By: Andrew Shibuya
No one thought that the return to normalcy – or at least the path towards it – would be without hurdles. Indeed, the past six months have proven similarly difficult to the previous twelve, and the coming few seem to promise no respite. And so, in the now past and brief interlude in mask mandates and lockdowns in the United States, surely one would think that crowded events such as music festivals would be about celebrating reunion and unity.
Unfortunately, with the precedent of a certain performer at Rolling Loud, it is clear that unity was not the first thing on everyone’s mind. No one has made this more clear than rapper DaBaby. During his performance at the festival, the rapper is reported to have said several homophobic comments including, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up,” as well as the peculiar, “Fellas, if you ain’t sucking d**k in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up.”
Of course, the Internet had something to say, and the deserved virtual tirade against DaBaby began. Twitter users in particular took up arms against DaBaby’s comments, lambasting the rapper for what they deemed to be some mixture of idiocy and ignorance.
And while fools’ remarks should hardly be considered worth coverage alone, the following onslaught and festivals’ responses are worth discussing. In the past week, numerous notable festivals have pulled DaBaby from their lineups, including Lollapalooza, New York’s Governors Ball, and Day N Vegas. The festivals all shared similar messages to their social media channels regarding the change, citing the need for and value of inclusion and diversity. The former’s message read: “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect. And love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.” Read our coverage of Lollapalooza and its implications with COVID HERE.
These festival changes seemed to have induced an apology from DaBaby, who, at first, was reluctant to apologize or recognize any wrongdoing. In response to the first wave of criticism, the rapper responded on his Instagram Story, stating, “What I do at a live show is for the audience at the live show. It’ll never translate correctly to somebody looking at a little five, six-second clip from their goddamn crib on their phone. Because, regardless of what y’all motherfuckers are talking about and how the internet twisted up my motherfucking words, me and all my fans at the show, the gay ones and the straight ones, we turned the fuck up.”
This was just the first response of many, with each becoming increasingly apologetic as more of his shows were cancelled. The most recent of his apologies, which many on Twitter have dubbed “DaApology,” reads: “I want to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community for the hurtful and triggering comments I made. Again, I apologize for my misinformed comments about HIV/AIDS and I knew education on this is important.” And while some fans online deemed his response to be acceptable, many did not see it as adequate.
Celebrities similarly took to Twitter and other social media platforms to offer their two cents on the situation. Many decried DaBaby’s words, such as his recent collaborator Dua Lipa, who claims to be incredibly taken aback by this side of DaBaby. Other big names in the music industry such as singer-songwriter Elton John and pop legend Madonna have similarly criticized the ignorance and inaccuracy of DaBaby’s comments on HIV and AIDS. Most recently, Miley Cyrus has shared on social media that she has reached out to DaBaby to “learn from each other” in the wake of this incident.
And still, some rappers and other industry names have come to DaBaby’s defense. Some, like rapper NLE Choppa, insist that this is just a slight hiccup in DaBaby’s career, with NLE Choppa recently tweeting, “Dababy Gone Come Out Bigger Than Ever While Y’all Tryna Down Play The Man.” Rapper T.I. similarly called for more equality and fair treatment for DaBaby, seeming to suggest the praise Lil Nas X has recently received. In an Instagram comment, T.I. wrote, “If Lil Nas X can kick his s**t in peace… so should DaBaby.”
DaBaby’s comments come after a recent onslaught of homophobic vitriol directed toward Nas X this past summer. Following the release of the rapper’s successful singles “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” and brazen accompanying videos, many – both fans and other rappers – took to Twitter. And while many people did support Nas X as T.I. seems to allude to, the openly gay rapper received far from unanimous praise.
In addition to spurring an inundation of homophobic sentiment online from quotidian users, Nas X proved to be similarly divisive amongst other rappers in the hip hop industry. While some voiced their support and praised the rapper’s bravery and bold works, some were similarly quick to voice their disproval. Many condemned the rapper for what seemed to them to be brazen lewdness, though many Twitter users thinly veiled homophobia.
The discourse over “cancelling” is rather interesting in light of so much present discussion over the actual existence of cancel culture and its implications. Especially in the music industry, where the effects of “cancelling” someone seem to be diminished – Chris Brown still plays on the radio, Dr. Luke still produces number-one hits, and most recently “cancelled” country singer Morgan Wallen has seen his popularity grow tremendously despite this year’s earlier controversy. This is in contrast with the film industry, where, although far from free from offenders, certain players have been blackballed far more effectively and efficiently.
Surely, all those people could be an argument against the existence of cancel culture. The consequences to their actions seem to have faded as quickly as people’s memories of their wrongdoings. And so, as to the question of whether or not DaBaby has been “cancelled” is unclear. The action against him – at least at the level of cancelling his headlining performances and shows – has so far managed to induce at least a single apology from the rapper. And while what lies in store for DaBaby remains unclear, one certainty remains – the Internet has at least some power to affect change in the real world.