For five years, Unsafe paired her varied portrayals of the millennial black women’s experience with musical choices that surely turned HBO viewers into fans of artists they had never heard of before. But over time, the show has become the meritocratic role model that show creator and star Issa Rae wants to see in the music industry.
In a recent interview with Los Angeles weatherRae was adamantly critical of the music industry, giving it the ignominious title of “possibly the worst industry I’ve encountered.” This distinction is quite heartbreaking considering that Rae has spent most of her career in a TV and film industry that she doesn’t believe would become more diverse before. old racist executives started to die. But based on her limited time as a musical executive since starting her own “audio everywhere business” Raedio, she believes the abuse of artists by the music industry is so prevalent that all over the world. industry must start over.
“I thought Hollywood was crazy. The music industry has to start over. Conflicts of interest abound. Archaic mindsets. Crooks and criminals! It’s an abusive industry, and I really feel for the artists who need to get into it, ”Rae said.
One of Issa Rae’s first exposures to the predatory music industry was through Unsafe and her distinctive soundtrack, on which she worked with composer Raphael Saadiq and music supervisor Kier Lehman. Compilations of the best music featured in Unsafe episodes have been released for every season since 2016. The soundtrack release process was anything but easy, and Rae describes making deals with artists and labels as shockingly “convoluted.” She launched Raedio in October 2019 and partnered with Atlantic Records for the label division of the company.
One cannot underestimate how the music presented in Unsafe was to the music industry as a whole. Most of the artists featured on the soundtrack of the first seasons had yet to release a full project on a major label. Artists like Goldlink, Sampha, and the Internet have enjoyed moderate success after appearing on the first season soundtrack. “We highlighted singers and rappers in a distinct way while others weren’t – I’m thinking of TT the Artist and Kari Faux in season 1,” Issa Rae said.
You wouldn’t know who were the Grammy favorites or the hottest artist burning the Billboard charts when you watched Unsafe. HER is the only black woman to win Grammy song of the year between 2016-2021, while the musical DNA of Unsafe was mainly the voices of black female singers. The first single for the last Unsafe The soundtrack that she will someday release was a song called “Fun” by Nnena, an artist who never smelled the Billboard charts, yet was chosen to be the first taste of the original music of the band. final season of one of the most impactful black TV shows of the past 20 years. For Rae, if music industry institutions like the Grammy Awards were not going to properly celebrate black musical contributions, Unsafe always would.
“A song like [Wizkid’s] “Essence” – absolutely a powerhouse, and yet couldn’t be properly recognized by the institution that’s supposed to celebrate the best in music – it trips me up. “
Artists exploited by executives in the music industry are a story as old as that of A Tribe Called Quest industry rule # 4080 from the early 1990s. Sadly, 2021 saw the insidious cycle continue. Meek Mill has sold millions of records, including a 5x platinum “Going Bad” collaboration with Drake, and has always blown his label for never paying him for his music sales. Bobby Shmurda’s long-awaited release from prison came in February, but the in-demand rapper didn’t release a single song until more than six months later due to rumors of conflicts with his label Epic Records. After releasing four songs in the last four months of the year, Shmurda gave credit to the rumors by revealing that he had not been in control of his music for over a decade and doesn’t know when his music drops. Even leaders known to be pro-artists have been criticized: Big Sean said the Drink champions that an audit found that GOOD Music boss Kanye West owed him millions of dollars, and Rolling stone reported that the label / management company LVRN signed a “brutal” recording contract with Summer Walker (LVRN co-founder Tunde Balogun denied the charges). Rae’s assessment of the music industry is depressing.
Apart from UnsafeRae has helped young black artists break into a music industry that regularly blocks young talent through surveillance. Baby Tate signed to Raedio in April 2020 and went from best-kept secret to viral sensation during his first year with the label, his affirmative hymn “I Am” becoming his first big hit. Going forward, Rae plans to give black female rappers more exposure with his upcoming HBO Max series Rap shit centered on a pair of struggling rappers in Miami. If the unprecedented opportunities Rae has provided black musicians on a hit HBO series for five years is any indication of his musical pursuits afterUnsafe, then the music industry could be drastically different when they’re done with it.