BMG has been exposed for signing Paris-based rapper Freeze Corleone despite allegedly knowing he was dropped by Universal Music Group because of Holocaust-denying and antisemitic lyrics.
According to a report from The New York Times published on Friday (February 3), internal documents showed that BMG’s French division weighed the financial benefits of signing Corleone in 2021 against his history of hate speech – and ultimately decided to sign him so long as they could bury the lyrics and hide their involvement.
Emails obtained by The Times showed BMG execs noting Corleone was “France’s fastest growing artist in the last two years” and would thus “really help us meet our revenue target.”
Another email said that “in order to mitigate the risk of possible controversy,” their contract would ensure BMG had the right to approve Corleone’s lyrics. It also added there should be “no BMG logo anywhere on the release.”
On the 2018 song “KKK,” Corleone raps about “Nazi vehicles” and calls himself a young Adolf Hitler.
On his 2020 Universal Music France album La Menace Fantôme, he includes lyrics that mention a “fraternity like Aryans.” Despite going double platinum, Universal soon dropped him because the album had “revealed and amplified unacceptable racist statements.”
BMG signed a $1million, one-album deal with Freeze Corleone in October 2021, but decided to cancel the contract three weeks later and just one day before releasing his first single. After a review of his past lyrics, BMG’s German team apparently told the French team that they needed to end the relationship immediately.
Responding to the new report, BMG issued a statement to Billboard.
“Today’s New York Times story confirms that as soon as senior BMG executives became aware of the historic allegations against the artist, it ended their relationship,” they said. “No record was released. BMG stands firm against anti-Semitism and hate.”
The news arrives just under a year after Capitol Records’ PR nightmare when they signed and then dropped A.I. rapper FN Meka amid major scrutiny.
Activist group Industry Blackout called for a public apology from Capitol Records just hours prior to the announcement ending its partnership with the project.
“While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is,” the group wrote in part.
“It is a direct insult to the Black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.”
Hours later, Capitol returned with a statement of its own that read: “CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately. We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it.
“We thank those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback in the past couple of days—your input was invaluable as we came to the decision to end our association with the project.”