British rapper Skepta has apologized for the offensive artwork for his upcoming single, “Gas Me Up (Diligent),” after facing fierce backlash for an image some saw as evoking the Holocaust. The artwork by artist Gabriel Moses was posted on Skepta’s Instagram on Monday — and has since been removed — featuring a photo of a group of men with shaved heads wearing matching drab uniforms with the words “Gas Me Up” tattooed on one of the subject’s heads.
The photo drew comparisons to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, including some commenters saying that the combination of the men dressed in similar uniforms with shaved heads — a common form of humiliation of Jews during the Holocaust — and the song title’s reference to “gas” were reminiscent of the Nazi’s use of gas chambers to murder six million Jews; at press time it did not appear as if photographer/artist Moses had responded to the controversy
After the backlash, Skepta removed the post and issued a statement on his Instagram Story in which he said, “I’ve been waiting to drop ‘Gas Me Up (Diligent)’ since teasing it April last year, worked hard getting the artwork right for my album rollout which is about my parents coming to the UK in the 80’s, Skinhead, Football culture and it has been taken offensively by many and I can promise you that was definitely not our plan so I have removed it and I vow to be more mindful going forward – Skepta.”
On Jan. 1, Skepta announced that he would release his first album in five years, Knife and Fork, with “Gas Me Up” slated to drop on Jan. 26. “It’s been years since I dropped my last album and I want to thank you for all the love during my hiatus,” he wrote in the post. “I’ve seen the messages, tweets and Tik Toks, I’m truly grateful that my music is still resonating with the world even in my absence, I’m happy to announce my next studio album #KnifeAndFork is loading, the first single #GasMeUp (Diligent) will be out January 26th.”
The posting of the controversial image came as reports that antisemitic incident across the U.S. soared in the months after militant group Hamas’ murderous assault on Israel on Oct. 7, in which the group killed more than 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped more than 240 men, women and children; Israel’s counter-attack on Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank has killed a reported 22,000 Palestinians in the months since the unprovoked attack.
The Anti-Defamation League — which had not responded to Billboard‘s request for comment on the Skepta controversy at press time — reported that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. soared 337% over the previous year’s figures between Oct. 7-Dec. 7, reaching the highest figures in any two-month period since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979, according to CBS News.
In addition, Reuters reported that officials in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Russia and China have also reported a rash of antisemitic incidents and attacks at a time when the leading Republican presidential candidate, former one-term president Donald Trump, has drawn fire for referring to his enemies in speeches as “vermin,” a term echoing the language of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
See some of the critical tweets below.
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