by Daniele Paletta
Some musicians are not welcome anymore. Or at least they don’t seem to be as a result of their public statements, such as homophobic social media posts or songs where they insult women. In the last weeks there has been a real outburst of public protests against a few controversial artists: 44.126 people signed a petition not to have Action Bronson playing in the Yonge-Dundas square in Toronto during the popular NXNE festival; the Lithuanian producer Marijus Adomaitis, known as Ten Walls, has been flooded with enraged comments to some of his homophobic Facebook rants and, soon after that, some major European summer festivals - including Creamfields, PITCH, Pukkelpop, Urban Art Forms Festival and Sónar – have decided to cancel his shows, even though the dj has claimed to have been the one to call them off.
Last but not least, the Australian rap artist Iggy Azalea, whose past remarks on social media were criticized as being homophobic and racist, has decided not to perform at the fundraising concert for the Pride in the Street event in downtown Pittsburgh, after Bruce Kraus, the city's first openly gay elected official, and several LGBTI(-friendly) groups had vowed to boycott the parade in protest over her appearance.
A message to Pittsburgh pic.twitter.com/Jm6ZyX0Xyc
— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) June 9, 2015
Probably, these have been the loudest reactions since the times of the protests against some reggae acts back in the early 2000s: as you might remember artists like Capleton or Buju Banton - whose lyrics suggested at various stages to burn, shoot or kill gay people - became the target of widespread criticism and boycotting campaigns resulting also in the cancellation of sponsorship deals. As a consequence, some of these artists (including Beenie Man, Sizzla and the aforementioned Buju Banton) joined the Stop Murder Music campaign vowing not to use music to incite violence.
Many years later, the situation does not seem to have changed much: a few musicians continue to fill their songs with hatred against women and the LGBTI community, or to use their social media accounts as a platform to spread insults or, worse, violent calls to action.
Freedom of expression is meant to be there for everybody, and that is why someone might even consider these artists’ statements legitimate. But this does not mean that others will tolerate silently sentences like “(in) the good 90s… these people of different breed where fixed”, as Ten Walls wrote referring to LGBTIs in a Facebook post he later cancelled, apologising with the comment “It was never my intention to offend anyone”. Nor does it mean that people will silently enjoy listening to songs like Action Bronson’s Consensual rape in a public space, nor that they won’t mind outrageous lyrics like “If seven dudes are in the room then she's pleasing them like a trooper. Hit her in the pooper”.
As Katie Stelmanis of Austra wrote in a powerful op-ed for Pitchfork, “We are living in a time where women are instructed how to avoid being raped and men are never taught about consent. […] Though women and trans people face threats, intimidation, and rape every day, somehow we are supposed to take songs that further perpetuate it lightly. The suggestion that if we have a problem with it, we should just go to another stage. […] But we know otherwise. Our safety matters and it is crucial for the music community to understand the role it plays”.
There are people out there who won’t “chill out” and won’t answer to insults with silence. The protests happening in the last weeks have sent a clear message: keep ranting if you wish, but be prepared to face the consequences.