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DaBaby's return to Rolling Loud 'a slap in the face,' HIV advocates say

The rapper is slated to perform at the Miami festival this summer, after making offensive remarks at last year’s event about gay men and people living with HIV.
DaBaby performs onstage during "Rolling Loud Presents: DaBaby Live Show Killa" tour in Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2021.Paras Griffin / Getty Images file

HIV and LGBTQ advocates have condemned Rolling Loud’s decision to invite DaBaby to return to its Miami music festival, almost eight months after the rapper made disparaging comments while onstage at last year’s event. 

While performing at the July festival, the artist, who lives in North Carolina, made crude remarks about gay men and shared offensive and uninformed comments about those living with HIV/AIDS.

“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,” he said, in part, to a crowd of tens of thousands of people. 

Advocacy groups were quick to criticize DaBaby following his onstage remarks. Amid the controversy, the rapper was also dropped from New York City’s Governors Ball Music Festival and Las Vegas' Day N Vegas. DaBaby eventually released apologies in response to the growing backlash and agreed to a virtual meeting in August with LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD and eight HIV advocacy groups, including the Black AIDS Institute and the Southern AIDS Coalition.

During the meeting, the organizations said, the rapper promised to use his platform to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, donate to the cause and collaborate with advocacy groups to offer HIV testing at his shows. 

Representatives from three of the organizations that participated in the meeting — Prevention Access Campaign, Transinclusive Group and Normal Anomaly Initiative — told NBC News the rapper appeared genuinely engaged, receptive to their message and apologetic for his offensive remarks. Because of that, they said, they were shocked when he never followed up on the commitments he made during the meeting. 

With no accountability for his actions, the advocates said, they felt sidelined by the news of his return to one of the largest music festivals in the U.S. — where he previously amplified false statements about people living with HIV/AIDS. 

Deondre B. Moore, director of U.S. partnerships and community engagement at the Prevention Access Campaign, said he’s disappointed with the festival’s decision. 

“It feels as though the meeting and taking time to meet with us was all just smoke and mirrors. None of the things that he talked about doing or following through with have come to fruition,” Moore said. “For us, it’s kind of a slap in the face … to see them still being able to support and push him up to be on the same stage where he made such horrible comments and degrading comments for people living with HIV.”  

Moore also added that none of the groups have received any donations from the Grammy-nominated artist.

“He also talked about working with some of us and our organizations at his concerts," he said, "to provide testing or raise awareness and make sure that the education was put out there correctly, and then none of that has happened as well.” 

Ian L. Haddock, executive director of the Normal Anomaly Initiative, said he and the others in the meeting "definitely felt a little duped."

"We had this wonderful conversation,” Haddock said of the meeting with DaBaby. “Much of our community was saying that it wasn’t going to go anywhere, and we were just really hopeful.” 

Haddock said his organization was not seeking donations from the rapper but hoped he would help further the conversation about people living with HIV/AIDS. 

“It was like literally radio silence,” Haddock said. “So to hear that he is back on the lineup after not having done anything, it’s really just a testament to capitalism and it’s a testament to people not understanding the weight of his words.” 

Tatiana Williams, executive director of Transinclusive Group, said she had hoped last year’s incident would change the rapper’s behavior. However, she added, after the uproar calmed down, he was able to skirt accountability. 

“After that, it’s like maybe a few months … he became DaBaby again and whatever comes with DaBaby,” Williams said. 

Neither Rolling Loud nor South Coast Music Group, an agency representing the rapper, immediately returned requests for comment. 

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