Why M.I.A was dropped by London festival Afropunk

The British artist is no stranger to controversy. This time her outspoken opinions have led to her being pulled from a festival slot.

Pop artist and rapper M.I.A. was set to play the London edition of Afropunk, a festival that’s been promoting alternative black culture since 2002, on September 24.

But following comments made about the support of the Black Lives Matter movement from artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé, the musician has faced some serious backlash, and has now been dropped from the line-up.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What was said?

The British Sri-Lankan artist has never been afraid of speaking her mind and has previously had run-ins with the NFL and football club Paris Saint Germain.

This particular fall-out involves comments M.I.A made to ES Magazine, concerning Beyonce’s Black Lives Matter inspired Super Bowl performance.

Asked whether she approved of the show, the rapper reportedly ‘pulled a face’ and said:

“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter. 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.”

Beyoncé’s politically charged Super Bowl show – Getty

What was the reaction?

Responses from the black community were, perhaps understandably, less than positive about the comments.

Some saw her argument as just another variation on the disliked ‘surely all lives matter?’ retort usually given by those looking to depreciate the Black Lives Matter movement.

Others felt it was hypocritical of an artist who has taken much influence from the world of political hip-hop to then criticise a performer for channelling that message into their work (such as Kendrick Lamar or Beyoncé) – not to mention headlining a festival (Afropunk) which was built on the crux of promoting black culture, issues and music.

Has M.I.A responded?

Never one to bite her tongue, the artist tried to bring some nuance to her comments through Twitter, as well as addressing accusations of racism.

How did Afropunk react?

Initially, Afropunk looked like it was going to stand by its decision to include M.I.A on the bill.

The festival released a statement back in June which read that it supported the Black Lives Matter movement but also recognised there was a ‘global struggle’ concerning the refugee crisis:

“To us, the fact that M.I.A’s comments sparked dialogue about a global view of the Black struggle is a not failing…we would never elevate artist or performer who we considered at odds with our ethos or not supportive of those we stand beside.

“M.I.A will still perform at AFROPUNK London, and there is a huge amount of UK / global talent still to be announced.”

However, as of this morning, the festival shared another statement which said after ‘discussing the situation with the artist’ that she would no longer be headlining:

But the debate hasn’t finished there:

It’s a strange, strange time for politics and music in the UK.

Afropunk London will be taking place on September 24. More information can be found at afropunkfest.com/london


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