Lil Nas X and Lizzo question the merits of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday

Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X is among the artists voicing concerns about the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday initiative.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Rihanna, Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Chance the Rapper and more stars have gone dark on social media for the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday initiative in solidarity with the black community.

The initiative, originally called #TheShowMustBePaused, is a response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other victims of racial violence. Industry executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang launched it as a way for artists and executives to pause and reflect on how they can better support the black community.

“#TheShowMustBePaused is an initiative created by two Black women in music in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard,” Thomas and Agyemang wrote last week in a joint statement. “We will not continue to conduct business as usual without regard for Black lives.


“The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable.”

While several in the music world and beyond have embraced the movement by posting black squares to their Instagram feeds, others questioned the effectiveness of a blank post and a hashtag. Country rapper Lil Nas X and singer-songwriter Kehlani were among the skeptics who worried the well-intended gesture might do more harm than good.

“I know y’all mean well but... bro saying stop posting for a day is the worst idea ever,” Lil Nas X tweeted early Tuesday, adding, “I just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever. i don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. we don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever.”

While Kehlani credited Thomas and Agyemang for championing solidarity and “strength in numbers,” she echoed the “Old Town Road” hitmaker’s concerns, calling the effect “counterproductive.”

“Something about its execution doesn’t seem smart,” she wrote on her Instagram story. “We keep each other informed on here, we are each other’s news channels because we cannot trust the news. We cannot disappear for a day.”

Kehlani, Lizzo, Chance the Rapper and other musicians also cautioned participants not to attach the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to their Blackout Tuesday squares, in order to avoid clogging up a feed used to share important updates and resources connected to the cause.


“Hey everybody,” Lizzo said Tuesday in an Instagram video, “please don’t use the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter because it is flooding the hashtag search, which is black pictures instead of information. So if you’re going to post a black square, just post a black square and say it, but don’t hashtag it.”

“Its saturating the main hashtag that activists use to record and report injustices happening at the protests which are STILL GOING ON TODAY,” Chance the Rapper tweeted. “DO NOT BLACK OUT THE MOVEMENT. U dont [need] a hashtag its already black.”

Agyemang also warned against using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on her Instagram story and clarified in a recent post that “the purpose” of the initiative “was never to mute ourselves” but to “disrupt.” Many record labels, including Atlantic, Sony, Columbia, BMG and Universal Music Group, have also taken part in the event.

Here’s a sampling of Blackout Tuesday posts from various entertainers.

A list of black-owned restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, food trucks and pop-ups in the Los Angeles area.

May 31, 2020