With the internet busy hyperventilating over the Drake/Meek Mill conflict, another clash unexpectedly broke out on the hip hop scene this week. CyHi The Prince, a rapper signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D music imprint since 2010, announced that he’d parted ways with the label this month. CyHi, who did not release an album during his five years under Kanye’s leadership, had some less than positive things to say about his former employers. In a track released yesterday titled Elephant in the Room, CyHi aimed some pretty aggressive barbs at his former boss and label-mates such as “And there ain’t gon’ be no new Yeezy album/ Cos he in the trunk with his mouth taped and his wrists wrapped.” The track bluntly makes CyHi’s frustrations with the label clear, complaining of a lack of support that held his career back. He may be the loudest but he’s not the first to voice concerns about G.O.O.D Music’s commitment to its lesser known acts. Common and Kid Cudi voiced similar complaints after they parted ways with Kanye. Which begs the question, is G.O.O.D Music letting down its artists?
CyHi’s main grievance appears to be that the label focused on a small group of acts at the expense of others. On Elephant in the Room he explicitly refers to a 2012 issue of Complex Magazine in which eight GM acts and Kanye himself appeared on the front with the noticeable absence of CyHi. It’s not hard to see why a rapper struggling to break through might perceive this as a slight. Overall Elephant in the Room seems like an angry unleashing of tension rather than an outright diss track, the threats of violence come across as tongue in cheek, although whether the targets will see it this way is unclear. The song has a joking quality to it but evidently CyHi has some serious misgivings about his time at GM to air such criticism publicly. CyHi also gives the impression that the long wait for his studio debut is at least partly due to the negligence of those in charge at the label.
Going after one of the biggest and most powerful stars in hip hop seems like a risky move on CyHi’s part but artists have left the label citing a lack of support before. Rapper Common enjoyed success with gm shortly after it was created in 2004 with his album Be in 2005. However, his latest album, 2014’sNobody’s Smiling ,was released on a separate Def Jam imprint and Common has stated he’s no longer a GM artist. The veteran rapper said that Kanye didn’t have the time to provide the level of support he wanted for his music and he decided he would be better off working with other collaborators. Unlike CyHi though, there was no public fallout around the spit and Common has stressed his closeness to Kanye and willingness to work with GM acts. However, his reasons for leaving essentially echo CyHi’s claims that Kanye wasn’t around for his acts. Common is established enough to be diplomatic, CyHi may feel he hasn’t got so much reason to be forgiving.
Kid Cudi also decided to move on from GM due to differences with management. Cudi explained in 2013 that he felt he wanted to break out in his own direction and focus on his own projects rather than go along with the GM family. Speaking about the 2012 album Cruel Summer, which included all GM members, Cudi said that he couldn’t really connect with most of the material and felt that his sound was too different to what the label was looking to put out. Like Common, Kid Cudi has not publicly criticised the label or Kanye but put the split down to artistic choice.
G.O.O.D Music clearly has a policy of concentrating on a few artists at a time. In its early days it was Common and John Legend. These days Big Sean and Pusha T seem to be benefiting from the spotlight the most. When the label’s fully behind you, it works. Both Pusha and Sean have enjoyed success in recent years, critically and commercially. According to CyHi’s perspective though, for the artists in in the background it’s not so great. Additionally, the biggest pull to signing with GM has to be the chance to work with one of hip hops most prolific and successful producers in Kanye West. But Kanye has his own projects besides being attached to a load more outside of GM. Artists may be disappointed to find that the boss isn’t around to help quite as much as they’d like.
But GM defenders might argue that CyHi would have been better off waiting his turn. Big Sean signed with the label in 2007 but his first album wasn’t released until 2011. Considering his success in the last few years, he’s probably not in a rush to start squabbling with Kanye over the delay.
Ultimately the inner politics of a record label is inevitably a murky business. Everyone has their perspective on what’s going on, who’s being ignored and whose at fault when an artist’s career stalls. Acts falling out with their record labels is hardly a rare occurrence and the break up often involves accusations that artists didn’t receive enough support. We know CyHi’s version of why his career didn’t work out but until we get Kanye’s side it’s hard to know what to believe. Whether West will respond to Elephant in the Room is uncertain, he’s hardly a stranger to criticism and he doesn’t have lot to lose by ignoring it. Saying that though, the verses about kidnapping him and “bitch-slapping his wife,” although tongue in cheek, may be enough to provoke a reaction from a man whose hardly known for shying away from controversy.
It does seem that in CyHi”s case that others enjoyed greater support at his expense. But all labels have their failures and relationships with artists don’t always end on the best of terms. Focusing on your most commercially viable acts is natural and as long as Pusha T and Big Sean remain happy at G.O.O.D Music, Kanye probably won’t be losing much sleep. CyHi’s has aired his criticisms aggressively but that might be a tactical move. For an artist who’s just split with a big label without releasing an album, he’s succeeded in getting a lot of attention for himself. Plus there’s the possibility that GM decided it just wasn’t working out. Being dropped isn’t exactly great news for your career. Coming out guns blazing might just be a way to save face. Whatever CyHi’s motives, now he’s got his frustrations on record, he can focus on moving his career forward.