Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on May 28th 2010 12:00PM by Steve Baltin
Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha has started a movement called the Sound Strike that features notable acts, including Rage, Kanye West, Rise Against, Conor Oberst, Sonic Youth, Tenacious D, Massive Attack and many others, who are vowing not to play shows in the state until SB 1070 is repealed.
Serj Tankian tells Spinner he is joining de la Rocha's calls for a boycott. "Zack de la Rocha recently asked if I would join him, Rage Against the Machine and other artists in boycotting Arizona for their new draconian immigration law," Tankian says. "I agreed to do so. Comprehensive immigration reform on the national level is necessary to avoid ill-intentioned state measures such as AZ SB 1070. According to many reports I read, crime has not gone up due to immigration, illegal or otherwise, in Arizona since the mid '70s. To use that as the excuse to profile people is not just wrong but immoral, in my opinion."
The prospect of profiling, where people can be pulled over and/or detained simply for their appearance, is the major source of the anger against the law. The Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am took to Twitter to deride the law. "The racial profiling is aimed at Mexicans. There are illegal Russians, Chinese, Brazilians, Europeans, Australians and Arabs in the USA," he wrote. "The sad thing is Mexicans do jobs Americans don't do and then we complain like [they're] a nuisance. What if all Chicanos went on strike?"
The Wu-Tang Clan's GZA wonders the same thing. "If you want to start talking about immigrants, especially Mexicans, they could shut Cali down," he says. "If you want to start f---ing with immigrants, they could shut Cali down because any restaurant, any store you go into, you're gonna see immigrants."
For those reasons, GZA is another act that supports boycotting Arizona. "Boycotting is a very strong thing," he says. "When people get together and make a movement, you see the power of that joining together. If you look at the boycotts in Birmingham when they boycotted the whole bus system because they wanted to make Rosa Parks go to the back, it put a dent in the system and sometimes you have to do that. So, good, boycott Arizona."
The list of artists supporting a boycott is growing strong, but so far, only Cypress Hill and Pitbull have canceled their shows. Pitbull reveals he couldn't, in good conscience, play there. "I've always taken a stance. The reason why this is the best course of action is because after learning more about the law, I felt the only real way I could make a statement was to act. I am more about actions than words," he says. "We knew the show in Phoenix had to be canceled to take stance for what USA really stands for: human rights, freedom and opportunity. This law is the total opposite and a contradiction to our constitutional rights. The US is also a nation that has been built by immigrants."
Ed Masley, pop music critic for the Arizona Republic, says so far the boycotts haven't made much impact within Arizona. "These supporters of the bill aren't likely to become supportive because people marginalize [them] as opinionated celebrities and Hollyweirdos, or whatever they call them. The right-wing rhetoric is so ingrained and it's pretty easy to marginalize anyone who's speaking out against it as a celebrity pet cause type of thing," he says. "A couple of big shows, like if a Christina Aguilera or a Green Day pulled out, would obviously have a bigger impact."
Obviously Rage Against the Machine and Kanye West are big enough names to make that impact, but they didn't have shows scheduled in Arizona prior to announcing their boycott. However, tour promoter Kevin Lyman has three upcoming shows in the Grand Canyon State, including the very high-profile Warped Tour. Lyman admits he is undecided on whether to cancel the Warped, Rockstar Mayhem Festival and Country Throwdown shows. "I'm still deciding because sometimes it's a knee-jerk reaction. I haven't made that decision to pull any shows or anything yet," he says, noting he has been contacted by artists and there is a lot of talk within the music community about pushing the boycott further. "The initial reaction, everyone's calling each other: 'Cancel your shows in Phoenix.'"
Lyman worked with Lollapalooza in 1991 and remembers the furor against Arizona over Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when the state was slow to recognize the national holiday. "We took that opportunity to use it as a rallying point for people at the show and causes and were able to donate money to those causes that were actually fighting that," he says, pointing out that after all the national pressure, Arizona made MLK day a holiday within a year of the show.
DJ Z-Trip is an Arizona native and he knows that the cancellation of concerts is going to be felt most by those who don't support the law. "Sad thing is, a lot of innocent AZ people will feel the effects of boycotts," he tells Spinner. "It's not like any of the people in power are huge Pitbull fans, so they probably don't care."
But having lived through the stigma of the MLK day controversy, which he says took a long time for the state to live down, Z-Trip also understands, like GZA, the importance of letting your voice be heard. "It's important to speak out and let the people in power know how you feel. Just because they write and sign laws, doesn't always mean all the laws they put into effect are right," he says. "And if enough people get behind this and it hits the government in the wallet -- a place where they are already hurting -- I think it will make a difference."
That's why Pitbull decided ultimately to cancel his show. "I feel these boycotts will make an impact. They send a powerful message that our civil rights are the foundation of our country," he says. Rather than speak with anger, he's hoping for an intelligent discourse. "I hope the boycotts will inspire people, including politicians, to really research the law and become more informed. I think they will see that the racial profiling aspect is what in wrong with the law. Don't get me wrong, there should be laws in place -- this is just not it."
For Lyman, the decision to cancel his shows also involves the fans, especially the kids who come out to Warped. "I've been going to Detroit for a long time and I talk to families and I really talk to the kids because I get the 15 to 17-year-olds at my show. The economy in Michigan has been bad for a long time and kids come up to me and say this is the one day that they look for," Lyman says. "They're actually learning, they're seeing there's a potential future for them. It's hard for me sometimes, in my mind, to take that away from kids in a bad economy because I'm giving them that one day where they really feel like they're getting that great value. So I'm torn in a million directions because I actually still talk to the 15 to 17-year-olds in each market."
To learn more about de la Rocha's Sound Strike, visit www.theSoundStrike.net.