Follow up on previous action items:
Consistent with our policy, we have completed a mediation process with The Lioness and Relentless Empress LLC, utilizing a mutually agreed upon neutral third party. The resulting final recommendations from that process can be found here.
Clarification regarding Dem Atlas:
Dem Atlas is not signed to Rhymesayers. He was notified June of last year that we were terminating his agreement and not exercising any further options. Our decision was not based on a singular allegation or incident but decided after conversations with him, consideration of everything we were hearing, and our overall working relationship.
We attempted to finalize Dem’s release in July of last year but did not hear back from him until October, at which time our attorneys started negotiating any considerations beyond the termination of his contract. While those discussions are ongoing and being finalized, none of those points have to do with him being signed. Further illustrating this point, he has been freely releasing new music not on Rhymesayers.
Regarding the 2018 incident Dem Atlas spoke of in his post:
Management was contacted by Dem Atlas and informed there had been an altercation between him and his partner. During the phone call, he told us his story. We accepted his account and agreed to discuss further in person.
We were then contacted via a social media dm, by a person that was not his partner, and did not witness the incident, who reported that Dem Atlas had physically assaulted his partner. We responded, recommending his partner file a police report and press charges. This incident was not taken lightly and our course of action was determined with input and consensus from both men and women within the organization.
Senior management then met with Dem Atlas in person and listened to his account of the entire situation, which differed from what was relayed to us via dm. We informed him that we had been contacted about the incident and recommended that the other party involved file a police report and press charges. We also suggested, if the account we received via dm was inaccurate, that he identify witnesses to support his description of events. He was also informed that if the account he gave us was inaccurate, or if any other situation of this magnitude was brought to our attention we would take additional action which could include him being released from the label.
We were never contacted by his partner and are not aware of any further action taken by either party. This incident was not a secret and many in the community were aware of it and the conflicting narratives. We are unaware of any police report being filed, no further information was received, and we heard nothing else about this situation until it was publicized last summer. The actions we took were known to multiple individuals and at least one media outlet who chose to leave this information out of their public statements.
Follow up on previous action items:
September 16, 2020
Completed staff-wide allyship workshop facilitated by Shift, that included centering those affected by harm, sitting with discomfort, accountability, taking action and long term strategy.
August through October, 2020
Our executive team worked with a third-party leadership alignment coach from Beacon Empowerment Strategies to bridge alignment of values, goals & vision. We worked to create clear communication norms, processes that center authenticity, transparency, healing, and safe space holding.
January 15, 2021
Responded to the statement of grievances from The Lioness. Consistent with our policy, we have agreed to engage with her in a restorative justice framework utilizing a mutually agreed upon neutral third party.
March 26, 2021
An independent, impartial, third party responsiveness and accountability program was established through ILG to respond more effectively to reports of misconduct. Through this program, anyone who feels they have experienced, witnessed, or has information about abuse or misconduct by someone we work with, can engage with the third-party organization. They will listen and look into all reported incidents, share resources, and discuss paths forward. This information will be shared with the label so we can take appropriate action in a timely manner.
June 7, 2021
Implemented a Speak Up policy to increase our awareness of potential misconduct by people we work with. The Speak Up policy states that any employee of Rhymesayers that has information about, or is witness to, an act of misconduct or abuse by any of our artist partners or their affiliates, has a responsibility to report it. All incidents will be looked into and all staff have a responsibility to cooperate with those investigations.
It’s been a year since we made some commitments and began this work. We acknowledge we’ve missed opportunities to update you on the status of our efforts because the work continues. As this work progresses, we’ll make greater efforts to provide updates.
In response to Twin Cities Survivors:
We’re sorry we haven’t been more aware of the painful experiences women in our community have been facing, many within the context of interpersonal relationships within the Twin Cities music scene. We’re sorry that it hasn’t always felt safe or been easy to tell us when something is wrong, and that we didn’t have the policies or protocols to hold ourselves and our artist partners to a higher standard. The people we work with are from our communities and are representative of all the good and bad it entails. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be a positive force within the spaces we have influence, and we’re committed to doing so.
These past five months we have:
Enhanced vetting of new artists so we have a deeper understanding of who we’re sharing our platform with.
Established and formalized Artists standards which allow us to hold our artist partners accountable. This could involve anything from mediation, and making amends up to and including reevaluation and conclusion of our working relationship.
Engaged in third party staff-wide training on allyship, which we understand to mean working with others towards the common interest of justice and equity in the spaces we occupy.
Begun educating ourselves on transformative and restorative justice practices and consulted experienced practitioners.
Begun working with a third party investigation firm to field artist misconduct claims, this system will be up and running early 2021.
And we’ve started developing systems to navigate conflict, and address harm if and when it happens.
Contacting survivors unsolicited could be harmful, and it’s not ok without consent. We have been in contact with people who have expressed a willingness to engage, and discuss what can be done. We have not declined any meetings, and we will continue to be open to any productive conversation.
In regards to Grieves, he has already fulfilled his contract and is under no further obligation to the label.
