Amid a public uproar and more than 37,000 signatures collected on a Change.org petition, Toronto’s NXNE has reconsidered its stance earlier this week and pulled New York rapper Action Bronson from his June 21 slot at the public stage Yonge-Dundas Square.
The music festival is still hoping to find a spot for him in a venue that is not city owned.
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“Action Bronson glorifies gang-raping and murdering women,” wrote petition organizer Erica Shiner, adding the lyrics to his song “Consensual Rape.”
Bronson, a former gourmet chef now signed to Vice/Atlantic, has not come forward to denounce or explain the lyric, except to say he has never played it live and that it is a song from 2011.
“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,” he tweeted on May 27.
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As the controversy grew, a series of tweets shows he does not care: “FUCK ALL YALL HATERS BLOW DICK,” reads one post. “WHO GIVES A FUCK!! UR GONNA BE SEEING SO MUCH OF ME FOR SO MANY YEARS TO COME ULL HAVE PLENTY MORE TO HATE ON. STAY TUNED….” read another.
After the media got wind of the petition, NXNE issued a statement defending his right to play and cited reviews of his 2012 appearance at Yonge-Dundas Square as “laid back,” “a lot of fun” and a “world class hip-hop showcase.”
“Those who are offended by an artist are invited to check out other Festival showcases, as NXNE will present hundreds of artists this June — some may be considered controversial, but most are just plain fun,” it stated.
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However, NXNE managing director Sara Peel did leave the door open to discussion and that seems to have made a difference. Hundreds weighed in on various Facebook and Twitter discussions, as well as in television, radio, online and print media.
The NXNE directors issued its verdict via press release on Friday evening (May 29). Read the full statement below.
“We at Northby Northeast (NXNE) are very proud of our 20 plus years relationship with the people of the City of Toronto,” reads the 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 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[D1] 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.”