Why has the US rapper been banned from the UK?
Rob Lyons on the real reason why the UK authorities have shut the door in the American rapper’s face.
It looks like thousands of hip-hop fans will be left disappointed after the cancellation of a UK tour by superstars Snoop Dogg and P Diddy. The UK government has refused to give a visa to Snoop (embarrassing real name: Calvin Broadus). The Foreign and Commonwealth Office hasn’t revealed why, claiming it doesn’t comment on individual cases. Yet while Snoop has certainly had plenty of quality time with various representatives of law enforcement, there is little evidence of anything especially dodgy in his past conduct aside from fairly run-of-the-mill rock ‘n’ roll antics.
Snoop has a habit of getting caught in possession of narcotics. However, surely the consumption of illegal drugs is a requirement of being a rock star? Or at least it used to be. Doing a bit of personal in the past (and quite probably the present) has not stopped old rockers like Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Elton John from getting knighthoods, the ultimate stamp of official approval. And it doesn’t stop plenty of other, more acceptable, celebrities from flying in and out of the UK unhindered. Various ragged old rockers were called upon to support the Independent newspaper’s campaign to legalise cannabis a few years ago (before the Indie changed its mind and decided cannabis is unacceptably dangerous).
Maybe Snoop is being refused entry because of the incident that occurred at Heathrow last time he stopped by, in April 2006. Some of his rather large entourage – large both numerically and individually – took umbrage at not being allowed into the First Class lounge. Admittedly, most of them didn’t have First Class tickets, but given the enormous whack Snoop undoubtedly paid for his reclining seat and luxury peanuts, you’d have thought that British Airways could have cut his crew a bit of slack.
Anyway, there was a bit of a reaction involving cuts and bruises to seven officers and some damage to a duty-free shop. It may sound terrible, but then again The Who used to do that kind of thing to hotel rooms as routinely as the rest of us ask if breakfast is included. And The Who are national treasures. I guess the trick is not to do it somewhere as public as Terminal One at the world’s busiest international airport. British Airways staff may not be keen on seeing Snoop and his mates any time soon, but that is a company matter. Stopping someone from entering the country because of such airport misbehaviour is another matter entirely.
The other accusation against Snoop is that he’s not just a ‘gangsta’ – he actually hangs out with proper gangsters. That’s not surprising given his background as a member of the Crips in LA. But again, this doesn’t seem like good grounds, in and of itself, for slamming the door in his face. After all, if gangster connections were a bar to getting into the country, Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, would never have graced these shores.
Maybe the real reason Snoop ain’t coming to town is because he’s seen as a Bad Influence. Snoop tells us in his songs about doing bad things to policemen. Given that he’s undoubtedly been on the wrong end of the police on many occasions, it’s hardly surprising that he has issues with them. Just because he raps about doing a ‘187’ on a police officer doesn’t mean he thinks it would be a good idea if we all did it. It’s called poetic licence.
If we need to keep people like Snoop out of the country, it’s only because we don’t trust our young people not to copy his lifestyle. Whatever the cause of the (pretty limited) gun culture in the UK, it isn’t rapping – young people do not automatically do the kind of things that Snoop sings about. Rather, hip-hop seems to provide a frisson of excitement for young people in a music scene populated by manufactured pop and middle-class navel-gazing.
There are some crimes for which rappers like Snoop should be held responsible – like posh boys wearing baseball caps skew-whiff while not pulling their trousers up properly so they can parade their underwear (and their street credentials). But gangsta rap is a fantasy world for the millions who get hacked off with their lives but are never going to do anything more about it than look mean and dress stupid. If we’re going to ban Snoop, we might as well ban Quentin Tarantino while we’re at it.
In some ways, Snoop is just the kind of person New Labour would normally encourage. He’s a successful black performer who turned his back on a life of crime to make good in the music business. He’s even taking part in a concert to highlight the issue of climate change – how right on can the man get? Unfortunately, Snoop is also a VIP – Very Inappropriate Person. One can only imagine the horror of decent upstanding white businessmen – and the chaps at the FCO – suddenly being forced to share the posh folk’s lounge with uppity, gauche black men. ‘Application refused!’