By MAX BROWN
On March 31, the Student Activities Board posted on their Facebook page announcing that B.o.B, the performer scheduled to headline the Relays Concert, would no longer be performing. This announcement came in the wake of various students and student organizations voicing concerns regarding B.o.B’s history of controversial statements and lyrics.
The post reads, “Recording artist B.o.B will not be performing at the student-organized and student-funded Relays Concert next month, as had been previously announced. Student Activities Board, which manages the annual event, is working on alternative plans; information will be shared as details are finalized.”
In January 2016, B.o.B expressed his belief that the Earth is flat. Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson contacted B.o.B over Twitter, attempting to persuade the rapper that the Earth is round. B.o.B responded by recording a “diss track” against Tyson entitled “Flatline,” which expanded on B.o.B’s views and accused Tyson of being paid by NASA to promote a round-Earth agenda.
B.o.B drew controversy for lyrics within “Flatline” described as anti-Semitic. The verse “Do your research on David Irving/Stalin was way worse than Hitler/That’s why POTUS gotta wear a kippah” contains references to a historian who has denied the Holocaust and seems to perpetuate a conspiracy theory that Jewish people or the state of Israel control world events.
David Irving is a British historian who began openly denying the Holocaust in the 1980s, specifically denying that Jews were murdered via gas chambers in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He has been described as a revisionist and has been widely discredited by his peers. In 1996 he unsuccessfully attempted to sue American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, claiming he had been libeled in Lipstadt’s book “Denying the Holocaust”. The English courts ruled that Irving had deliberately misrepresented historical evidence in his writing and denied his claim.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that the song was “irresponsible and could potentially promote anti-Semitic beliefs, especially in those people who might already be infected by such notions.”
Within hours of B.o.B’s performance being announced, students took to social media to protest the rapper’s views.
Senior Ryan Skotzke dismissed B.o.B’s flat Earth comments as an attempt to remain relevant, and said that he felt they were inappropriate for an institution like Drake.
“When an artist ceases to be relevant, he begins to espouse all sorts of inventive strategies to keep his name in minds of his fans,” Skotzke said. “Unfortunately for B.O.B., the chosen strategy was to be foolishly vocal in the belief that the Earth, though proven to be spherical, is actually a flat object. This outdated belief, on par with the theory that vaccines cause autism in terms of sheer stupidity, has embedded itself deeply within the head of this year’s relays artist, and it has no place at an institution that claims to host students who strive for knowledge and professional growth.”
Senior Rebecca Perl, a member of Hillel, protested the rapper’s anti-Semitic views over Facebook and criticized SAB for hiring the rapper, claiming that his controversial views are common knowledge and reflect carelessness on the part of SAB.
“Drake Student Activities Board (SAB) Relays Artist B.o.B denies not only slavery but is a holocaust denier as well,” Perl said. “SAB should be ashamed that they’re bringing someone to campus with such offensive views for such a large event. I don’t know if they didn’t Google him (it’s the second thing that comes up) or they just didn’t care, but I and my Jewish peers are deeply hurt and offended. Yet again, Drake shows that they do not care about their marginalized students.”
She concluded her post by calling on students to boycott B.o.B’s appearance.
Perl wrote, “Personally, I am SO tired, hurt and offended and I will not be attending my last Relays concert. I urge other students who actually care about marginalized communities to not attend as well.”
Several days after B.o.B’s performance was announced, a group of representatives from Hillel met with Assistant Dean of Students Tony Tyler to discuss the situation, however Tyler could not be reached for comment and Hillel declined to share information about the meeting.
David Atri Schuller, Hillel’s social chair, said he feels that the outcry over B.o.B was largely overblown and that SAB did not make a serious mistake in hiring him. In an interview before B.o.B’s removal was announced, Schuller said that he trusted SAB’s reasoning.
“It is clearly incorrect and unacceptable to bring in an anti-Semite as the Relays artist,” Schuller said. “Whether this is the case with B.o.B., I am unsure and honestly don’t really care what his personal views are. I trust the University’s policies were followed and that the committee who decided to bring him considered all of the details.”
He identified the lyrics from “Flatline” given above as potentially problematic, but expressed doubt as to whether they were reason enough to cancel B.o.B.
“I honestly (personally) couldn’t care less who the relays artist is. Like I said, I don’t know whether B.o.B really is an anti-Semite or just dropped a few lines on a song that would catch attention,” Schuller said. “As far as I know, there’s three lines on his song Flatline that are clearly stepping over the line. ‘Do your research on David Irving’ – seemingly defending known holocaust denier. ‘Stalin was way worse than Hitler’ – Too general to draw conclusions.’That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah’ – Implying Jews control media…global conspiracy theory. Whether this is enough to prompt a ban on B.o.B, I am unsure and would defer to everybody’s personal choice.”
Following B.o.B’s cancellation, Schuller maintained that he trusted SAB’s decision.
“I just think it’s slightly ridiculous how much people care about these matters in general. We could be focusing our attention to so many more issues that are much more important than whether a rapper thinks the Earth is flat or not,” Schuller said.
None of the leadership or faculty advisors for SAB could be reached for comment, however general member Cora Holt said that she felt they made the right call in removing B.o.B.
“I’m really happy they decided to remove him as a relays artist, it’s important to show that they listen to the concerns of students and want to protect marginalized groups,” Holt said. Holt said she believes that SAB should have done more research on B.o.B before hiring him but doesn’t believe that there was any malice involved.
“I’m critical of the fact that it got to the point of him being hired without research into any controversy it might stir up, but I don’t think they did it on purpose and we can’t assume anything about the decision making process without speaking with the committee,” Holt said.
No members of Drake’s administration, the Bands Committee or SAB leadership have responded to The Times-Delphic.