Yesterday, news broke that Kris "Rain Man" Trindl, one third of the super-popular EDM group Krewella, is suing former bandmates Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf for upwards of $5 million. Trindl says he has been suffering from alcohol addiction, and according to the lawsuit, missed his flight to perform at Mexico's Electric Daisy Carnival in March of this year.
The suit alleges that Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf "used the opportunity of the missed flight to... betray one of its founders [and] find a way to make much more money for themselves." Meanwhile, in a post on Tumblr, the Yousafs have declined to respond in detail, stating only that "we did not kick Kris out of Krewella, he resigned."
The logic of Trindl's lawsuit is so tangled that it makes a mockery of common sense. Unfortunately, many of the responses—by the media, fans and DJs—have done little to question the veracity of these claims. Even worse, the language used to describe Krewella's group dynamics has been shockingly sexist, steeped in condescension towards the worth of the Yousafs while praising the talents of the "real" star, Trindl.
In the media ring, TMZ was the worst offender. Instead of referring to Jahan and Yamine Yousaf by their names, the outlet repeatedly chose to gender their descriptions for no apparent reason—labelling them in every instance as "the women," "the girls," and "the sisters." In contrast, Trindl is always referred to by his last name. This may seem like a minor offense, a lapse better attributed to laziness rather than sexism, perhaps.
But dismissing the Yousafs as "girls" while validating the worth of Trindl as the "real producer" is sadly all too common—even by Trindl himself.
This wasn't the first time that the Yousaf sisters publically corrected the misconception that they don't do anything save for strutting around the stage looking sexy. In an interview with THUMP, they remarked, "We have to do some shows without Kris and people will walk up to me and Jahan and say, 'How are you guys going to do the show without a DJ?' They don't realize that we can DJ. It's kind of baffling at this point because you've seen us behind the decks for three years now and people still don't think we can DJ."
Deadmau5 apparently did not get the memo. He chimed in with this condescending tweet:
EDM protip: if youre going to make a group / trio act... dont fire the guy who actually does shit. #themoaryouknow
— deadmau5 (@deadmau5) September 30, 2014
Can you imagine Deadmau5 flippantly dismissing a male vocalist in this way—like Keith Flint of The Prodigy, or David Macklovitch of Chromeo? Almost certainly not. Is it because the Yousaf sisters are young, attractive, and vocalists, that Deadmau5 disqualifies their talent and ability, regardless of the fact that they share songwriting credits with Trindl on all twelve tracks of their album, Get Wet?
Comments from fans express the same kind of reasoning: Trindl was the "real" talent and brains behind the group, while "the ladies" were mere accessories.
Here's just a taste of the biased reactions flooding Twitter:
Rain Man was Krewella, theyre nothing without him all they did was sing and they werent even that great at that
— chris (@sanzari_cob)
September 30, 2014
— Evan (@DJHittaMixxx)
September 30, 2014
— Tampa EDM (@TheRealTampaEdm)
October 1, 2014
This is not the first instance in which the work of female musicians has been undervalued relative to those of male musicians. Traditionally, women vocalists have always gotten the shorter end of the stick when it comes to credit for work on house records. With the rise of electronic dance music in the 80s and 90s, production skills became increasingly valued as a form of authorship. Often, male producers became the credited artist, while female vocalists were given a "feature" on a track. Even worse, when a record used sampled vocals, vocalists often wouldn't get credited, much less paid at all for their contribution.
In 1990, singer Martha Wash sued for credit on records by C+C music factory in which she had sung lead but was paid as a backup singer and later replaced by a thin, young singer in the video for "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."
As a result of Wash's lawsuit, there was a change in the law, requiring that credit be given to vocalists, who happened to be mostly women. There was also shift in attitudes within the music industry towards what constitutes "real work." This is highlighted in the way even an experienced musician like Deadmau5 undervalues the artistic contributions of Jahan and Yasmine as singers without a second thought. He appears to give all credit to Trindl for his production work, dismissing the possibility of the Yousafs producing while also diminishing their contributions as co-writers, let alone their live performance of those songs.
This type of double-standard isn't limited to dance music (we hear women in country music can have an even rougher time of it). Still, as male DJs continue to dominate festival lineups even as their fanbases are split relatively evenly between men and women, it's only fair to speak truth to power when those powers are undermining the work of the few women artists who have risen to the top of the field.
Michelle Lhooq calls it like she sees it - @MichelleLhooq