Immigration: Odd Future ban not about lyrics

Odd Future have been barred from performing in New Zealand for a second time.
Odd Future have been barred from performing in New Zealand for a second time.

Banning rap group Odd Future from New Zealand had nothing to do with the band's lyrics and wasn't a decision "made lightly", says Immigration New Zealand.

Eminem's support act was last night banned from the country two days before the Western Springs concert after Immigration NZ deemed them a threat to the public.

The Los Angeles collective were to be emergency replacements at tomorrow night's Rapture tour after Kendrick Lamar - one of the show's top billings - announced on February 2 he was pulling out because of an "unavoidable scheduling conflict".

But Immigration New Zealand scuttled those plans yesterday, with a spokeswoman saying: "The Immigration Act 2009 provides that entry permission may not be granted where there is reason to believe there is, or is likely to be, a threat or risk to public order or the public interest.

"Odd Future has been deemed to be a potential threat to public order and the public interest for several reasons, including incidents at past performances in which they have incited violence."

Border Operations Manager Karen Urwin said authorities decided to decline visas to six group members after becoming aware of a 2011 incident in Boston in which some witnesses claimed group members incited fans to attack police officers.

She was referring to an incident at an album signing for frontman Tyler, The Creator when the group climbed on top of the shop and ran from roof to roof. An officer was hurt and a 13-year-old girl arrested.

"It's not a decision we take lightly and not one that happens often," Urwin said.

She said some people wrongly assumed authorities considered the group's lyrics in imposing the ban.

"If we banned people who used swear words, we wouldn't have many people left in New Zealand," she said.

She also told Radio New Zealand the ban was on the group, but if members of the group wanted to travel here as individuals they would be welcome.

Tyler, The Creator hit out on Twitter about the decision. "OF is banned from New Zealand, again. They said we were 'terrorist threats and bad for the society' or whatever," he said. But he added: "I love NZ tho."

The hip-hop group, which is also known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, is known for its anarchic style and lyrics that canvas drugs, killing and rape.

Urwin said the six rappers had intended to stay in New Zealand just a few days before leaving for Australia.

She said it was rare to ban musicians under rules that cover character concerns. She said those provisions in the past have been used to stop people like white supremacist group leaders and high-profile Holocaust deniers.

Odd Future's manager Christian Clancy tweeted: "Sorry New Zealand apparently this group of kids that have inspired the s*** out of me for the last few years are a threat to society. And thanks for the hour before flight heads-up. After approving and issuing visas."

Odd Future were barred from performing at the Big Day Out in 2012, but came anyone to perform a sideshow at Auckland's Powerstation and joined up with the festival for all Australian dates.

At the time, Herald reviewer Chris Schulz called it "one of the most thrilling hip-hop shows the venue has seen".

"The band's beats are sparse and minimalist - but they're simply a delivery tool for electric rhymes that bristle with energy and tonnes of passion. Members of the group could often be seen doubled over and gasping for air," he said of the show.

More than 55,000 people are expected at Western Springs tomorrow. Promoters have not yet spoken about Odd Future's ban or announced any plans for a replacement.


What: Hip-hop festival Rapture
Where: Western Springs, Auckland
When: Saturday, February 15
Crowd size: Promoters are expecting ticket sales to exceed 55,000.
Who: Rapture is being headlined by Eminem, one of hip-hop's biggest stadium stars who started his career with celeb-bashing shock-raps but evolved into a bold, brash, controversial, funny and extremely personal MC who, on his day, has peerless rhyme skills. He's being backed by former chef and New York mixtape king Action Bronson, North Carolina's R&B-infused rapper J. Cole, talented local lad David Dallas and Aussie up-and-comer 360.
Times: Gates open at 3.30pm. First act 360 is due on stage at 4.20pm. Eminem is due to take the stage at 9.15pm. Closing time around 11pm.
Alcohol: No BYO is permitted but there will be bars at the venue which close at 9.30pm.
Getting there: Check your ticket for which zone you're in - it will match up to one of the venue's four entry-points.
Rules: You can take a one-litre water bottle with you, as long as it's sealed. Moshing, stage diving, crowd-surfing and umbrellas are banned. There are no pass-outs. Bring cash if you want to buy anything. Lastly, don't try and rap along with Eminem - he's too fast and you'll just annoy the people around you. Don't be that guy.

- with AP

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