We’ve all had the uncomfortable experience happen when we’re jamming out to a great playlist on Spotify but suddenly a song comes on that just doesn’t agree with us. Maybe it’s music that we just can’t stand, it contains super offensive language, or it’s something that can’t be played in public. Whatever the situation, we’ve all been there.
Thanks to a new feature, Spotify is changing the game plan a little bit and allowing you to have greater control over what you listen to.
On the surface, this change sounds awesome, and in reality, it mostly is. Yet the timing of this update we’re about to discuss is rather uncanny due to the latest news coverage about artist R. Kelly and is prompting some music lovers to ask the question — is Spotify impressing their personal bias upon our listening experience?
Don’t Like It? Spotify Thinks That’s Okay
For people who use Spotify on their smartphone, you may have noticed a new option when you touch the three dots on an artist page. Options including “Share” or “Go to radio” are still present, along with another selection called “Don’t play this artist.” If you make this choice, Spotify will no longer include any songs from this artist in any playlists or radio stations. While it doesn’t completely remove your access to their discography as a whole, they won’t be surprising you in the middle of a great groove session.
Spotify reports that any time you mark an artist with this option that it will directly sync your preferences when using the desktop version of the program. Initially, it seems as if this level of customization is just one more way that they’re making it easier to enjoy the music you love, although the #MuteRKelly hashtag has also made major waves recently, causing people to ask if there’s a connection.
Censorship at Its Finest
This isn’t the first time that Spotify has made it easy to remove R. Kelly’s music from your life, as a decision in May 2018 caused all of his work to be erased from the platform in an effort to adhere to a new hateful conduct policy. Later down the line, Spotify reversed this action and allowed his music back on, but for some, the damage was already done. While the organization stated that they don’t censor music due to an artist’s behavior in their professional or personal life, their editors do want to curate a selection that reflects their own values.
At the time of this publication, R. Kelly has not been convicted of a crime. Accusations of sexual misconduct have surrounded the artist for longer than most can even remember, and as documentaries, magazine features, and more certainly aren’t shy about pointing the finger at him, the adage of “innocent until proven guilty” is ringing in the ears of many. Still, it’s hard to not see any connection between the popular hashtag in circulation and the ability for Spotify customers to easily block the artist through this update.
As things progress it will become more clear if there really is a link between the streaming service’s actions and R. Kelly, or if this option is simply one more way to let users control who they hear. For now, just remember that you can mute anyone, not just R. Kelly.
A$AP Rocky Officially Charged With Assault in Sweden
When rapper A$AP Rocky went to Europe to start his Injured Generation tour, few expected it would end with him being accused of assault in Sweden and detained, facing up to two years of jail time if found guilty.
After an altercation between Rocky — real name is Rakim Mayers — his bodyguard, two performers from his show and two men surfaced on TMZ in late June. News quickly spread that “the rapper voluntarily went to the police” for questioning and was immediately taken into custody on July 3 — where he has been since.
Despite the Grammy-nominated rapper claiming they acted in self-defense, even posting video taken of the altercation, the Swedish High Court rejected an appeal arguing he was a flight risk.
Swedish prosecutors have now said in the Stockholm District Court documents that Rocky pushed the man, identified as Mustafa Jafari, to the ground.
Sources say that the rapper is being held in solitary confinement and that conditions in the jail were called “inhumane,” saying that “walking into that place was like walking into a toilet.” Those same sources claimed he was being held in a cell next to a mentally ill inmate known for throwing feces and sleeping on a yoga mat instead of an actual bed.
Swedish law enforcement even raided the hotel room of long-time manager John Ehmann, allegedly confiscating his cell phone and demanding the password to go through the contents. This is an incredibly odd and aggressive move considering Ehmann has nothing to do with the alleged assault.
“[Ehmann] was completely taken aback,” a source said. “[He] had no idea what this was about […] He never saw it coming.”
Hip hop artists and high-profile celebrities alike have expressed their support for A$AP Rocky ever way they could.
Fellow A$AP Mob label mate A$AP Ferg took to Instagram to express support, Tyler the Creator, ScHoolboy Q and Tyga have all either canceled planned shows or sworn to never play a venue in Sweden and stars like Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Justin Beiber, Diddy, T.I., 2 Chainz, Lil Yatchy, G-Eazy, Juicy J, Kid Cudi, Tory Lanez, Machine Gun Kelly and Miguel have all gotten behind the #JusticeForRocky hashtag.
Joining in the #JusticeForRocky hashtag were big names like Shawn Mendes, Kris Jenner, actress Cara Delevingne, former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Naomi Campbell.
Now, even U.S. politicians have gotten involved. President Donald Trump has tweeted on behalf of the jailed rapper, calling on the Swedish prime minister to “treat Americans fairly.”
Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States. I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly! #FreeRocky
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2019
The State Department raised concerns about the arrest and detention, urging the Swedish government to treat him fairly via a statement.
“There are certainly some facts about the arrest and detention that raise concerns,” the State Department spokesperson said. “We expect all governments, including Sweden, to treat American citizens fairly and with respect. … We hope to see ASAP Rocky and his colleagues back on tour and reunited with friends and family soon.”
Even New York Democrat Representative Adriano Espaillat has responded to the Change.org petition, telling the Associated Press via a statement that he would push to get the rapper home.
“I will continue fighting until A$AP Rocky is released from Swedish prison and brought back,” Rep. Espaillat said.
As of the writing of this article, the Change.org petition had just over 600,000 signatures and counting with a goal of 1 million.
