The PC persecution of Action Bronson

Tom Bailey

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Since 2013, we have been living in a post-Robin Thicke world. For that was the year in which Twitter activists, students’ unions and bloggers showed how, through a mixture of complaining and hyperbole, pervy popstars can be stopped in their tracks, turned into pariahs and banned from polite society.

The latest target of this censorious brigade is a rapper called Action Bronson. Hailing from Flushing, Queens, and rapping in a distinct New York style, he won’t be appearing in the UK charts anytime soon. But he has gained a niche following due to his odd personality and his internet cookery show for youth magazine Vice.

Bronson was billed to perform at Toronto’s NXNE festival. However, citing the lyrics from his 2011 song ‘Consensual Rape’, a group of campaigners has successfully petitioned to have him dropped from the festival line-up. The lyrics in question describe the musician having sex with a female while she’s high on MDMA. The campaigners describe these lines as ‘hate speech’. You can read Bronson’s graphic lyrics

These sorts of complaints are nothing new. Rap has long been the subject of criticism from America’s Christian right for its explicit content and its flouting of traditional family values. Likewise, the authorities have attempted to blame rap for America’s gang violence. Traditionally, however, much of the left would brush off as coded racism these attempts to penalise rap for its lyrical content.

But now it’s seemingly left-wing hip-hop fans, rather than right-wingers, who are subjecting rappers to closer lyrical scrutiny. For example, Rick Ross caused uproar when he rapped about putting MDMA in an unaware woman’s champagne, leading his sponsors, Reebok, to drop him, while Rich Homie Quan was criticised for the line ‘taking it from her’, with the ‘it’ seemingly alluding to sex.

These sorts of lyrics are, of course, rather questionable and it is understandable that some people do not wish to listen to them. But rather than simply switching off and finding rappers more to their taste, now it seems that certain hip-hop fans are attempting to sanitise rap as a whole, usually by blogging their outrage and launching petitions.

But the outraged and offended, with their Huffington Post blogs and their screeds on other well-trafficked websites, are not representative of rap fans, the majority of whom are seemingly indifferent to some of rap’s more questionable lyrics. My guess would be that those calling out certain rappers were once ‘uncritical’ hip-hop fans, too. But, as they have become inducted into right-on ‘lefty politics’ (perhaps through university), they have struggled to manage the contradiction between these newly internalised values and the content of the music they once loved.

Tom Bailey is writer based in London. Follow him on Twitter: @tbaileybailey

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