Kanye West has a storied history when it comes to offering his opinion on the music and tech industry, specifically relating to Apple and its battle for exclusive content. This time, West took time during a performance as part of his Saint Pablo tour to address the race for exclusive content between Apple and Tidal, slamming the entire station. And I actually agree with him, as scary as that is to say.
Prior to the performance of the song “Pop Style” last night in Seattle, Kanye discussed what went into the song originally. “Pop Style,” for those unfamiliar, is a song off Drake’s latest album “Views,” though an early version of the track featured a verse from Kanye as well as Jay Z. According to West’s monologue at last night’s show, however, one of the reasons for him and Jay Z not appearing on the album version is because of Views being an Apple Music exclusive.
Jay Z, of course, is the owner of streaming music service Tidal, while Drake has been a supporter of Apple Music from the start. According to Kanye, Jay Z originally claimed that he didn’t want to be featured on “Pop Style” out of respect for Meek Mill, who Drake has a long-running feud with. When Kanye offered to call up Drake and Meek Mill and resolve the issue, though, the reason for Jay Z not appearing on the track turned into a variety of other reasons. Kanye explains it best (via Billboard):
“Then Jay thought about it, and out of respect for Meek Mill he didn’t want to be on the track. And I said, ‘Look, I’ll call Drake, I’ll call Meek, I’ll call y’all, we gotta squash this sh-t, we gotta let people have this song.
But then it went out of that and went into some Tidal, some political sh-t, some sh-t about percentages on songs. I can’t take this sh-t, bro. I wasn’t on this song ’cause of Hov. Cause of this Tidal-Apple bullsh-t.
And this sh-t be getting me tight every time I perform this motherf—er. That y’all didn’t get what y’all were supposed to get with me and Drake on this song ’cause of some Tidal – Apple bullsh-t.”
Essentially what we have here are two rappers on either side of the fence — Jay Z with Tidal and Drake with Apple Music — and Kanye stuck in the middle. Kanye is one of the many artists who own a portion of Tidal, but seems to be of the opinion that the business-aspect of music streaming is hurting the creativity side, as am I.
Kanye has spoken out about this issue before via his infamous Twitter rants. Over the summer, the rapper discussed the issue on Twitter, saying that the “beef” between Tidal and Apple Music was hurting the music industry before calling for a meeting between Tim Cook, Jimmy Iovine, and Larry Jackson, as well as Jay Z, Drake, and Scooter Braun
Ultimately because of this drama between Apple and Tidal, Kanye says that we won’t be getting a Watch The Throne 2 album because of the Apple Music and Tidal drama hurting his and Jay Z’s relationship. Personally, this is something I agree with Kanye on. Music is music and the fact that the race for exclusive content between streaming services is preventing collaborations from happening is simply and matter of factly not good for the listener.
The music should come first, not the business. And this is coming from someone who isn’t exactly thrilled to agree with Kanye West on something. The issue here, however, is how do we resolve this problem? Apple has been rumored in the past to have held interest in acquiring Tidal, though the company has denied that. Certainly an acquisition would ultimately solve the issue, it’s not necessarily the best way to go about it.
Universal Music Group earlier this year stated that it would no longer negotiate with streaming services for exclusive rights after getting embarrassingly burned by Frank Ocean. More labels taking this approach would lend a hand in solving the issues currently facing streaming music services.
Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine himself has said that the ultimate goal of Apple Music is to provide music fans the best way to listen to music possible, but the situation between Kanye West and Jay Z is evidence that it’s not necessarily succeeding at that goal. Sure the Kanye West and Jay Z issue is the first we’ve heard publicly about, it’s impossible to know what else has gone on behind the scenes where someone with a big-mouth like Kanye isn’t involved.
Sure the industry surrounding rap music has always been somewhat like this, with artists having feuds with one another and verses being cut from tracks at the last minute. But this seems significantly different to me personally. Less exclusive content would be the beginning of solving the issue, but wouldn’t entirely fix it. And to be frank, I’m not sure what will. Streaming music services lately have turned the music industry into a more toxic environment than it ever has been.