Music, Cannabis and the Hollywood Walk of Fame
First conceived in 1953 and completed in 1961 on both Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is one of the world’s most recognizable and visited tourist attractions.
Initially only awarded to stars of the silver screen, in recent years the Walk of Fame has opened up to other entertainment industry caveats, including musicians.
Cypress Hill and the Walk of Fame
In April this year, legendary rap group Cypress Hill received their star, making history yet again as the first Latino-American hip-hip group to be given a star. The multi-platinum selling group is the 2,660th star on the Walk of Fame.
The Southern-California band — B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs and Eric Bobo — have been at it for more than 30 years now and are still going strong with the release of their ninth studio album “Elephants on Acid” in September 2018.
“We are proud to honor the first Latino American hip-hop recording group,” Ana Martinez, producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, told ABC7.com. “They have been successful as a group for three decades and we know they will continue their success for many years to come.”
The group has long been linked with cannabis and have talked openly about their use and affinity towards it. The three-time Grammy-winning group with smoking anthems like “Hits From the Bong,” “I Want to Get High,” and “Dr. Greenthumb” go as far as to thank cannabis for their success.
“We love the star. It could have been a gold leaf, though, a gold weed leaf. That would have been good too,” said frontman B-Real. “This is going to be an altar for all stoners, for all cannabis culture right here. Come light your candles, dump your blunts, dump your joints, dump your bongs right here, pray for a great harvest. Thank you very fucking very much.”
He told Variety cannabis use plays a big role in their longevity and health over the years.
“We’re medicating,” explained B-Real. “We’re eating clean. We stay in the gym. We never did party too excessively. We party, but it’s not every night and we’re not drunk and sloppy. Weed was the answer for us.”
“Being away from friends and family and the comforts of home is tough. Sure, we’ve had our disagreements like brothers do. Every band goes through it,” said B-Real continued. “Clearly, cannabis has been a big factor in keeping us together.”
Cypress Hill’s cannabis advocacy isn’t just for relaxing after a show. They’ve translated that support for cannabis into the incredibly successful LA-based Dr. Greenthumb dispensary where the group sells their own brand of specially designed Cypress Hill Bhang (CHB) line of cannabis products.
— Cypress Hill ™ (@cypresshill) April 20, 2019
Celebrities like Xzibit and George Lopez both turned out to the reveal of the star on April 18 and got on stage to congratulate the rap collective on their accomplishment.
“Their accomplishments and accolades reach deep in the roots and history books of hip-hop, and today is another chapter in that saga,” Xzibit said. “Yo, B-Real, Sen Dog, Muggs, Bobo: You are our Rolling Stones, Ungrateful Dead, you are the West Coast Public Enemy.”
“There’s a lot of actors, there’s a lot of comedians, there’s a lot of entertainers who are on [the Walk of Fame]. But there’s only one Cypress Hill, the first Latino hip-hop group. But to everyone who lives the American dream, not the last Latino hip-hop group to ever be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.” Lopez added.
Cannabis-Loving Musicians Who Have Received Stars
Cypress Hill is the latest cannabis-loving singers to earn a star of their own. Huge names in the game like Snoop Dogg and Melissa Etheridge all have their own stars on the Walk of Fame.
Melissa Etheridge is a cannabis advocate who might fly under the radar for many. In fact, many were shocked when she was arrested for possession on the U.S./Canada border.
For Etheridge, her start with cannabis came after she was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a decade ago. Ever since she’s been a strong supporter of medical cannabis.
Now in her 40s, Etheridge has advocated politically and invested in the cannabis industry, using her voice to fight for patient access to medical cannabis.
You know what’s weird? Willie Nelson doesn’t have a Walk of Fame star.
Has the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival Been Canned?
The fate of the summer’s most hyped festival remains unclear after Woodstock 50 investors announced their decision to pull funding for the summer music event — and cancel it.
More than 100,000 people were expected to attend the event scheduled to take place at the original site at the Watkins Glen International Speedway in New York from August 16-18th.
The investors, the Dentsu Aegis Network, reported site readiness, capacity, and permit issues as reasons for the cancellation.
In a statement sent to Billboard on April 29th, the Network explained that, “despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.”
As a result, the statement continues, “Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”
According to the same Billboard report, more than $30 million had already been spent on the event, which includes payments to artists on the line-up. Whether those artists are still contractually required to perform remains to be seen.
Michael Lang, Woodstock co-founder, and promoter, told CNN that the Network’s decision to cancel the event undermines the festival’s organizers.
“It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us,” he asserted, adding, “Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it.”
Lang publicly expressed interest in finding the remaining funding needed to move forward with Woodstock 50. However, since Dentsu announced it would pull the plug on the festival, Woodstock organizers filed a suit in the New York Supreme Court on May 8.
According to Rolling Stone, Lang “[…] and other organizers requested an injunction that would, among other things, force Dentsu to hand over $17.8 million in disputed funds and continue work on the festival.” A hearing is scheduled to take place in New York on Monday, the site added.
The lineup was announced in early March and features headlining acts from both the Woodstock and modern eras.
The Killers, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, the Black Keys, and Halsey were just some of the artist set to perform alongside original Woodstock 1969 performers: John Fogerty, Santana, and Dead and Company.
Tickets for the three-day festival were set to go on sale on April 22. As of now, the Woodstock 50 official website reports that tickets will go on sale “soon.”
In the meantime, festival organizers remain hopeful: “Our intention holds firm. To deliver a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. To honor a cultural icon that changed the way we think about music and togetherness… and will do so again,” according to Woodstock.com.
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