Trevor Noah scrapped his whole post-Super Bowl Daily Show on Monday night (Feb. 14) to do a deep dive with India.Arie about her decision to leave Spotify, her real feelings about the streamer’s controversial host Joe Rogan, and why she thinks despite his apology, she considers him “consciously racist.”
Off the bat, Noah asked Arie point blank if she considers Rogan to be her “mortal enemy.” The simple answer was no. “I don’t even know him, but my conversation, of course, has been about Spotify and its treatment of artists … I don’t have any mortal enemies,” she said. Her interview comes two weeks after she joined Neil Young and other artists in walking away from Spotify by asking for her music and podcasts to be pulled from the popular streaming service. At the time, Arie explained that she found Rogan “problematic for reasons other than his COVID interviews,” adding, “it’s also his language around race.”
The conversation with Noah also came a week after Arie pointedly highlighted edited footage of YouTube clips showing Rogan using the N-word roughly two dozen times, as well as clips in which Rogan appeared to share an anecdote in which he compared being around Black people at a movie theater to Planet of the Apes.
Arie told Noah that the media has twisted her actions into a pitched battle between herself and the comedian, known lately for hosting guests on his podcast, who join him in promoting dangerous or erroneous information about COVID-19. Noah suggested that the part of the conversation that got lost was Arie advocating for having more power on the platform that she and other artists have helped create with their music, rather than a media-manufactured beef with the former Fear Factor host.
“I did it because my dignity … I felt like I was being disrespected,” Arie said of her decision to ask that her music be removed, adding that the only way she saw to affirm her dignity and integrity was to make that hard decision. Sadly, she didn’t expect anyone to respond given her years of experience with the powers-that-be not listening to her.
As for the Rogan beef, Arie has said in previous interviews she appreciates that the MMA-loving podcast host apologized and said he’s learned he cannot drop the N-word in an attempt to be edgy and that she wouldn’t necessarily label him a racist.
“I think there are two things that we consider when we talk about racism: one is conscious racism and the other is unconscious racism,” she said when Noah asked if she still doesn’t consider Rogan a racist. Explaining that in her life she’s learned to “make room and forgiveness” for people who are unconsciously racist because “our whole society is built on racist concepts. So if you’re born into it, if you’re not actively working to not be racist, then you have some of it in you.”
Then there’s conscious racism, where you know what you’re doing when you do it, and if you keep doing it, is that when we call you a racist? “So if you know you’re doing it and you keep doing it, I would say that is a racist,” she said. “So, for me, when I think about Joe Rogan, I think … that he is being consciously racist.” Plus, she added, saying the N-word and then apologizing or saying you didn’t understand the context in which you were using the slur doesn’t fly for her in this case.
“I don’t believe that. I think he knew there was no context. I think that’s why he was saying it, because it got a rise out of people. That’s why he would say it,” she said of Rogan. “He knew that it was inappropriate. And I think the fact that he did it repeatedly and was conscious and knew, I think that is being racist.” Describing herself as a forgiving soul, Arie said that when she went back to look at Rogan’s apology, she was unswayed. “He was being consciously racist and it makes me wonder what he talks like behind closed doors.”
In the end, Arie — who has gotten a flood of racist and misogynistic DMs and comments from Rogan’s fans — said she doesn’t think Rogan even fully understands what he’s done, and would not like him to be pushed into a less transparent podcasting service. “Joe Rogan needs to do more than go, ‘Oh yeah, I’m sorry.’ If you want to really lead your listeners down a new path, then lead them, to the point where they don’t feel that is the right language to come in my DMs and call me an ‘N-word’ in defense of him,” she said.
The singer also admitted that despite her years in the spotlight, she was nervous to just speak to Noah without the benefit of using her voice to sing, but that she felt compelled to do so so that she could underline how unfair the power balance is between streamers like Spotify and the artists whose music listeners flock to listen to. “Spotify is not only the biggest player, but they’re also the lowest payer,” she said of the service with more than 159 million subscribers.
“You listen — just talking about Spotify in particular — you listen, we get .003 to .005% of a penny. A fraction of a penny,” she said of the artist’s per share stream payment, adding that such low pay has been making the lives of music producers and songwriters “unlivable” for a lot of her peers. And even with all the publicity her move has inspired, Arie said that pulling her music off Spotify “doesn’t actually serve me … because now my music won’t be heard on the biggest streaming platform.”
Ironically, the singer said that despite being used to her voice not being the loudest in the room, even with the global publicity the Rogan flap has generated, she’s still fighting to get the music removed from Spotify.
Watch the full interview below.