Chuck D has published an open letter in defence of Travis Scott in the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, arguing that it is the responsibility of promoters and not artists to ensure the safety of people attending shows and festivals.
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured after a crowd surge occurred during Scott’s headline set at the latest edition of the Astroworld event that he founded, which was staged at Houston’s NRG Park on 5 Nov. A criminal investigation is currently underway led by the Houston Police Department seeking to identify what led to the crowd surge, and to what extent poor planning or bad decision making on the ground contributed to the tragedy.
A stack of lawsuits have also been filed in relation to the tragic events that took place at Astroworld 2021, all naming Scott himself as well as the festival’s promoters, Live Nation and Scoremore, as defendants.
Scott has also come in for lots of criticism online, with many questioning why he didn’t halt his Astroworld set sooner, given that he performed for more than half an hour after police had declared a “mass casualty event”.
However, sources close to Scott have insisted that he was not aware of the tragedy unfolding in front of him during his Astroworld performance, and that it was the job of the festival’s promoter to make a call on if and when the show should have been called off.
This is the position taken by Chuck D, who also criticises Astroworld’s promoters for only issuing short non-committal statements in the wake of the tragedy, even as Scott has faced intense criticism.
“I cannot believe we’re at the point where I gotta say this out loud: Travis Scott is a performer, an act, not a concert promoter”, he writes in his open letter. “He doesn’t run the sound or venues or festivals or their staff. He doesn’t build stages or coordinate logistics, he’s not an expert in crowd control or security or emergency medical services”.
“But he does trust Live Nation and all the other concert promoters who are supposed to do all of this”, he adds. “I’m tired of these corporations shucking their most crucial responsibility. These folks simply say ‘rest in peace’ and move on. This negligence can’t continue. Folks want answers”.
He then continues: “I’m not buying the Young Black Man did it. He’s being blamed for a crime while the old white men running the corps that Travis and his fans trusted with their lives stay quiet in the shadows, counting their money and watching their stock prices go up and up”.
Some have argued that, while Scott may not have had any specific control over crowd management at Astroworld 2021, he did have a history of encouraging his fans to behave recklessly at his shows, including at his festival. And if and when the lawsuits get to court, lawyers will likely argue that that made a tragedy like that which occurred earlier this month foreseeable.
Responding to those arguments, Chuck D goes on: “The excuse of Scott’s irresponsible actions don’t wash – if his act had a history of that behaviour why promote him to bigger venues, why partner with him in the first place and let him headline a bigger audience?”
To that end, he adds, it should be Live Nation that is held accountable for the Astroworld tragedy (co-promoter Scoremore basically being a Live Nation subsidiary).
“Live Nation controlled this show”, he writes. “They control almost all of the concert venues. Artists ain’t speaking out because these same cats are already bought by these corporations. No one can say a word against them unless they want to be blacklisted and hurt their careers”.
Name checking Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, he goes on: “So I am calling on Michael Rapino’s entire team at Live Nation and a consortium of all the major concert promoters out there to do the right thing”.
“To step up and step out of the shadows to fix these situations and save lives. To stop letting one Young Black Man take the blame, the hate, the fall. We don’t know everything that happened or exactly what failed. But concert promoters have all the power to make the changes to keep everyone safe and alive”.
Chuck D’s letter then concludes: “Live Nation, your stock is up. The White Corporate Music Biz keeps cashing in on Black Pain, Trauma and Death. This has to stop yesterday. You’re part of the problem. Grow the fuck up, fix this and let us all live in peace”.
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