Boots Riley Drops the F-Bomb, Leaves Stage, Cries Foul

Boots Riley, emcee for Oakland-based hip-hop group the Coup, was guest performing with funk band Galactic on June 21st at the Bayou Boogaloo & Cajun Food Festival in Norfolk, VA, when festival police shut him down for dropping the f-bomb in a danceable chorus: Everybody on the floor/hustle up/rustle up muscle up/what the fuck? According to the law cited, he was charged for “using abusive language to another” — but it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the late-night, well lubricated crowd felt abused by Riley’s rhyme. Not to mention that the obscenities law was being resurrected after 26 years without enforcement. According to an Epitaph Records press release, Riley argues that the festival operators, FestEvents, were displaying simple racism, pointing out that FestEvents also asked another black performer to leave the stage. Epitaph reports that FestEvents claims Riley’s act was a “surprise” and that they did not know he would perform, but the festival website linked to Boots’ MySpace page, and the advertising campaign billed him as a featured performer. Riley thinks that the noise complaints from the recent Afr’Am Festival in Norfolk over Memorial Day weekend provides more proof that the obscenity charge stems from increasing conflict between the rapidly growing population of downtown Norfolk and hip-hop enthusiasts and performers at the nearby festival venue. — Elsa Kim

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