VIA: Action Bronson’s the latest artist to find himself in hot water over controversial song lyrics. On Friday, organizers of Toronto’s Northby Northeast announced their decision to remove Bronson from the lineup of performing acts after an online petition surfaced earlier in the week.
The petition’s creator cited the rapper’s lyrics from his 2011 song “Consensual Rape” as glorifying “gang-raping and murdering women” and called it “an insult” that he be allowed to perform at Yonge-Dundas Square, a space that’s publicly owned. To date, the petition’s accumulated nearly 10K signatures.
Initially, the festival maintained that Bronson would remain part of lineup, citing the fact that he performed at Yonge-Dundas Square in 2012 for NXNE with no complaints. But, in a statement released late Friday, organizers changed their tune by pulling the Queens emcee, citing the notion that they were “obliged to listen to how the city and community want it [Yonge-Dundas Square] used…. As annual guests in this space we feel we must accede to the strong wishes of the community and honour their input.”
With Bronson already booked, Northby announced their intentions to have him appear at a separate venue at a later date. “We are not moving the Action show because we believe in censoring him or any other artists,” the statement read and called Northby “fundamentally committed” to have Action perform in Toronto.
On Wednesday, Bronson responded to the controversy via Twitter. “It’s so funny the song that is causing these Torontonians to have their panties in a bunch literally has never been performed, ever,” he said in tweets that have since been deleted. “5 years ago a lost track. That’s what u base UR argument on? HOW ABOUT THE 9 PROJECTS THAT HAVE COME OUT SINCE? Don’t single me out.”
In part, Action has a point. References to rape in rap aren’t exactly new to the genre. However, the much louder public outcry in response to those lyrics and other forms of misogyny is new as certain sects have started to pay closer attention to the messages artists release.
Listen to “Consensual Rape” and read the festival’s full statement, both below.
We at Northby Northeast (NXNE) are very proud of our 20 plus years relationship with the people of the City of Toronto. And for almost ten 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 honour 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.
The Directors of North by Northeast