On Monday, Tyler, The Creator announced the cancellation of four imminent tour dates across the UK and Ireland. The rapper, producer, and former leader of the Odd Future collective was due to perform in Belfast on Tuesday night, in Dublin on Wednesday, at the Leeds Festival on Friday, and at the Reading Festival on Sunday.
DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES I WONT BE PLAYING READING, LEEDS, BELFEST AND OTHER SHOWS IN THE UK. SUCKS AND IM SORRY. I LOVE YOU, SAVE THE HORSES -T
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) August 24, 2015
The cancellation of these four shows came just a couple of weeks after the similar cancellation of a string of dates scheduled for September in Australia. Tyler, The Creator has a contentious history in the country: after his planned visit in the early summer of 2013 was lobbied against by the Collective Shout movement, who cited misogynistic song lyrics and saw their cause taken up in the Australian House of Representatives, Tyler performed in Sydney and issued a tirade against one member of Collective Shout which was subsequently reported to the police.
On 27 July, Tyler suggested via Twitter that he had been banned from returning to Australia, blaming Collective Shout’s current director of operations. However, on 10 August it was clarified that no action had yet been taken by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection; and that Tyler, The Creator had cancelled the Australian leg of his Cherry Bomb World Tour of his own volition. In a statement, the artist noted, ‘We would much rather come to Australia when it isn’t surrounded in controversy’.
Tyler has been banned from Australasia in the past. In February 2014, members of Odd Future were refused entry to New Zealand hours before their scheduled flight to the country, deemed a threat to public order on the basis of lyrics which were seen to promote homophobic and sexual violence, and previous performances in the country which, according to Immigration New Zealand, had incited riots. The group had been scheduled to appear at the Rapture festival, headlined by Eminem, after controversial prior visits to the country in 2011 and 2012. Immigration New Zealand took action after concerns were raised by the Auckland sexual violence advocacy organisation Stop Demand.
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Today the reason for the cancellation of this week’s UK and Ireland dates was made plain. Across a pair of tweets, Tyler alleged that he has been banned from the UK for a period between three and five years, based on some of the lyrics which appear on his earliest records.
BASED ON LYRICS FROM 2009 I AM NOT ALLOWED IN THE UK FOR 3-5 YEARS ( although i was there 8 weeks ago) THAT IS WHY THE SHOWS WERE CANCELLED.
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) August 26, 2015
*listens to last three releases in confusion*
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) August 26, 2015
His manager, Christian Clancy, expounded upon the issue via Tumblr, writing:
‘tyler has been banned from entering the UK for somewhere between 3 to 5 years per a letter from the secretary of state for the home department of the united kingdom. the letter specifically cites lyrics he wrote 6-7 years ago for his albums bastard and goblin – the type of lyrics he hasn’t written since… highlights from the letter include that his work “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “fosters hatred with views thats seek to provoke others to terrorist acts..” i grew up on NWA, eminem and rage against the machine, so its hard to me to fully wrap my head this thought process and its implications.
to say that i am confused would be an understatement. can you imagine being beholden to things you said when you were 18? tyler has been to the UK over 20x in the last 5 years without incident (shows, in stores, meet and greets). we rented out a movie theatre last month in London for a private showing of napoleon dynamite for his fans. literally last month.’
Beyond more recent visits, Tyler’s most recent run of UK appearances came in the middle of May, when he performed shows in Glasgow, Manchester, London, and Bristol.
‘Coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values. The Home Secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good or if their exclusion is justified on public policy grounds.’
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Tyler’s early lyrics and the degree of his individual and artistic development since, Tyler’s ban can be read within a UK political context which sees an ongoing endeavour to survey and legislate against ideas, personal values, and private behaviours; to portray a wide array of challenging discourse as a prospective ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’ threat; and to censor artists and the full expression of their art. At least Theresa May should struggle to use Tyler, The Creator to renew yet again her demand for a ‘Snooper’s Charter’.
If the dictatorial, arrogant, and brazenly arbitrary nature of the Home Secretary’s decision is depressing – for the ‘public good’ is the vaguest of concepts and cannot be for one person to decide, while an exclusion ‘justified on public policy grounds’ seems to imply that entry can be refused to anyone who disagrees with attributes of the current government – equally aggravating is the banal assertion that coming to the UK is a ‘privilege’. Those who paid to see one of their favourite artists this week, only to be disappointed at the last moment, will hardly feel themselves sharing in Theresa May’s privilege.