Capitol CEO Explained to Executives Why XXXTentacion Was Worth Signing Despite Abuse Allegations


The last we heard about XXXTentacion, the rising rapper who was charged with beating and strangling his pregnant girlfriend in October 2016, he was hit with seven new felonies related to witness tampering.

Despite the horrific details of his ex-girlfriend’s testimony, plus the fact that he is alleged to have pressured her to cease participating in the case, XXXTentacion (real name Jahseh Onfroy) has been consistently supported by his label Capitol Records. As of December 2017, the artist was on a strict house arrest so he could visit a local recording studio in order to fulfill his contract, according to TMZ.

The rapper was signed to Caroline Records, which is owned by Capitol, in October 2017, after his first full-length album (put out through Empire Distribution) debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It was a deal reportedly worth $6 million. That same month Onfroy made confusing claims on his Instagram, writing that he was “terminating” his deal with Capitol, but a representative for the rapper told SPIN that he was still signed to Caroline/Capitol.

But according to an article in the LA Times, not everyone at Capitol was happy about signing Onfroy. Reporter Gerrick D. Kennedy writes:

Indeed, Onfroy’s arrival at CMG incensed numerous staffers, according to four sources with knowledge of the signing, and it came up at a routine staff meeting with Capitol president Steve Barnett and top executives. In the meeting, two of the sources said, Barnett told executives that Onfroy’s surging popularity would help the company have a bigger market share in hip-hop and acknowledged the controversy around the artist, encouraging those with concerns to voice them.

Just today in an interview with Variety, Barnett was asked about his thoughts on the #MeToo campaign. “I don’t remember an instance where someone who worked with me brought that to my attention ever,” he said. “That’s not to say it’s a perfect world in music.” Clearly, based on Barnett’s statements, instances of harassment and assault at work do not extend to the artists Capitol signs. Later, in a question about CMG’s renewed focus on rap, XXXTentacion’s presence on Capitol’s payroll is not even mentioned by Barnett or the interviewer.

“This is a case of a bunch of rich white people trying to take advantage of a black artist who is troubled,” a “frustrated industry veteran” told the LA Times. And considering Steve Barnett is also the type of person to casually visit plantations for fun, his real interest in promoting black artists needs to be further scrutinized.

Correction: An earlier version of this story called Barnett Capitol’s president. He is actually CEO/Chairman.

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