Content warning: This story contains imagery and mentions of anti-Semitism, Nazism and Adolf Hitler. Former R&S Records employee Raj Chaudhuri, AKA Raji Rags, has filed a case with the UK employment tribunal against the label and its CEO and cofounder, Renaat Vandepapeliere.
Chaudhuri, who handled A&R for the label on a freelance basis, worked at R&S Records Limited between May 2019 and September 2020. He spent the first 13 months on a rolling monthly retainer, before agreeing to a one-year deal in July 2020. Three months into the new deal, on September 29th, he claims he was unlawfully dismissed by Vandepapeliere.
Two weeks after the alleged dismissal, on October 14th, Chaudhuri issued a statement via social media explaining his departure. “I am not comfortable with working with Renaat Vandepapeliere and putting energy into a company that doesn’t support Black and women artists sufficiently,” he wrote. Chaudhuri has since decided to take the matter further, filing a Particulars Of Claim with the UK employment tribunal on January 21st, 2021.
Resident Advisor and the BBC have seen this 40-page document. In the document, Chaudhuri presents a detailed account of his time at R&S. In addition to the claim of unlawful dismissal, he details multiple instances of alleged “discrimination, harassment, victimisation and post-employment victimisation” involving Vandepapeliere, who has run the label since 1983.
Many of his claims are supported by screenshots of emails or text messages from/to Vandepapeliere. All of the quotes in this article are from the Particulars Of Claim filed with the tribunal unless otherwise stated. Vandepapeliere was offered the opportunity to respond to all of these allegations by RA.
The following statement was made in response to these allegations on behalf of Vandepapeliere and R&S Records Limited:
We have not had an opportunity to prepare our case yet, as the claim has not even been served on us, but given the negative and premature publicity, we feel we have no option but to respond. Mr. Chaudhuri has been reported to the police which we believe will fall under extortion and blackmail under the Theft Act 1968. 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. 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.
Mr Renaat Vandepapeliere is certainly not racist and everyone at R&S Records embraces equality. We are currently taking our own advice on separately pursuing a defamation claim in respect of these spurious, untruthful and damaging allegations. There is simply no truth in anything he says or the allegations that Mr Chaudhuri has made. We have no intention of litigating this in the press and have every confidence that justice will prevail.
In the claim, Chaudhuri repeatedly accuses Vandepapeliere of racism and sexism. He says he set out to diversify the label’s output by trying to sign more Black and women artists. (A source close to R&S said the label had only signed one major woman artist, Paula Temple, in its 38-year history.) Every new artist had to be signed off by Vandepapeliere. Chaudhuri says he found it difficult to win Vandepapeliere’s approval for Black and women artists.
His first signings, allegedly secured while his boss was taking some time out from the label, featured non-white artists from Ghana, Pakistan, Portugal and Democratic Republic Of Congo. Chaudhuri says Vandepapeliere didn’t like the music, calling it “meaningless.” Chaudhuri says he also felt a growing concern about his boss’s conduct towards women. For example, in November 2019 Vandepapeliere allegedly sent Chaudhuri an Instagram post asking him to rate three topless women.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death in May 2020, Vandepapeliere allegedly wanted to post a black square on the label’s social media platforms in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests—a gesture that Chaudhuri felt was insufficient. When Chaudhuri tried to explain to Vandepapeliere that house and techno, the two genres underpinning R&S’s success, “came from black culture,” Vandepapeliere allegedly replied with, “Wauw – step too far for me. Techno is very white, go to the history of electronic music.”
A few weeks later, anti-Semitic posts from 2015 and 2016 resurfaced online from the Facebook account of Colombian artist Santiago Niño Rodriguez, AKA Hermetics, who released the Technosis EP on R&S in 2018. The posts included a photo of Adolf Hitler, a YouTube video titled “Adolf Hitler vs The Jew World Order” and the words, in Spanish, “No hubo Holocausto” (“There was no Holocaust”) written by Rodriguez.
Vandepapeliere signed Rodriguez to R&S in 2018. When the posts resurfaced, Chaudhuri says he urged Vandepapeliere to “completely cut off ties with him,” including removing all his music from the R&S back catalogue. Vandepapeliere allegedly emailed Rodriguez to say “don’t post anything” but refused to take any further action. “Really remove his track… No way,” he wrote. “Inform the kid of danger – yes.” Chaudhuri responded with, “He’s not a kid. He’s a fully grown man who agrees with Hitler.”