We agree that a mutually approved third party is both welcome and necessary to facilitate communication between us. We’d like to work with an individual or organization with experience successfully navigating complex issues through a Restorative or Transformative Justice lens. We would like a third party to allow us to move at the speed of trust, maintain the integrity of the process, help us understand how we may have contributed to the conditions that cause harm and address them if we haven’t already.
We’re aligned with creating safer spaces, becoming better listeners, and conducting business responsibly. We’re open to listening and willing to work with anyone who shares that agenda and those goals.
We’ve been learning a lot these past several months. One of our takeaways has been that we can only address what we’re aware of, and it’s our responsibility to become more aware.
Relationships with our artists have always been based on trust and an implicit understanding that we share common standards of behavior. By not explicitly making our expectations clear, having procedures in place to confirm our expectations are being met, or policy in place to address when those we work with fall short we’ve failed to bring our impact in alignment with our intention.
The artist partner standards and artist vetting practices we’re sharing today aren’t a point for point response to situations or people we’ve worked with, they reflect a larger effort to increase our awareness and prevent harm. These are living documents that will change and evolve as necessary. Special thanks to the resources throughout our community and across the country for your valuable insight and education, we appreciate you making us better.
Additionally, we're developing the protocol for following up on reports of misconduct by artists and their essential personnel, that we become aware of, in ways that center survivors.
These are early days in an ongoing process. If you want to talk, we’re listening.
Red flags that arise will be addressed on a case by case basis. We will not move forward in the signing of artists who are not in alignment with our core values and artist partner standards, which prohibit discriminatory practices, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse.
Significantly, we do not condone discriminatory practices, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse. If you engage in or are complicit in these forms of misconduct our relationship will be reevaluated and potentially concluded. Our community is important to us and we will not compromise their safety or tolerate their mistreatment in order to benefit ourselves or the artists we work with.
The updates we had hoped to share this week require some additional time. To give some context, we’re working on Artist Partner Standards, Artist Vetting Practices and the launch timeline for the newly formed Fifth Element Foundation. There isn’t a blueprint or existing model for some of this work we’ve embarked on but this process is a priority for us and sometimes will take longer than we would like. We look froward to sharing more of the work we’ve been doing in the coming weeks.
We’ve received some questions regarding our ongoing commitment to change. First, thanks to those of you who reached out. We have been working diligently, and communicating that would be helpful. It has taken us some time to thoughtfully consider all that’s been said and put together thoughtful solutions. We’re not trying to rush it so it looks good, we’re trying to get it as right as possible, and our intention is substantive change. While we had hoped for something sooner, we will be releasing our plans going forward by the end of this month.
In the meantime, here are some of the steps we’ve taken since our statement:
Hopefully you can appreciate the complexity and gravity of all the things we’re currently working on in concert during this unprecedented and challenging time. Transparency and communication with the community are important to us and getting good at it won’t happen overnight. With that being said, 80 days is too long. We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you.
Abuse of women is not acceptable and is not in alignment with our values.
The reports of abuse that have come to light this past week are not things that we’ve ever tacitly condoned or were previously aware of. We have taken the last few days to process these reports because we felt it was important to allow survivors the opportunity to speak and for us to listen, discuss and reflect before adding our voice to the discussion.
To the survivors in our community, we know you’ve been hurt; our community is not whole without you, or until you are whole. We’ve always sought to create an environment that is safe and inclusive, but this week has shown us where we have failed.
To abusers, racists, and those engaged in predatory behavior we don’t want you as artists, fans or affiliates and as we become aware of you, you will be held accountable.
We also need to hold ourselves accountable for writing off what we interpreted as an artist’s approach to humor and entertainment, when it actually harmed survivors and perpetuated an environment rife with misogyny. We apologize for the harm this has caused. We understand that we have a responsibility to be more intentional with our actions and our platform moving forward.
Since these reports began surfacing we’ve been listening, reflecting and engaging in conversation with our staff, artists, and community members to determine how we can proactively address racism, sexism, misogyny, and the toxic masculinity that pervades our culture. We cannot do that work alone and are aware that the solutions are as complex as the issues.
We have a long tradition of working with very intentional artists and rarely have ever felt the need to discuss what those intentions are. In listening and reflecting over the last few days, we acknowledge that we failed to not only vet the signing of Prof but also calling into question the intentions behind his music, messaging and content more strongly. We, like many others, separated the music from potential behavior. Thus, we were complicit in promoting and marketing music that perpetuates misogyny.
Effective immediately we have decided to stop, where we can, the release of the upcoming Powderhorn Suites album and end our relationship with Prof and Stophouse Music Group. We have also decided to end our working relationship with Dem Atlas, given recent reports of his behavior.
The work going forward begins with an unflinching look at how and where abusers live among us, and how we can best support survivors of abuse, but also what actionable steps can be taken to promote the safety and upliftment of Women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA community moving forward.
Additional immediate actions:
These actions are just the first step in what will be an ongoing process to do better and work with you to build the community we deserve.