Artists experiencing delays in their music projects dropping is a tale as old as time.
Back in 2013, Buzzfeed reported on the unfortunate reality of artists not being able to release their music including reasons like artists being mismanaged, the label focusing on competition, stalling on getting their music ready for radio, and more. But as a The Guardian report simply put it, “But to writers and artists, your songs are your babies. It’s only fair that you get them back if they’re not being looked after.”
The industry continues to evolve with the times, yet still musicians — especially Black women artists — are subjected to constant pushback from their labels. Oftentimes, they are left with limited options on how to resolve the issue such as trying to part ways amicably. Another way to musical freedom that can be quite a hassle is acquiring their master recordings. As previously reported by AfroTech, the likes of Anita Baker, Rihanna, Ciara, and more used their voices to earn back their masters.
Thankfully, with today’s high-level digital age, artists are able to vocalize to their fanbase their frustration about what they’re experiencing — bringing in more heat on the labels — whether it’s social media, interviews, etc.
Although the list is evergrowing, here are seven Black women artists who have been outspoken in their fight to have their art to be heard, and how some have even successfully taken action.
There was a period of time when SZA didn’t think “Ctrl” was going to see the light of day. In 2016, she said that she was quitting music and TDE’s president Punch could release her album ”if he ever feels like it,” according to UPROXX. Although the two times platinum album went on to be released in 2017 (thanks to the label taking the masters out of her safe), it wasn’t the end of her long hill battle.
The outlet reports that nearly four years later, SZA called out Punch for yet again allegedly failing to release her music.
“At this point y’all gotta ask punch. I’ve done all I can do,” the singer tweeted at the time.
Once again sleazy label men sabotaging their female artist's careers, and for what?
He retweeted some of the criticsm too, like he's proud of it. Disgusting af. #FreeSza pic.twitter.com/nXxHXlTpP2
— M³³³ (@LoveGalorde) August 20, 2020
Their exchanges via social media turned to her fans making #freesza become a trending topic.
As of now, “Ctrl”— including the deluxe version — is still her only studio album that’s out. Her upcoming sophomore album has been delayed.
Megan Thee Stallion
In Megan Thee Stallion’s recent L.A. Leakers freestyle, one of its standout lines was: “Got my label mad, but them n-ggas got to pay me, aye.”
As previously reported by AfroTech, the Houston rapper’s battle with 1501 Certified Entertainment dates back to 2020. On IG Live, she shared that the label wasn’t allowing her to release new music because of her request to renegotiate a contract that she signed at the age of 20. She explained via Twitter that at the time she “didn’t understand some of the verbiage.”
About two years later, CEO of 1501 Certified Entertainment Carl Crawford filed a countersuit against her. He alleged Megan Thee Stallion didn’t fulfill her contractual obligations, and claimed the label was entitled to a cut from her sponsorships, endorsements, and other business deals.
After a two-year legal battle, Megan Thee Stallion may finally be freed. HYPEBEAST reported that her lawyers are reportedly arguing that “Something For Thee Hotties“ meets the requirements of an album — which, if so, would fulfill her contract.
“Y’all know I always have problems with dropping my music under this label, all these games and having to go to court just to put out my art has been so stressful,” she tweeted ahead of her latest album “Traumazine.“ “Thank you hotties for rocking with me through the bullsh-t WE ALMOST OUT. LETS STAY FOCUSED AND RUN THIS LAST ONE UP.”
Y’all know I always have problems with dropping my music under this label,all these games and having to go to court just to put out my art has been so stressful. Thank you hotties for rocking with me through the bullshit WE ALMOST OUT 👏🏾 LETS STAY FOCUSED AND RUN THIS LAST ONE UP
— TINA SNOW (@theestallion) August 11, 2022
Before going independent, Tinashe faced challenges with her former label RCA Records — which she left in 2019. According to Daily Mail, the singer claimed the label “‘always low-key sabotaged’ her ‘real art sh-t'” including changing the album cover of her 2014 debut, “Aquarius.” After what’s described as appearing to be a “fractious” seven-year relationship, Rolling Stone reported that due to creative differences the two went on to have a respectful separation.
Recently, Normani showed via Twitter that she’s reached her limit with being hassled about the status of her new music.
just shut the fuck up https://t.co/puMktqrUNR
— Normani (@Normani) August 9, 2022
The singer’s anger was directed at Twitter users claiming that she didn’t have any “motivation” or “hunger” anymore for the making of her debut album, per Billboard.
While people are pointing fingers at Normani for the halt in her music career, there has also been alleged blame placed on her label RCA Records for possible sabotage, similarly to SZA and Tinashe.
The way @RCARecords fumble the bag (seemingly purposely) of R&B artists is disgusting. Normani, Tinashe, now SZA? We see what you're doing.
Y'all are disgraceful. https://t.co/9tbKcd5PUQ
— K.Jr. (@unpackingourish) July 21, 2022
A set-in-stone release date for her album has yet to be released despite past promises of it being nearly done. Normani’s latest drop was in March with her single, “Fair.”
During her interview with The Terrell Grice Show in April, Chlöe gave an initial update that her album was just getting mixed and needed a few more features.
“It feels very summery,” she said when asked if the debut would be a fall release.
With about a month until the hot season comes to a close, the “Surprise” singer isn’t so sure anymore.
In a now-deleted tweet, she wrote, “At this point, I don’t know,” when asked about when her album will finally drop. Currently, Chlöe is signed to Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records.
It appears that the album delay is far from Chlöe’s first rodeo with the negative side of the music industry. Along with her update on the album, she shared how artists who produce their own music like herself don’t get paid much for their work.
Ashanti became the R&B princess of Murder Inc. Records in the 2000s. But after the label’s drug lord controversy, she eventually parted ways in 2009.
During an IG Live in 2020, Fat Joe revealed to Ashanti that Irv Gotti wanted Jennifer Lopez to sing on the hook of their hit, “What’s Luv.”
“He stayed pulling records or trying to pull records from me,” she said, according to TMZ.
Despite her haters and facing sabotage, Ashanti went on to regain ownership of her masters in 2021, as previously shared by AfroTech.
“I have an amazing legal team, and I got my first record deal when I was 14 years old, so understanding and seeing how things have changed so much from then to now and conceptually understanding what you’re signing is so imperative, it’s so important nowadays,” the Grammy-award winning singer shared on The Tamron Hall Show, according to Hip-Hop Wired. “The fact that I’ll be able to re-record my first album, and put everything together.”
In 2020, Kelis called out record labels.
“If the music industry wants to support Black lives, labels and platforms can start with amending contracts, distributing royalties, diversifying boardrooms and retroactively paying back all the Black artists, and their families, they have built their empires on,” she posted on Instagram, according to Revolt.
Her former labels include Virgin Records, Arista Records, Jive Records, and Interscope Records.
As previously reported by AfroTech, Kelis has spoken out about not seeing profits from her albums “Kaleidoscope” and “Wanderland.”
“Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it,'” she told The Guardian.
The issue was revisited following her being sampled on Beyoncé’s “Energy” without being included as a contributor (The sample has since been removed from the “Renaissance” album).