On Wednesday afternoon, five leaked songs showed up on Playboi Carti's official Apple Music page without his authorization. And in May, Carti's leaked song "Kid Cudi/Pissy Pamper" with Young Nudy made it all the way to No. 1 on Spotify's US Viral 50 chart before being removed.
Unofficial and unreleased songs have been surfacing on the internet for years, but until recently, they've mostly lived in on forums, file sharing services, and other comparatively dark corners of the internet. Monetized services like Spotify and Apple Music had managed to avoid widespread unauthorized leaks, and most users assumed all music on the platforms had been officially released.
That confidence has been shaken in recent months after unofficial music has repeatedly surfaced on Spotify and Apple Music from artists like SZA, Beyoncé, Lil Uzi Vert, and Rihanna.
Most of these unauthorized releases end up getting removed from the services eventually, which means the people who upload them usually don't get paid. And the songs are uploaded under fake names to protect from legal repercussions, so the motivation for these leaks doesn't seem to come from a pursuit of clout and glory.
So why and how does this keep happening?
"I ain't get paid off any of this," explains DJ EightBit, who says he's the fan behind Wednesday's Apple Music leaks (his name appeared in the credits on the platform). EightBit tells Complex that he and others are doing this because they're fans: "Carti deserves all the attention. It's all fan service. If it's a big deal they can take it down ASAP. People are just really big fans of him on every platform and I hope this helped him notice that people are literally itching for his music. I wasn't trying to get any clout and I didn't even promote myself."
It will keep happening because there are die-hard fans of the artists out here. It's just the nature of things.
A fan who says they uploaded "Kid Cudi/Pissy Pamper" to Spotify under the name Lil Kambo, explains that the process of getting leaked music on the platform was fairly simple. "When I first started, I used DistroKid, which took about 2-3 days to upload," they say. "It didn't detect for copyrights when uploading, but still could be taken down for copyright." The fan adds that they were able to do this until their uploads were flagged as unauthorized on multiple occasions: "If you get taken down too many times DistroKid stops allowing you to upload."
This fan shares EightBit's view that the unauthorized uploads are happening because people are getting so desperate for new music from artists like Carti: "They have been making us wait for new music for so long that we are getting impatient and are releasing music so it is easier for the fans to listen to. Playboi Carti needs to drop Whole Lotta Red and Uzi needs to drop Eternal Atake before it all gets leaked."
Shortly after Wednesday's Apple Music leak, Carti admitted frustration about the repeated unauthorized uploads by writing on his Instagram Story: "Hacked :( I haven't released anything :/ I hate leaks." Despite messages like this, the fans who are uploading the music to streaming services don't think they're hurting the careers of their favorite artists, because they're just adding music to Apple Music and Spotify that has already leaked on other parts of the internet. "Carti leaks are everywhere [so] when this goes down it does nothing," EightBit says. "This is not really the streaming services fault and obviously it's not for money."
By Thursday morning, the unauthorized uploads of leaked Playboi Carti songs mentioned in this article had been removed from both streaming platforms, but fans believe similar would-be official uploads will continue to take place. "It will keep happening because there are die-hard fans of the artists out here," EightBit says. "It's just the nature of things."
Complex reached out to representatives at Apple Music, Spotify, and DistroKid for comment, but we have not received a response. We will update this article if we hear back.