Drill rappers 22Gz, Sha Ek and Ron Suno have all been dropped from the Live Nation-promoted Rolling Loud NYC, which is set to take place this weekend (Sept. 23-25) at Citi Field in Queens. The three rappers, all of whom are from the city, have been pulled at the request of the NYPD. The NYPD has yet to provide a statement explaining why.
The abrupt removal — first reported by The New York Times — marks the second instance of Rolling Loud pulling New York-based drill acts from their lineup. In its 2019 debut, five rappers, including Pop Smoke, 22Gz and Sheff G, were all removed from the lineup mid-festival due to allegations of them being “affiliated with recent acts of violence citywide,” as the police department said in a letter to festival organizers at the time. The letter continued, “The New York City Police Department believes if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.”
“I don’t understand,” says Suno, who is from the Bronx and was supposed to perform Sunday, claiming he has no criminal record or “problems with nobody in New York City.”
“At the end of the day, I got a family, I got responsibilities,” he said during a phone call Friday afternoon (Sept. 23). “I’m independent, I’m not signed to no major label. I’m doing all this just me and my team. So when you get opportunities like this, it’s just like damn. It’s a bummer.”
While the rapper was involved in a fight at last year’s Rolling Loud NYC, Suno said he and his manager Diamond “Bo” Brown were given no explanation for his removal this year and found out about it only a day or two ago. “I lost a lot of money. I paid for people’s flights. I paid for important TikTokers. I paid for a lot of stuff so that I could have an important set.”
(Brown tells Billboard his client was still paid for the set.)
Ek, a 19-year-old who is also from the Bronx, is in a similar boat. A representative for the rapper said “he hasn’t been charged with anything to justify” his removal and that “the police try to associate what he’s doing with violence and negativity.”
A source with knowledge of the situation say NYPD officials have been keeping an eye on the three rappers for some time. Brooklyn rapper 22Gz — whose representative declined to comment for this story — has twice been arrested for attempted murder, once in 2017 in a case that was later dismissed and again in June for allegedly firing shots at a group of people in March. The rapper is currently out on a $500,000 bond and, according to the source, the NYPD was concerned his involvement could lead to potential violence.
Representatives for Rolling Loud NYC and Live Nation also declined to comment for this story.
Since the rise of drill music in New York in the past few years, local police and politicians have targeted the rap sub-genre for allegedly contributing to gun violence and crime throughout the city. In February, Mayor Eric Adams suggested that social media platforms should ban the use of the music genre altogether, telling reporters, “Violent people who are using drill rapping to post who they killed, and then antagonize the people who they are going to kill is what the problem is.” He then held a meeting with Maino, Fivio Foreign and other prominent NYC artists with plans to quell violence in the city. Foreign is slated to perform at the festival on Friday.
When rappers were removed from the Rolling Loud lineup in 2019, founder Tariq Cherif suggested that the festival would not be allowed to return to New York unless it complied with NYPD requests. So far, no other city that hosts Rolling Loud has removed artists due to local police requests.
UPDATE: This article was updated Sept. 23 at 6:35 p.m. EST to include additional information from a source familiar with the situation.