Action Bronson has only fairly recently hit hip-hop’s mainstream — though he’s 31, he was a member of XXL’s freshman class just two years ago. Now, some of the lyrics and videos from his more underground days are coming back to haunt him, as Toronto’s NXNE festival was compelled to cancel his free appearance following an almost 40,000 strong person petition decrying his “hate speech.”
The creator of the petition, Toronto’s Erica Shiner, cites two 2011 songs of Bronson’s: “Consensual Rape” and “Brunch,” as well as the album art for his 2013 EP Saaab Stories. Bronson initially responded with the explanation that the songs had never before been performed, and that “Consensual Rape” in particular was an aberration. Later, he amended his response to a more concise “f— the haters” style response.
Initially NXNE defended his place in the lineup, but as of yesterday, they’ve decided to cancel his free appearance in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square to “accede to the strong wishes of the community and honour their input,” as they put it in their statement. They hope to still book the rapper as a part of one of the festival’s ticketed events.
Read their 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. 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