Rolling Loud New York is scheduled to take place at Citi Field in Queens, New York this weekend, but three drill rappers initially expected to perform have been axed from the lineup.
At the request of Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Police Department, Bronx native Sha Ek, Brooklyn’s 22Gz and Ron Suno, another Bronx-born rapper, won’t be allowed to participate in what has become one of the biggest rap festivals in the country based on a potential for violence.
Speaking to Variety, Sha Ek’s manager, Stanley “Noodles” Davis, was baffled by the NYPD’s decision, especially since his client has no criminal history. As he pointed out, the Warner Music Group signee has changed his life around. He recently landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and was able to buy his first house. Davis said when Ek got the news, it was “pure devastation.”
“He was like, ’Damn. I just can escape where I come from,’” Davis said. “Son of immigrants. Only 19. Kicked out of school. Lost his Dad to Covid. Now, out of nowhere, the mayor and NYPD says, ‘Oh, he’s not allowed to perform.’
“But every artist who met with the mayor — like B-Lovee, who’s from Sha Ek’s neighborhood in the Courtlandt area, he can perform. Come on. They did this to Eminem. They did this to 2pac. They did this to Snoop Dogg. We’ve been seeing this forever. Even down to Young Thug and Gunna situation.”
According to the New York Times, a spokesperson for Atlantic Records, 22Gz’s label, confirmed his removal but declined to comment further. He’s currently out on bond after being charged in June with attempted murder for his role in a Brooklyn club shooting.
The NYPD’s actions mirror what happened at Rolling Loud New York in 2019, when the department banned 22Gz and fellow drill rapper Pop Smoke from hitting the stage. A letter from an assistant chief at the NYPD explained at the time they “had been affiliated with recent acts of violence citywide.” It continued: “The New York City Police Department believes if these individuals are allowed to perform, there will be a higher risk of violence.”
But Davis didn’t even get that. Neither the NYPD, Mayor Adams or Rolling Loud have released an official statement. However, the organizers of the festival graciously agreed to pay Sha Ek for the canceled performance.
“It was more like, ‘You heard what I said,’” Davis explained. “There was no back and forth.’ They were like, ‘We are the NYPD and this is coming down from the Mayor’s Office. If Rolling Loud wants to put you guys on, then they won’t have a permit.’
But Rolling Loud was like, ‘We’re still going to honor the payment. It’s not us. It’s really New York.’ We have the same booking agent as Rod Wave, DaBaby, Polo G, NLE Choppa — these are top ticket-selling guys. Sha Ek has no criminal record. They are basing it on choice; it has nothing to do with music. Fivio Foreign is the biggest drill artist in the country right now and he’s on the bill.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) said in a statement they are concerned about the artists' removal.
“Rap is not a crime," the organization said. "Without a clear, specific threat to public safety — which officials must be transparent about — law enforcement can’t tell the Rolling Loud organizers who can and can’t play their event.”
Davis said Warner is planning on making a statement in support of Sha Ek and the two others who were kicked off the festival on Friday (Sept. 23). With headliners Nicki Minaj, Future, A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti, this was going to be a huge moment for Sha Ek.
Questioned Davis: “He can’t perform in his own backyard because you think he might be an issue? On what bias? … Of all the shit going on in New York City, you’re going to say drill music is the problem? Ninety-percent of us have criminal records! It’s hip-hop.”