Donald Trump, who controversially called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the USA, will not be banned from entering the UK after a debate over whether he should be allowed to enter the UK. In September 2015, Tyler, the Creator, an American hip-hop artist known for his controversial lyrics, did not fare so well.
On 26 August 2015, the musician was banned from entering the UK because of words he had penned for songs released in 2009. That day, Tyler explained the situation on Twitter, saying: “BASED ON LYRICS FROM 2009 I AM NOT ALLOWED IN THE UK FOR 3-5 YEARS (although I was there 8 weeks ago) THAT IS WHY THE SHOWS WERE CANCELLED.”
Speaking to Vice at the time, Index on Censorship’s chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said: “The British government has talked repeatedly in recent months about the importance of free expression and yet shown again and again through its actions that this commitment is half-hearted. Free expression includes allowing those whose speech others find offensive to express themselves. Tyler, the Creator, should be allowed to perform.”
Tyler’s lyrics have a tendency to push buttons, with his adopted alter ego Wolf Haley spitting rhymes about raping pregnant women and using a hefty variety of slurs. However, he stands firm on the fact that his lyrical content in no way a represents him as an individual and what he believes. In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “The thing that irks me about it is that the paper saying I am denied entry to UK clearly states that these songs were written from [the perspective of] an alter ego — which means they obviously did some research on these songs that they’re detaining me for.”
Additionally, in one of his most popular tracks, Radicals, he opens the song saying: “Hey, don’t do anything I say in this song, okay? It’s fuckin’ fiction. If anything happens, don’t fuckin’ blame me, white America, fuck Bill O’Reilly.” Seconds after the disclaimer, the MC launches into a tornado of aggressive bass and lines about defying what others think of him.
Tyler wasn’t the first rapper to be banned from the UK; both Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg have been denied entry because of convictions for criminal offences in the US. However, he is the first to be denied due to the content of his art.
Index on Censorship has teamed up with the producers of the award-winning They Will Have To Kill Us First to create the Music in Exile Fund to support musicians facing censorship globally. You can donate here, or by texting “BAND61 £10” to 70070 to give £10.