Five rappers with New York roots were removed from the local edition of the travelling hip-hop festival Rolling Loud, scheduled for this weekend in Queens, at the behest of the New York Police Department, representatives for the concert said on Saturday.
The move came after Martin Morales, an assistant chief at the Police Department, sent the festival organisers a letter Wednesday requesting the removal of five artists — 22Gz, Casanova, Pop Smoke, Sheff G and Don Q — citing safety concerns.
The performers, who were among several dozen scheduled to join blockbuster acts like Travis Scott, Wu-Tang Clan and Meek Mill at Citi Field, “have been affiliated with recent acts of violence citywide,” the department said in its letter. “The New York City Police Department believes if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.”
Rolling Loud confirmed receipt of the letter and said that the artists had been taken off the line-up. The festival declined to comment further.
Representatives for Casanova, Don Q, Sheff G and Pop Smoke confirmed they had been removed from the bill. 22Gz could not immediately be reached for comment.
Each of the artists cited by the Police Department has had encounters with law enforcement.
Casanova, who served prison time in New York on a robbery charge, was recently named in federal testimony by the rapper 6ix9ine, who described a shooting between the artists’ rival crews and named both groups as members of the Bloods gang. 22Gz was charged with murder in Florida in 2017, but the charges were dropped after police identified another man as the gunman. Sheff G, Don Q and Pop Smoke have each faced weapons charges.
In a statement on Instagram, Don Q blamed “misinformation” from the Police Department. “I love my city and I never been in any gang activities or had issues at any of my previous shows,” he wrote. “I hope the city will wake up and see that cancelling me and my fellow NY artists isn’t the solution, we just love what we do and want to perform for our fans.” Casanova added in the comments that the decision “really hurts.”
The police department did not immediately respond to questions about its request to remove the artists.
Rolling Loud events have been connected to arrests and violence in the past. Earlier this year in Miami, shootings during the weekend of the festival left two people dead and four wounded, The Associated Press reported. That included an incident in which the artist YoungBoy Never Broke Again (or NBA Youngboy) and his entourage were targeted in a shooting outside of a hotel that left the rapper’s girlfriend and a 5-year-old bystander wounded. A 43-year-old man was killed by crossfire. The rapper Kodak Black was also arrested at the festival on weapons charges.
Some artists have also balked at the security attached to the festival. Lil Wayne, a scheduled headliner at the Miami event, declined to perform after being subjected to a search. “The Festival Police [not Rolling Loud] made it mandatory that I had to be policed and checked to get on the stadium grounds,” he wrote on Twitter. “I do not and will not ever settle for being policed to do my job.”
Rappers in New York have long complained about being targeted by law enforcement at their concerts and elsewhere. Over the years, extensive New York Police Department dossiers on rap acts have been made public, while the department has acknowledged tracking the local music scene for potential criminal activity. “You really have to listen to the songs because they’re talking about ongoing violence,” one anti-gang officer told The New York Times in 2014.
Tariq Cherif, a founder and owner of Rolling Loud, wrote on Twitter that the cancelled artists would be paid their full booking fees and invited to perform at future iterations of the festival.