When multicultural music festival Afropunk spread its wings and announced that it was expanding its reach from Brooklyn to London in 2016, it sparked outrage when it booked M.I.A. as its headliner. The reason for the backlash: M.I.A. had made critical comments regarding Black Lives Matter to the Evening Standard in an interview last April: "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."
M.I.A. responded to her critics by saying she "wasn't doing Afropunk" on June 20; Afropunk responded saying that, yes, she was still scheduled to play the festival, and that her comments weren't necessarily detrimental to the movement or their mission in that the debate they inspired was "healthy." But now it looks like M.I.A. hasn't changed her tune since June 20, as Afropunk and M.I.A. have made the decision to part ways.
In a statement, Afropunk said that "education" is a key tenet to their organization and the events they throw, and that conversations about "race, gender, religion, sex, culture and everything that makes life worth living" are a major part of its ethos. "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," the statement continues. "This community is something we are incredibly proud of, and this community will always be a priority for us. We are excited and honored to do our first AFROPUNK Festival in London and want to do it right. 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."
Read Afropunk's statement in full below:
Afropunk London is scheduled to take place in London's Alexandra Palace on September 24. Stay tuned for Afropunk's next wave of artist announcements on July 19, and check out this interview with M.I.A from the Fuse archives below.