How many credible accusations does Chris Brown have to rack up to get music stars to stop collaborating with him?

(Content warning for discussion of sexual violence throughout)

The short film: Chris Brown was charged with rape. Again.

Last seen he was arrested in Paris but was released soon after and the charges fell. Well, sort of. He has just failed to appear at subsequent hearings in France, and the case probably died on the vine. It was in 2019.

His new accuser is seeking $20 million in damages, claiming in December 2020 Brown lured her to Sean “Diddy” Combs’ yacht in Miami with the pretext of discussing his musical career. There, she claims that Brown drugged and raped her, and would later sexually harass her at supposedly business meetings.

The language of due process and the presumption of innocence demands that we use all derivations of words such as charge Where alleged. There might be an argument that we might jump to conclusions, based on Brown’s confirmed behavior. But damn, the boss looks us straight in the eye. This model tells us he’s getting away with it the same way R. Kelly has for decades.

I don’t want to focus on Chris Brown anymore, because that’s just a waste of saliva. He borders on being a villain; his entire career resurgence — after what he did to Rihanna — is based on personalizing his public image as a real bad boy with the moves (and self-tuned pipes). Instead, I want to shine a light on the dozens of people who have helped him since he assaulted Rihanna. It takes a village to let a predator off the hook, or the music industry in this case.

Available data is depressing: based on Chartmasters data list of most listened artists on Spotify (regularly updated), Brown ranks 34th based on her top tracks alone, with over 13.7 billion streams at press time. Add another 7.8 billion streams from tracks in which he is a featured artist. He is above Beyoncé, above Adele, above the Beatles and above Gaga. A lot of this is aided by his play of Spotify, releasing albums with over 40 tracks that his goofy fans will play on repeat just so he can later brag about scoring another platinum album. Do not forget, it’s the fool who thinks that winning a Grammy is something to brag about. But that’s not really the point, it’s just a mediocre artist being mediocre and greedy, and Spotify allowing it.

Chartmasters has another useful resource, a data tool that allows you to break down and count an artist’s Spotify streams. The data on Brown shows that what has really has pushed his career forward, year after year, charge after charge and trial after trial, is that he can always count on his presence in the singles of other stars. He ranks sixth on featured streams alone, based on the Chartmasters list, but also, most of his streams on Spotify as a lead have had contributions from other artists, including two mixtapes by collaboration with Tyga and Young Thug.

Mainstream music collaborations are all about harnessing synergies and leveraging each other’s influence, primarily to fill Spotify airtime and playlists. They have as much artistic integrity as a Wall-Mart promotional coupon. But they allowed Chris Brown to stay there, resuscitate him through a string of hits and hits close enough that he didn’t learn a single lesson.

Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Lil’ Dicky, Rita Ora, Nicki Minaj, Usher, J. Balvin, Wisin & Yandel, Future, Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris, ZAYN, G-Eazy and above all justin bieber. They did it. They’re the ones who should start apologizing (you don’t have to a funny SNL rap against sexism if you keep defending Brown, Wayne Carter) and they’re the ones who could throw him down the drain. Because let’s face it, as Claude once said of Kanye fans, some consumers are too cynical to let ethics get in the way of their entertainment.

But again, I remembered that most of the people above are crap themselves. The music industry is even more desperate than Hollywood.


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