Capitol CEO Explained to Executives Why XXXTentacion Was Worth Signing Despite Abuse Allegations

The last we heard about XXXTentacion, the rising rapper who was
charged with beating and strangling his pregnant girlfriend in

October 2016
, he was hit with seven new felonies related to
witness tampering.

Despite the horrific details of his ex-girlfriend’s testimony,
plus the fact that he is alleged to have pressured her to cease
participating in the case, XXXTentacion (real name Jahseh
Onfroy) has been consistently supported by his label Capitol
Records. As of December 2017, the artist was on a strict

house arrest
so he could visit a local recording studio in
order to fulfill his contract, according to TMZ.

The rapper was
signed to
Caroline Records, which is owned by Capitol, in
October 2017, after his first full-length album (put out
through Empire Distribution) debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard
200. It was a deal reportedly worth $6 million. That same month
Onfroy made
confusing claims
on his Instagram, writing that he was
“terminating” his deal with Capitol, but a representative for
the rapper told SPIN that he was
still signed
to Caroline/Capitol.

But according to an article in
the LA Times
, not everyone at Capitol was happy
about signing Onfroy. Reporter Gerrick D. Kennedy writes:

Indeed, Onfroy’s arrival at CMG incensed numerous staffers,
according to four sources with knowledge of the signing, and
it came up at a routine staff meeting with Capitol president
Steve Barnett and top executives. In the meeting, two of the
sources said, Barnett told executives that Onfroy’s surging
popularity would help the company have a bigger market share
in hip-hop and acknowledged the controversy around the
artist, encouraging those with concerns to voice them.

Just today in an interview
with Variety
, Barnett was asked about his thoughts
on the #MeToo campaign. “I don’t remember an instance where
someone who worked with me brought that to my attention ever,”
he said. “That’s not to say it’s a perfect world in music.”
Clearly, based on Barnett’s statements, instances of harassment
and assault at work do not extend to the artists Capitol signs.
Later, in a question about CMG’s renewed focus on rap,
XXXTentacion’s presence on Capitol’s payroll is not even
mentioned by Barnett or the interviewer.

“This is a case of a bunch of rich white people trying to take
advantage of a black artist who is troubled,” a “frustrated
industry veteran” told the LA Times. And considering
Steve Barnett is also the type of person to
casually visit
plantations for fun, his real interest in
promoting black artists needs to be further scrutinized.

Correction: An earlier version of this story called
Barnett Capitol’s president. He is actually
CEO/Chairman.

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