Mass Appeal, the long-running media company that found new life as a record label when Nas joined a group of investors to purchase the brand in 2013, is being sued for racial discrimination. According to Vibe, Mass Appeal’s former head of development, Melissa Cooper, filed suit in Manhattan against the company and its co-founder Peter Bittenbender, alleging Bittenbender fostered a hostile work environment against her.
Cooper, who is white, says that after she was chosen to work on a project over Senior VP of Content Jenya Meggs, Meggs subjected her to “venomous and racist comments about ‘white folk’ and ‘crackers.’” The comments were supposedly made in messages from Meggs to Terry Ross, an executive producer on Hulu’s upcoming Freaknik documentary. Meggs attributed Cooper’s selection to racial bias, calling another of the doc’s producers, Alex Avant, choosing Cooper an example of “usual white folk behavior.” Meggs began refusing to work on projects with Cooper, leading to Cooper being removed from projects headed by Meggs.
Cooper says although she raised concerns with Bittenbender, there was no investigation of her claims, and she was terminated on June 30, 2023, after her primary role had been reduced so much she had no real function at the company. Nas is not named in the suit but is a partner in Mass Appeal.