A New York hip-hop station, owned by radio monolith Clear Channel, very quickly backed away from a reggae festival it had agreed to sponsor this weekend after the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation pitched a fit after finding out about two of the performers, Buju Banton and Bounty Killer, who have written notoriously homophobic hit singles. But GLAAD may be targeting at least one of these artists for no reason other than a reputation that has preceded him:
Gay-rights activists are still planning to protest at the festival, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Randalls Island.
“Buju Banton and Bounty Killer continue to perform songs with virulently homophobic lyrics that in some cases support the murder of gay people,” Glaad said in a statement sent by email late Wednesday night. “It is unacceptable for Clear Channel, the concert promoters, and the other sponsors to provide these performers with a platform to promote messages that put lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in harm’s way.”
This is hardly the first time that Banton has found himself the target of ire from gay-rights organizations, and dancehall as a whole has been taking some well-deserved fire over the last few years for its occasional rank homophobia, following the genre’s most recent wave of international crossover popularity thanks to Sean Paul, Elephant Man, et al. But what’s especially odd about this story is that it comes only a month after Banton very publically signed the international “Stop Murder Music” petition, claiming to remove the homophobic material from his repetoire. (Bounty Killer remains a “Stop Murder Music” hold out.) The Newsday story makes no mention of this, or whether or not GLAAD is aware of Banton’s pledge to cut the gay-bashing crap. There are also some rumors floating around that Banton has since claimed that he never signed the petition at all.
If Banton has since performed homophobic material at live performances, or has indeed reneged on his promise, then fair game on the part of GLAAD. If he’s stuck to his pledge, however, you’ve got to wonder what a guy has to do to catch a break after already signing away his right to freedom of expression, however icky that expression may be. Clear Channel is obviously mostly interested in covering its ass from a public relations standpoint, backing down as soon as someone said “boo.” But even above and beyond the case of two dancehall deejays, if Clear Channel stations are going to dump any artist that’s ever made anti-gay remarks in their songs, well, they’re going to have a lot of house cleaning to do.