In a subsequent email to Chaudhuri, Vandepapeliere allegedly called Rodriguez’s posts a “mistake” and told Chaudhuri to “never judge people from a distance mate.” Rodriguez’s music on R&S remains on sale. The disagreement continued in a separate email chain, with the subject line “Got a question,” which started with an email sent to Chaudhuri by Vandepapeliere on June 3rd, 2020. “What about India… SLAVERY is there full on,” he wrote. “Africa – black murdering each other.” Chaudhuri replied, “I don’t like slavery. I don’t like black on black violence.
I also don’t like anti-Semitism and Nazis.” Chaudhuri says he felt their working relationship grew “very strained” from there. The series of events that Chaudhuri believes led up to his alleged unlawful dismissal began in early July 2020. Vandepapeliere agreed to let Chaudhuri launch a run of six 12-inches, plus a compilation, featuring the music of his choice. Vandepapeliere allegedly didn’t want the records to come out on the main R&S label, but as a series, similar to RV Trax.
Emails in the Particulars Of Claim seen by RA show that Chaudhuri and Vandepapeliere agreed that Chaudhuri would be paid £1,000 per month for 12 months for this project, plus a share of the profits on all seven records. This new deal would replace his previous freelance agreement. Chaudhuri says he asked for a formal written contract for the new work agreement, but Vandepapeliere allegedly said “you got my mail” and he was “a man of his word.”
No written contract was drawn up. In September 2020, the month in which Chaudhuri alleges he was unlawfully dismissed, the Los Angeles-based artist Eddington Again, who is Black and has released on R&S, shared screenshots of emails with Vandepapeliere in which he had challenged the R&S boss on the lack of Black and women artists on the label.
In reference to a new artist he was hoping to sign, Vandepapeliere replied saying, “I hope I have now found a full pure breed black artist that I can spend my life with in full focus.” Again’s post went viral, which led to many fans, artists and industry players calling on Vandepapeliere to apologise for his language.
In emails sent to Chaudhuri and others on September 27th, Vandepapeliere initially refused to apologise, claiming that “pure breed” was a Flemish metaphor lost in translation. This led to several artists, including Lone and Special Request, releasing public statements condemning Vandepapeliere’s choice of language.
On September 28th, Chaudhuri and Vandepapeliere exchanged text messages. One of these, sent by Chaudhuri, suggested that Vandepapeliere “step down” from his “responsibilities” and work “creatively behind the scenes.” Vandepapeliere replied saying Chaudhuri had “crossed the line” and that “R&S goes my way.”
The following day, September 29th, Vandepapeliere allegedly dismissed Chaudhuri with immediate effect and no prior warning. “I cannot work longer without a strong team standing for the company,” he wrote. “I was devastated to lose my job,” Chaudhuri says. “It was particularly galling to be fired for doing the right thing and trying to get him to do the right thing.
I was also on the brink of bringing newfound success and credibility to the label on the back of the diversified artists I was in the process of signing.” Chaudhuri, feeling he had been unlawfully dismissed, wrote to Vandepapeliere asking to be financially compensated for ten months’ worth of lost wages. He also threatened to publish an open letter disclosing Vandepapeliere’s “discriminatory conduct” if he wasn’t paid the money. Subsequently, only one month’s wages were transferred.
A week later, Chaudhuri, who was now unemployed, was offered work at a well-known music company. (Chaudhuri requested the company remain unnamed.) A job offer was on the table but allegedly later rescinded. Chaudhuri alleges that Vandepapeliere sent the head of the music company a statement, published via Iconic Underground Magazine on November 12th.
In the statement, he said relations with “a former company consultant” had been “terminated” after “his threat to issue an open letter to the media.” Chaudhuri disputes this sequence of events, claiming he was dismissed before making the alleged threat.
Vandepapeliere will shortly be served with the Particulars of Claim by the employment tribunal, as is the ordinary procedure in such a case. However, they have been served on him privately already. A date has yet to be set for the tribunal hearing, which will take place in London.