India.Arie appeared on The Daily Show Monday to discuss her recent push to have her music removed from Spotify amid their continued backing of Joe Rogan. However, as she tells host Trevor Noah, her decision ultimately wasn’t about the controversial podcast host at all.
“I have to say that asking for my music to be pulled from Spotify in protest doesn’t actually serve me. Because now my music, if things work out the way I want, my music won’t be heard on the biggest streaming platform,” she said. “But I did it in protest just because I felt like my dignity was being … I felt like I was being disrespected.”
Arie previously asked for her music to be pulled from the platform after artists like Neil Young did so in protest of The Joe Rogan Experience, on which the host perpetuated Covid-19 misinformation. “I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons OTHER than his Covid interviews,” she wrote on Instagram. “FOR ME IT’S ALSO HIS language around race.” Rogan has used the n-word several times on his show over the years.
But, as she previously told Rolling Stone, Rogan is not the only issue here. “For me, it wasn’t even about exposing Joe Rogan,” she said. “It was about exposing what it’s like to be an artist of color in the business. At the end of the day, it’s about wanting to be treated well. It’s about my integrity, my dignity, and hoping to create more of that for other artists, too. My dream is that what I’m doing will work, and there will be systemic changes [in the industry].”
Arie opened the conversation Monday with a larger discussion about the mistreatment and underpayment of artists enabled by the streaming economy, then spent a great deal of her conversation with Trevor Noah discussing the role of conscious and unconscious racism. “For me, when I think about Joe Rogan, I think that he is being consciously racist. He knew that [saying the n-word] was inappropriate, and I think the fact that he did it repeatedly, and was conscious, and knew, I think that is being racist,” Arie said.
“I don’t like even saying that because I’m a sensitive, old soul, and I want to believe the best in people, so when I first heard his apology, my instinct is to go, ‘He tried.’” she continued. “What I really think is that he was being consciously racist, and it makes me wonder what he talks like behind closed doors. If you have even a consciousness where you can call Black people apes, there’s something there.”
At the moment, Arie’s music is still readily available on Spotify while Universal Motown and BMG block her from making the same move as Young. While the legal battle begins, she doesn’t want the point to be lost in translation. “This Joe Rogan conversation is what people are looking at. But behind the scenes, my journey is still continuing. I’m still getting my music off,” Arie told Rolling Stone. “They can make the story about him, and I get it. But it’s really about the same fight behind the scenes, a Black artist trying to be treated fairly, because [my former label] straight up said no.”