By Tonte Spiff
There is nothing worse as a fan of a recording artist, in any genre, to receive news that the show you bought tickets for has been cancelled. But in Canada, hip-hop fans have become all too familiar with the disappointment of tour dates being cancelled because their favourite American recording artist was denied entry into the country. Issues crossing the Canadian border have basically spanned the length of the live hip-hop show industry in Canada.
In 2000, the acting Ontario attorney general Jim Flaherty made a serious attempt to prevent Eminem from entering Canada, by citing lyrics which described violence against women. Another notable situation took place in 2007 when Jerome Almon, CEO of Murdercap Records, attempted to sue Canadian immigration officials in a $900 million lawsuit stating, “he had been a product of racial profiling, as he was detained for questioning 117 of the 120 times he had crossed the border.”
I have been affected by this issue on several occasions in the past with artists including Young Thug and Nipsey Hussle. These are just a number of shows that have been axed, but promotion companies have also gone under and as a result and fans have missed out on their favourite music over the years. This issue is still very much current, with rapper The Game being denied entry earlier this year in March for his Canadian tour.
Organizers wrote in a statement: “Due to circumstances beyond the artist, management, agency, and promoters’ control, we regret to announce that ‘The Game Canadian Tour 2019’ is canceled due to the Canadian Government denying the artist’s TRP application to enter legally into our country. In regards to any false press you may see surfacing to be clear the artist The Game and management ‘DID NOT CANCEL’ the Canadian tour. He was very excited to come to Canada and looking forward to seeing his Canadian fans after so long.”
They added: “It is with great sadness and frustration that the Canadian government could not see the overwhelming desire and benefit, and no risk to Canadians to let artist The Game do his tour and to fulfill such a wanted need from the businesses, the promoters, and the fans it would have benefited in such a positive way.”
The blame in these situations shouldn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian Immigration Services. In the case of The Game, he received three years of probation for threatening to kill a police officer and is still dealing with a $7.1 million sexual battery suit. Another issue is the levels of paperwork and logistics that promotors, management teams, and the artists themselves continue to ignore.
Toronto-born Lola Plaku, works as a booking agent for French Montana, is a veteran in the realm of booking shows and she’s noticed direct ties between cancelled shows and newbie promoters who expect minimal work to produce something more than minimal results. Not only the artists, but also fans rely on promoters to do their due diligence to ensure that everything behind-the-scenes is being taken care of. “If I’m the promoter that is booking French Montana, I need to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ to make sure that I’ve done everything I possibly can to make sure this artist gets in the country,” Plaku says.
The need for pre-planning in the form of receiving work permits, visas, customs clearance and hiring attorneys, should be the focus as opposed to ensuring drink deals and promotional flyer colour schemes for promoters. Issues of being denied entry into Canada isn’t limited to American hip-hop artists, as many other celebrities have been denied entry, in addition to regular citizens, but it is clear that hip-hop fans have become all-to-familiar with this issue. The hope is that things will change in the near future because hip-hop fans in Canada deserve better than what they’ve been forced to deal with on a regular basis.