The Afropunk Festival in London has dropped M.I.A. as its headlining act after the rapper made controversial statements regarding the Black Lives Matter movement in April. “After discussing the situation with the artist and the community, a decision was agreed upon by all involved that M.I.A will no longer headline Afropunk London,” festival organizers announced in a statement Friday.
When Afropunk first revealed in June that M.I.A. would headline the September 24th festival, the choice was met with immediate backlash from festivalgoers still stinging from M.I.A.’s comments to the Evening Standard two months earlier.
“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter,” M.I.A. said at the time. “It’s not a new thing to me — it’s what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s. Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question.”
The rapper later defended her statements on social media, although she praised the Black Lives Matter movement in her surprise single “Poc That Still a Ryda” in June. Two weeks later, M.I.A. was announced as a headliner at Afropunk, though the uproar resulted in M.I.A. tweeting on June 20th, “Sorry I’m not doin Afropunk. I’ve been told to stay in my lane.”
While Afrojack organizers initially denied that M.I.A. had dropped out of the fest, Friday’s announcement explained why the festival ultimately parted ways with the rapper.
“Afropunk has always stood side by side with the thousands of people globally who are involved with our events each year, from the fans attending an Afropunk showcase for the first time, to the headline artists playing for capacity crowds on our main festival stages,” organizers wrote Friday.
“A key part of the Afropunk ethos has always been educating one another, breaking down boundaries and sparking conversation about race, gender, religion, sex, culture and everything that makes life worth living. This exchange has meant receiving wisdom, as well as imparting it in the most respectful way possible, with the participation of our entire community of fans, creators and artists. This community is something we are incredibly proud of, and this community will always be a priority for us.”
The festival also announced they’d reveal a new headliner when the second wave of artists were added to the fest’s lineup on July 19th.
The decision to drop M.I.A. comes a day after the rapper released her new track “Go Off,” the Skrillex-featuring first single from her upcoming LP AIM.
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