Update 5/29/2015, 5:15 PM: In a statement shared with The FADER, NXNE confirms that Action Bronson has been cut from this year's public festivities, owing to the "a significant number of Torontonians" who have "expressed their desire"—even though they found Bronson's recent record Mr. Wonderful to be "excellent." Instead, they hope to help him find a "ticket venue" to play. Read the full statement:
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.
Update, 5/29/2015, 10:10 AM: Acccording to PagesDigital, Action Bronson has now been banned from performing at NXNE. The rapper tweeted, “ THESE PIECES OF SHIT JUST BANNED ME FROM HEADLINING AT NXNE. IM LIKE THE WHITE UNCLE LUKE.” He subsequently deleted that Tweet, but launched a short rant against haters.
FADER reached out to NXNE and is awaiting comment. The petition to prevent Bronson from playing the festival now has more than 33,000 signatures.
Update, 5/27/2015, 5:22 PM: Action Bronson addressed his critics on Twitter. He did not respond to the accusations of "hate speech," but he noted that the song "Consensual Rape" is a "lost track" from "5 years ago" that "has never been performed."
A new petition on the site Change.org is seeking signatures in the hopes of preventing Action Bronson from playing this summer’s North By Northeast festival in Toronto. The petition quotes lyrics from the rapper’s song “Consensual Rape” (below) and states that, “Action bronson glorifies gang-raping and murdering women.”
Erica Shiner, who started the effort yesterday, adds “We are petitioning to have this artist removed from the line-up of this show, on the grounds that he produces hate speech. A musician who glorifies rape and violence against women should not be invited to perform at a public space in our city.” The petition currently has more than 2,000 signatures.
Today the festival issued a statement on its website defending Bronson’s right to perform: “NXNE believes each and every one of these artists have the right to express their views through music, but those views belong to them and them alone. 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."
In addition, NXNE stressed its role in bringing female MCs to Toronto. “‘NXNE will also present a number of rap artists at various venues, such as Tink and Kate Tempest, who have be lauded for the undisguised feminist viewpoints in their music,’ says Sara Peel, Managing Director of NXNE. ‘That being said, in the interest of moving forward in a positive manner, we are engaging in discussion with our community about this important issue, and looking to provide opportunities for concerned voices to be heard.’”
On top of the festival’s response, another petition emerged on Change.org today denouncing the first petition as the work of "feminist extremists." “There are currently 3000+ people who will be attending the free concert,” wrote James Friske, who suggests that the meaning of Bronson’s lyrics is being “knowingly or unknowingly manipulated” by Shiner. He continues, “I call on The city of Toronto, Yonge and Dundas Square Management, and Sponsors to stand up for free speech in the face of censorship by an extremist minority.” This petition currently has 21 supporters.
A similar series of events took place last month when Princeton students started a petition to prevent Big Sean from playing on campus due to misogynistic lyrics. Big Sean still performed, though the school ended up offering an alternative event for those who did not want to attend.
Lead Image: Karl Walter / Getty Images