It jades our perspective and skews our principles. It confuses us and everyone around us. My father also taught me that when choosing to trust in or believe an individual you have to observe what they do before believing what they say. I look at the grown ups who are the representatives of our country and I don’t believe them. People like that never liked me. They never liked us. I know that because I’ve ran into them in encounters on the subway or the local community stores. They tell us to speak more like them and to stop writing poems. I’m a girl. I have never stolen anything. I am not a straight A student. I am a brown girl, an artist and a poet. I close my eyes sometimes and try to listen to the deepest part of my heart when things get scary or feel wrong to hear what it tells me like my father taught me to do and this is what came out.

In a previous interview with VIBE, Bourelly said one of her worries about being a creative in this industry is losing the ability to make tunes based on real-life issues.

"One of my biggest fears is that when I get to a certain level I will forget how to write about real life. I think that's what makes me an artist, the fact that I talk about the things that I experience. Music for me is an outlet," she said. "I feel things very intensely. Before I had the diction, the articulation to express what I felt I would create my music. The moment I begin to get a real understanding of diction and articulation, I begin to write about the things that were happening around me. It wasn't until people pointed it out to me that I was writing about the things that were happening around me that I realized it."

Watch the video up top.

READ MORE: Views From The Studio With... Songwriter Bibi Bourelly

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Janet Jackson performs at the MTV EMAs 2018 in Bilbao, Spain.
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Janet Jackson To Be Inducted Into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Janet Jackson is among the many musicians who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2019 class.

Ms. Jackson, Radiohead, The Cure, Stevie Nicks, Roxy Music, Def Leppard, and the Zombies are the very talented musicians who will be honored at the 34th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The highly-coveted ceremony will be held on Mar. 29 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Jackson, whose career spans several decades, responded to the exciting news with a tweet. “We did it u guys,” she wrote with a purple heart. “Thank U for all your love and support. #RockHall2019.”

This has been a banner year for Jackson. Earlier this year, she performed at the 2018 Essence Festival, Billboard Music Awards, Panorama Music Festival, and the Global Citizens Festival. She also teamed up with Reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee for a new single, “Made For Now.”

“I'm deeply humbled and grateful for this award. I believe for all the challenges we live at a glorious moment in history,” she said during her Icon Award acceptance speech at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. “It's a moment at long last that's made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated or abused."

Congrats to all of the inductees.

We did it u guys 💜 Thank U for all your love and support. #RockHall2019 pic.twitter.com/1APrRJdmTv

— Janet Jackson (@JanetJackson) December 13, 2018

READ MORE: Janet Jackson Proves Why She's An Icon At The 2018 Billboard Music Awards

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