- The London-based DJ, promoter and radio presenter said he is no longer comfortable putting energy into a company that doesn't support Black and female artists sufficiently.
Raj Chaudhuri, AKA Raji Rags, has announced his departure from R&S Records over differences with label head Renaat Vandepapeliere.
Chaudhuri, who handled A&R for the long-running imprint for more than a year, said in a statement posted on social media that he parted ways with R&S after learning that Vandepapeliere used "dehumanising language about a Black artist." The offensive comments were part of a conversation between the R&S cofounder and Los Angeles musician Eddington Again that came to light last month. Screenshots of that correspondence showed Vandepapeliere brushing aside Again's concerns of racial equality and diverse representation—Again had spoken up about the shortage of Black and women artists on R&S and the label's public silence on the Black Lives Matter movement, but was met with dismissal from Vandepapeliere.
In a statement this week, Chaudhuri raised the same issues as Again. The London-based artist explained how the absence of women and people of colour on the R&S roster made working for the label untenable. Chaudhuri added that he was no longer comfortable "putting energy into a company that doesn't support Black and women artists sufficiently." He said he started working at R&S with the goal of "adding much needed diversity to the label's output," noting how a charity compilation that he put together earlier this year "had more Black artists cumulatively than the last 20 years of R&S' release output."
Chaudhuri, who previously worked at Boiler Room as head of music, also described plans for an R&S series that would predominantly feature Black women. Projects like these suggested "the future of the label was shifting," he wrote, before warning that "none of this will sadly happen anymore."
"Renaat's positions on everything from the roots of techno, to Black Lives Matter, to charity initiatives, to diversity, to basic decency when speaking about/with artists, are completely opposite to where I stand," the statement said. "I cannot work with Renaat when I know that his views on race and gender are not as progressive as some of the music that has been released on his record label," it concluded.
R&S Records has not yet responded to RA's request for comment.
Speaking to RA, Chaudhuri added this: "I, for the record, would like to state that I do not have a bad word to say against Andy Whittaker—the label manager. From my dealings with him, I only had positive experiences. I share the same belief as many R&S artists and people close to this situation. If R&S was run solely by Andy, the whole label and company would be in a much better position both financially and morally."
Eddington Again, however, has taken issue with Whittaker. Early this month on Twitter, Again wrote: "No one from R&S including Andy who's known about this the whole time has yet to contact me to say anything. This is how that label is run and has always been."
Many industry players have applauded Chaudhuri's decision, including CTM Festival curator and DJ Michail Stangl who wrote on Twitter that the R&S cofounder treated Chaudhuri in an "appalling" way. Stangl, whose tweet has since been deleted, also described Vandepapeliere as "racist," adding that "him and the label have no space in our community."
Some artists with releases on R&S have also spoken out on the matter. Producers Lone and Djrum expressed support for Chaudhuri's statement on social media while DJ/producer Afriqua, AKA Adam Longman Parker, gave RA the following statement: "R&S released my album Colored which is devoted to the celebration of Black music. I had a very favorable contract and they invested generously in the project. I've since moved on from the label due to what I felt was a lack of vision, but while they may be out of touch, they're not racist. Don't confuse ignorance for malice. I hope R&S use recent events as an opportunity to learn and refine the quality of their leadership to a level worthy of their legacy." Meanwhile, Paul White simply told RA that he "condemns racism and sexism in any shape or form," while Tale Of Us said they had no comment.
As one of the most visible labels in dance music, R&S has long commanded a loyal following but Vandepapeliere's actions have frustrated many in the club community. The cofounder has since apologised for his remarks with Eddington Again in a public post, but many in the industry say it's imperative for labels, booking agencies and other businesses to engage with issues of racism and diversity rather than apologise and move on.
Commenting on the matter, the Manchester producer Northworks had this to say on Twitter: "I've been an @randsrecords fan since I was 14 years old, so the behaviour towards @eddingtonagain has been really disappointing to see."
Regarding Vandepapeliere's derogatory language, Midland said on Twitter: "It is totally unacceptable and fucked up that Eddington has had to go through all of this over the last weeks and continues to be mocked by Renaat, and that people have used the nuances of translation to excuse the use of language that is straight up racist."
Going forward, it remains to be seen whether the experiences of Again and Chaudhuri will impact R&S' popularity. Responding to Vandepapeliere's interaction with Again, the producer Sam Interface, who recently dropped his first solo EP on R&S, wrote on Twitter: "It left me feeling embarrassed to be associated with the brand and definitely not wanting to promote the record."
Update, October 20th: Forest Drive West has announced that he will no longer be working with R&S in light of Vandepapeliere's language and Chaudhuri's departure from the label. The popular London producer, veteran of labels like Livity Sound and Delsin, announced his decision via Instagram, stating all royalties from his 2020 R&S 12-inch, Terminus, will be donated to the Stephen Lawrence Trust.
Update: This piece was updated on December 10th to reflect the fact that Michail Stangl's tweet has been deleted.