Being banned by police is the best promo OneFour could hope for [op-ed]
Western Sydney rap group OneFour have never seen an arrest, nor any violence, at their shows. Yet their upcoming national tour has been cancelled after police put pressure on venues not to host the group.
This is the best thing that could have happened to them. The Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC and numerous other outlets have given them national press over this past week, painting them as the victims of over-policing and of censorship.
“OneFour will be the first Australian band effectively banned from performing in their own country, following confirmation today that all venues for their planned national tour have been cancelled,” the band wrote in a statement.
“There have been no arrests or violence at any previous OneFour concerts. Despite this pressure has been put on venues by police not to proceed with a near sell-out national tour.”
Shows in Adelaide and Melbourne were the first to be cancelled, by venues who had been spoken to by police. On Wednesday, the group warned the tour was “unlikely to proceed” blaming police pressure on venues, and this was proven correct.
NSW Police visited the homes of two group members and served them exclusion orders, which banned them from attending the ARIA Awards – and their local shopping centre, which means the local Passiona run is off.
They also “provided advice” to the Enmore Theatre, which I imagine was similar to the “advice” you receive when “advised” to shut down a house party.
“The message from NSW Police to OneFour for speaking out on the right to perform their music is unmistakable,” Live Nation, who were the tour bookers, said.
“The broader message they’re sending, in particular to Western Sydney youth, is less upholding the law and more about enforcing moral judgements. Making and performing music is not a crime.”
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We’re devastated that due to issues beyond our control the Adelaide show has now been cancelled. There will be full ticket refunds. There’s a bigger issue for us is this continues a pattern of concert cancellations which deny us a platform to perform and single out our fan base. To be clear there has been no incident at any of our live concerts and why the band would want or allow that to change for our fans does not make any sense. Right now our management are trying to sit down with NSW Police to sort this out. Don’t lash out online or elsewhere as it plays into the hands of those that would vilify us. But do continue to listen to us online because many of those platforms still believe in the right of expression and free speech.
All this attention is due to their alleged gang affiliations.
This morning was the first time I had heard of OneFour. I would wager that I am not alone here.
The first thing that came to mind was ‘Fuck Tha Police’, though not for obvious reasons. I’m referring to the 1988 NWA song, which was deemed so dangerous that the FBI wrote their independent record label a letter.
The letter claims that the song “encourages violence against and disrespect for the law enforcement officer” and points out that “advocating violence and assault is wrong, and we in the law enforcement community take exception to such action”.
The final paragraph of the letter opens with: “Music plays a significant role in society, and I wanted you to be aware of the FBI’s position relative to this song and its message.
While the letter was undoubtedly meant as a scare tactic, the band’s manager Jerry Heller saw it as the promotional boon that it was, spreading the message far and wide that the FBI deemed NWA’s music dangerous enough to try to shut it down.
The national and international press followed, with the Village Voice referring to a “right-wing attack on rock” (I mean, it’s rap music, but in 1988, “rap” meant little to their readership). An album made in six weeks for $8,000 quickly sold over a million copies, and was seen as a beacon in the street-level war between black communities hounded out of their neighbours and the corrupt, racist police breaching the laws that were tasked with unholding.
Priority Records even used the FBI letter in the promotional release for the group’s 1990 EP 100 Miles and Runnin, writing “if anyone thought a stormy year of banned concerts and an angry letter from the FBI might intimidate NWA, the group’s new Priority EP ‘100 Miles and Runnin’ ought to set things straight.”
OneFour seem to be playing the press in a similar way, and good on them for turning adversity into power.
After all, I’m writing about them, and comparing them to perhaps the greatest hip hop group of all time in the process, and I’m yet to listen to a single second of their music. They have received far more coverage, on a national level, than if they had simply completed a successful “near sell-out” national tour, and now I, like many others around the country, are going to listen to their music today.
And I bet it’s quite good. But it also doesn’t matter if it is – I am already on their side.