Why Atlantic Records Should Be Ashamed

I was not going to address this. But I think that’s probably part of the challenge that many of us face and many of us will continue to face – the conspiracy of silence. All I could do last week when this story broke was head to my FB feed share the original post from our Facebook Page with a joking “redacted” as my sole comment.
So for context let’s catch you up on Danielle Bregoli AKA Bhad Bhabie AKA Miss Cash Me Outside. Also, Billboard has done a timeline of Danielle’s rise to “celebrity” status.

Ok then are you all caught up? No? No worries in the grand scheme of things it’s not that much to catch up on because if you think about it this is just another example in the long line of America showing her true fascination with Minstrelsy this time it’s just wrapped in a different type of rapper <— see what I did there. Let’s address why Atlantic Records should be ashamed.

I am not an idealogue. I understand that the music business and for that matter the United States of America was built and runs on pure unadulterated capitalism. But here’s where I take issue with you Atlantic, and granted I know that you are not the same Atlantic of Ertegun and Wexler. With this latest signing you seeem to be conducting business as Atlantic in name only. I like many others come from a time and space where your name and the name of those who raised you meant something. This has nothing to do with me being the old man in the club or being a prude, sure a lot of your younger artists are not for me and I respect that but your Legacy? Atlantic has one of the most storied musical legacy in the music business when it comes to Black Art and Artists. This legacy predates the formation of the company and goes all the way back to the stance Ahmet and Neushi’s father took at the White House regarding the treatment of Black Musicians. We’re talking 1930’s and 1940’s segregated Washington D.C. that these sons of a Turkish Diplomat were taking a stance for their fellow bretheren. No time for a history lesson here but my gracious the list of artists associated with Atlantic Records over the years and what they mean to Black Culture is almost peerless. You could start and stop with just Ray Charles but as we know the legacy of powerful, positive and progressive artist affiliated with Atlantic just goes on and on and on and on from there.

What’s Black Got To Do With It?

Everything and here’s why… this whole ascendancy to celebrity by Danielle Bregoli is predicated on a grotesque exaggeration of Blackness. This exaggerated notion of what is Blackness displayed by Bregoli provides the impetus for my direct corrolation to Minstrelsy. All the trappings are here: vernacular, dress, posturing and the media knows that’s what this country has been primed for more than ever since the ascendancy of “Reality Television”. Danielle Bregoli is 14 years old, born in 2003. She has really never known a world where there has not been some sort of Housewife, Bad Girls Club, some variation of the “Pick Me” Flavor or Love type offering and of course Maury. Listen I get it. My daughter is growing up in the same world and I’ve watched all these shows and probably even some stuff considered worse with her but to balance that out we’ve done many things not involving popular culture for balance. The other thing that I don’t want to get lost in this argument is that Danielle Bregoli’s exaggerated caricature of Blackness employs some of the most negatvie anti-social and by extension anti-Black behavior on display. This whole wild ride to the other side began because a mother sought the counsel of Dr. Phil because she was having issues with an out of control teen. As a parent I empathize but at the same time unless I’m unclear on how the law works now and what the age of consent is, I’m not going to then enter into contracts on behalf of my minor child to capitalize monetarily on behavior that disrespected me in the first place. Where dey do dat at?

You see as a part of my experience I’m afforded the opportunity to code switch at will like I did in the previous sentence. What experience you say? The experience of having a double consciousness, of being bilingual of having to view images day in and day out that at once co-opt, corrupt and commodify your culture. For anyone who’s been awake this is old news. But the news of what’s happening now is that it’s past time for people on platforms just like this one to stop being complicit in the demise of their own culture from the outside in. I’m not here to advocate a boycott of Atlantic Records or “Bhad Bhabie” as I shuffle through my Bhook Bhag. I don’t have time to get into how terrible “These Heaux” (is that title even grammatically correct?) is musically you can judge that for yourself here. I’m just someone who is here to serve notice as to what happens when we sit idly by and say nothing without even taking the time out for critical analysis. The bottom line is this whole phenomenon is Blackface without the burnt cork but Blackface nonetheless.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.