Canadian Music Fest Drops Rapper Over "Hate Speech" Petition

Photo: MediaPunch/REX USA.
The people have spoken, and rapper Action Bronson is no longer welcome at Toronto's NXNE festival. Sort of.

Pitchfork reports that festival organizers, who had initially defended their right to include the controversial rapper on their schedule, have had a change of heart and have cancelled his free showcase. However, they've also revealed their hope to schedule Bronson at an alternate venue.

The issue here is that the June 21 festival is a free event put on in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square. Many residents opposed Action Bronson's participation in the event due to his "hate speech" and misogynistic lyrics in songs like "Consensual Rape." A petition posted by Toronto resident Erica Shiner fetched more than 42,000 signatures in support of banning the rapper from the festival.

"A musician who glorifies rape and violence against women should not be invited to perform at a public space in our city," Shiner wrote.

In the end, NXNE's decision to pull Bronson from the lineup was a show of respect for public space and not a condemnation of the artist's offensive lyrics.

"We at Northby Northeast (NXNE) are very proud of our 20-plus-years relationship with the people of the City of Toronto," organizers wrote in a statement. "And for almost 10 years, we’ve shared Yonge-Dundas Square with you to present free, all-ages shows open to the public. YDS is the city’s space, and as such, we are obliged to listen to how the city and community want it used. A significant number of Torontonians have indicated their desire to have Action Bronson not perform at the Square. As annual guests in this space, we feel we must accede to the strong wishes of the community and honor their input.

"As a result, we will not be presenting Action Bronson at Yonge-Dundas Square but, hopefully we will still be presenting Action Bronson as part of Northby. We remain fundamentally committed to presenting this artist on a Toronto stage. We are not moving the Action show because we believe in censoring him or any other artists. In fact, we find the limiting of artistic expression distasteful. When artistic expression is limited, freedom and the evolution of ideas is often the casualty.

"Hopefully, Action Bronson will accept our invitation to play at another, ticketed venue in the city so the public can decide for themselves if his work has merit. We booked Bronson, in part, because of his latest excellent disc, Mr. Wonderful.

"We hope that this series of events does not foster some type of artistic chill in Toronto and its public spaces. Yonge-Dundas Square must remain a dynamic place where many viewpoints are expressed, not just culturally, but also at political events and rallies staged there.

"We are heartened by the community engagement that has been taking place around this YDS show. This debate continues an important conversation about violence against women and its depiction in art and culture that is long overdue. We salute all of those who fight this battle, and we would encourage everyone who has signed the petition or been engaged by this conversation to commit themselves personally to continuing the fight against violence against women. We at Northby pledge to continue being part of this discussion with the intent to help act as agents of change."

Ultimately, the victory against Bronson's derisive work is a short-lived one. Not even the rapper himself seems too fazed by his dismissal, judging by this tweet.
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And why should he be bothered? So long as there are music promoters defending his "artistic freedom," he'll continue to get away with pretty much anything.

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