Action Bronson apologizes after college gig cancelled

Less than a year after his NXNE appearance sparked public outcry in Toronto, the rapper is once again embroiled in a controversy over misogynistic lyrics


Action Bronson has issued an open letter to fans after being removed from George Washington University’s Spring Fling concert line-up.

On Thursday, the Washington, DC-based school’s program board cancelled the New York rapper’s scheduled appearance at Saturday’s show and replaced him with Goldlink after students started a petition arguing his music is misogynistic, transphobic and promotes violence against women.

An editorial in the student newspaper, The GW Hatchet, also called for the performance to be cancelled.

“We apologize to the GW community for causing distress over the past few days and for attempting to bring an artist who is not consistent with our values of diversity and inclusion,” the concert organizers wrote in a statement. “Spring Fling is intended to be an event for all students to enjoy and including Action Bronson in the day would go against this.”

The situation echoes a controversy that erupted in Toronto last June when Bronson’s free outdoor concert at the NXNE festival was cancelled in the wake of a public outcry.

However, this time Bronson has apologized for past lyrics and social media posts that have caused offense.

“It has become clear to me that things have reached a point which makes me feel the need to address the issues raised so that we can bring some understanding and healing to the table, so to speak,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I can’t continue to walk around with the thought that people are thinking these things about me that are far from who I really am.”

He goes on to admit that one of the songs that caused offense – 2011’s Consensual Rape – “contains lyrics and a general sentiment” of violence against women, but insisted that it was intended as a story told in character and thus not reflective of his personal values.

“Regardless, I understand that when it comes to musicians, and more specifically rappers, the lyrics I say are taken to heart many times as a representation of my beliefs or true feelings,” he continued. “SO please let me make this very clear: I think rape and acts of violence toward woman are DISGUSTING. I would never condone anything remotely close to that type of behavior, and it’s certainly not what I’m about at all. But, the song in question has caused people discomfort and pain and I’m sincerely sorry about it. It was not my intention to hurt people when I made it years ago, and I certainly will be much more sensitive on this matter moving ahead.”

Bronson also apologized for transphobic comments written in a past Instagram post and said he has met with members of the LGBT community in order to avoid being hurtful and insensitive in the future. (Read his full statement here.)

Erica Shiner, the Torontonian whose petition urging NXNE to cancel Bronson’s headlining show at Yonge-Dundas Square garnered more than 44,000 signatures, is not impressed with the rapper’s mea culpa.

“He’s trying to frame it as if the violent sexism in his music is limited to one song when in fact it’s consistently littered throughout [his music],” she wrote in an email to NOW, noting that the statement does not address violence depicted in the music video Brunch, which was cited in her petition as well as in the GWU petition and student newspaper editorial.

“He admits to a general sentiment of violence against women, but then denies that that reflects on him personally, saying he’s playing a character. He’s not playing a character – he’s not Kool Keith – he refers to himself by his nickname, Bronsolino, in the lyrics to Brunch,” she added. “He says that violence against women is ‘not what he’s about,’  but he depicts it, centrally and repeatedly, without any critical lens whatsoever.

“If he is really trying to turn over a new leaf, he can start by looking at all the things that are wrong with this apology. My impression from his statement is that his true feelings remain closer to his response to my petition here in Toronto last spring: ‘F*CK YALL HATERS BLOW D*CK.'”

Following GWU’s decision to cancel the performance, another petition has been started to reinstate Bronson as the headliner for tomorrow’s concert. Its author argues the cancellation limits free speech and artistic expression.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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