Beyoncé is running #MeToo checks on collaborators – but can she stick to her word and will the music industry follow suit?
From Normani working with Chris Brown, Doja Cat working with Dr Luke and Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Kodack Black, it’s apparent that the music industry’s problematic relationship with sexual assault and abuse did not end with the rise of #MeToo.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, on the other hand, is supposedly putting her foot down. On Tuesday, The Sun reported that Beyoncé is vetting everyone involved in her upcoming album Renaissance, which is set to drop on July 29. She has allegedly turned down two high-profile artists from appearing on the record. The decision was made after her former collaborator, music producer Noel Fisher, who co-wrote the Grammy award-winning hit “Drunk in Love”, was charged with rape.
Fisher, also known as Detail, was arrested in August 2020 on 15 counts of sexual assault and five counts of felony assault for alleged attacks between 2010 and 2018. He is being held on bail for £5.3 million and continues to deny all claims of sexual abuse. Though he has not been found guilty, along with the two other artists she rejected, Beyoncé is attempting to send a message.
When announcing the new album on Instagram and Twitter, Beyonce wrote, “my intention (with the album) was to create a safe space, a place without judgement. A place to scream, release, feel free.” Through this stance, Queen B is making it clear that she is not all talk and no action.
However, both critics and lovers of Beyoncé aren’t convinced by her new positioning. “Break My Soul”, the house anthem and lead single for her new record, was composed by herself, Tricky Stewart and alleged abuser The-Dream. The-Dream, whose real name is Terius Nash, turned himself in to the police in 2014 for violently attacking his ex-girlfriend, Lydia Nam, while she was pregnant. He faced charges of misdemeanours for assault, strangulation, child endangerment and reckless endangerment, but ultimately those charges were dropped in 2015.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to domestic violence, the criminal justice system often fails victims. In the United States, the Police Response to Domestic Violence 2006-2015 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that between 582,000 instances of domestic violence were underreported nationwide. The reason for this is evident as we continue to see an alarming drop in domestic abuse charges.
Additionally, Twitter users were jokingly rejoicing about Beyonce’s stand against abusers, remarking, “Finally a Jay-Z free album.” Since the release of the Surviving R Kelly docuseries, which followed the tangled history of allegations against the musician R Kelly, there have been reports that Jay-Z knew about R Kelly’s predatory behaviour. One of the most damaging pieces of evidence comes from a resurfaced 2002 interview between Wendy Williams and the rapper Nas, where Nas angrily calls out Jay-Z for continuing to work with R Kelly, even though he was aware of his interest in teenage girls.
Whether you see Beyoncé as a woman of her word or a hypocrite, attempting to protect her brand image (and failing low-key), her stance on the matter is arguably significant. With the continued #MeToo backlash we’ve seen through the Depp v Heard trial, Beyoncé’s stance could promote a type of consciousness-raising among a generation of musicians evidently suffering from cultural amnesia.