Neo-soul singer India.Arie joined Daily Show host Trevor Noah on Monday to reflect on the decision to remove her music from Spotify, and to clarify her stance on the streamer’s controversial host, Joe Rogan.
“I have learned in my life to make room and forgiveness for people who are unconsciously racist because our whole society is built on racist concepts,” the Grammy award-winning singer told Noah during the 30-minute conversation.
“I think that [Joe Rogan] is being consciously racist. … The fact that he [said the N-word] repeatedly and was conscious and knew — I think that is being racist. And I don’t like even saying that because I’m a sensitive, old soul, and I want to believe the best in people.”
Rogan apologized earlier this month for his repeated use of the N-word over the years on The Joe Rogan Experience, after Arie posted a video montage of him using the racial slur roughly two dozen times. In his public apology, Rogan attempted to explain his reasoning for using the N-word, saying, “I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.” He added that he is “not racist,” but acknowledged that he “fucked up.”
“When I first heard his apology, my instinct is to go, ‘He tried,’” Arie said. “But when I go deeper and ask myself what I really think… is that he was being consciously racist and it makes me wonder what he talks like behind closed doors.”
Arie was among one of the first musicians to cut ties with Spotify after rock pioneer, Neil Young, called out the streaming service for allowing Rogan to spread what Young considers misinformation about COVID on his podcast. Arie said her decision to remove her music was also because of Rogan’s “language around race.” The singer added that she’s “still in a fight” to get her music off the platform, “but that’s a whole other conversation.”
Noah’s interview with Arie arrives one week after The Daily Show host addressed the controversy surrounding Rogan’s use of the N-word and a clip in which Rogan compared Black people at a movie theater to the Planet of the Apes. In the six-minute video, Noah said, “When Joe Rogan says, ‘I wasn’t being racist. I was just being entertaining.’ – No, Joe, I think you were using racism to try to be entertaining.”
In turn, Noah received backlash from Rogan supporters who called him a hypocrite for not defending Rogan who they said “stood up for him” when Noah faced criticism over tweets, which some people called anti-Semitic and sexist.
Like Noah, Arie has been criticized by Rogan fans, who she said have been flooding her direct messages and comments with racist and misogynistic insults. “That says to me that these people who want to defend Joe Rogan think that this is the right language to do it,” she said. “So Joe Rogan needs to do more than say ‘Oh yeah. I’m sorry.’ If you really want to lead your listeners down a new path, then lead them.”
Arie added that she wants Rogan to invite “some of our greatest Black female thinkers around race on his show to have those messy conversations.”
When asked if Rogan is her “mortal enemy,” Arie chuckled, saying “no” and that her main beef is with Spotify and “its treatment of artists’ rights.” She added that the streaming giant pays the average artist roughly .003 percent to .005 percent, or “a fraction of a penny,” of the profits for streaming their music.
“Spotify is not only the biggest player, but they’re also the lowest payer,” she said of the service with more than 159 million subscribers. Representatives from Spotify and Joe Rogan did not immediately respond to Los Angeles’ requests for comment.
Arie added that asking for her music to be pulled from the platform “doesn’t actually serve” her.
“Because now my music… won’t be heard on the biggest streaming platform,” Arie said. “But I did it in protest because… I felt like I was being disrespected… I thought the only way to affirm my dignity and my integrity is to be honest about how I feel.”
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