In October, former R&S Records A&R Raj Chaudhuri parted ways with the label following CEO Renaat Vandepapeliere‘s dispute with one-time signee Eddington Again. Chaudhuri is now suing the label for unfair dismissal, also alleging racial discrimination and harassment.
According to RA, the 40-page U.K. employment tribunal claim details Chaudhuri’s business relationship with R&S from May 2019 to September 2020. It recounts that Chaudhuri signed artists from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Portugal in the beginning of his A&R role while Vandepapeliere had been taking an extended leave.
When Vandepapeliere resumed his duties, however, Chaudhuri said he found himself at odds with the label boss other times he tried to sign music from Black and female artists. The BBC reports that Vandepapeliere called the submissions “terrible” and “crap” in text messages.
As Black Lives Matter protests stemming from the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis reignited conversations about race and dance music, Chaudhuri claims that he tried to explain to Vandepapeliere that techno and house “came from black culture.” Vandepapeliere allegedly replied, “Wauw – step too far for me. Techno is very white, go to the history of electronic music.”
Soon afterwards, antisemitic posts by R&S Records signee Hermetics (real name Santiago Niño Rodriguez) from 2015 and 2016 resurfaced on social media. One was an image of Adolf Hitler accompanied by the text “YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED,” and the others were YouTube videos denying the Holocaust and promoting conspiracy theories of a Jewish new world order.
Chaudhuri alleges that he encouraged Vandepapeliere to “completely cut off ties with [Rodriguez].” Vandepapeliere allegedly wrote back, “Really remove his track… No way. Inform the kid of danger – yes.” In a separate email chain with the subject line “Got a question,” Vandepapeliere allegedly wrote “What about India… SLAVERY is there full on,” and “Africa – black murdering each other.”
The final straw came when Eddington Again shared screen shots of emails with Vandepapeliere following an argument that stemmed from a royalty dispute. In their communications, Vandepapeliere had responded to criticism of the label’s dealings with Black artists by writing, “I sign music I can find – I don’t sign color mate.” In a later email, he referred to a prospective R&S Records signee as a “full pure breed black artist.”
Chaudhuri claims that after the screen shots went viral, he encouraged Vandepapeliere to step down from his role via text message. Vandepapeliere told Chaudhuri that he had “crossed the line” and that “R&S goes my way.” The following day, Vandepapeliere terminated their business relationship effective immediately, writing, “I cannot work longer without a strong team standing for the company.”
Two months before that, Chaudhuri had entered into a written agreement with Vandepapeliere that locked in his role with the label for another year with monthly pay of £1,000 plus a share of profits from records he signed. When Chaudhuri asked Vandepapeliere to sign a legally binding contract, he allegedly replied, “you got my mail” and argued that he was “a man of his word.” Chaudhuri claims that he then asked Vandepapeliere to pay the remaining £10,000 owed under the terms of their agreement. R&S Records, meanwhile, alleges that Chaudhuri attempted to extort the label by threatening to write an open letter tarnishing its reputation.
“Mr. Chaudhuri has been reported to the police which we believe will fall under extortion and blackmail under the Theft Act 1968,” reads a statement sent to RA by R&S Records. “On the 29th September, he emailed Mr. Renaat Vandepapeliere saying that he would ‘destroy’ him publicly unless he was paid £10,000 for potential future work that never happened.”
“Mr. Chaudhuri was a freelancer who became disgruntled and was fired due to reasons that would fall under gross misconduct if he had been an employee,” it goes on. “Mr. Chaudhuri has submitted a tribunal case which in its own right proves nothing. We believe Mr Chaudhuri has done this in order to attack Mr. Renaat Vandepapeliere in an attempt to sway him away from other legal proceedings and cause the malicious damage that he threatened unless Mr. Renaat Vandepapeliere gave into his monetary demands.”
Vandepapeliere founded R&S Records alongside his life partner, Sabine Maes, in Ghent, Belgium in 1983. Over the course of its lifetime, the label has tightly interwoven itself into the fabric of electronic music. Key releases by Joey Beltram, Aphex Twin and Ken Ishii were early signees, and more recently the label has given a home to music by the likes of Nicolas Jaar, Blawan and Juan Atkins.
Raj Chaudhuri has declined Selector‘s request for comment. A spokesperson on behalf of R&S Records has not responded to our request for comment at the time of writing.