Five years ago, almost to the day, rapper Tyler the Creator was at Los Angeles Airport, about an hour away from boarding a plane to New Zealand. He and his rap crew Odd Future had been booked to play as part of the all-star hip-hop festival Rapture.
The Western Springs show was being headlined by Eminem, a rapper who has used racist, sexist and homophobic language in his music for most of his career. Also on the bill was Action Bronson, a rapper who, in 2011, released a song called Consensual Rape.
Eminem and Bronson both made it to New Zealand to perform. Tyler the Creator, and five other members of Odd Future, didn't. They didn't even get on the plane. Tyler got a call from his manager saying his Visa application had been denied by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). He sent a tweet out about it from LAX, then left and went home.
Ever since, he's regularly made his outrage known about the situation. In 2015, he even released a song with Kanye West about it.
At issue, according to INZ, was that Odd Future were "a threat or risk to public order or the public interest ... likely to incite violence (towards women)" and cause "racial, sexist and homophobic disharmony in New Zealand".
How that phrase could be applied to Odd Future and not Eminem, who has written several songs explicitly detailing how he would murder his ex-wife Kim Mathers, or Action Bronson, whose shocking Consensual Rape song includes the line, "Thousands of pounds of pressure pressed on your spine," is beyond me.
Here's the thing: despite releasing the incredible record Flower Boy in 2017 and performing regularly at major music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, Tyler's never been back to New Zealand. I hear a summer tour across Australia and New Zealand this year was planned, but his track record with INZ meant it didn't happen.
You know who's been back? Action Bronson, who just headlined New Year's festival Northern Bass in Mangawhai. And can you guess who's back, back again, in March? Yep, next month Eminem headlines another Rapture festival, this time in Wellington. It's been sold out for months.
You know who else is apparently coming? R Kelly. Yep, those horrible rumours appear to be true. Yesterday, the R&B singer, Trapped in the Closet creator and alleged sexual predator sent out a tweet announcing shows in Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. "See y'all soon," he exclaimed.
That tweet has since been deleted. Why, we don't know. Kelly called a previous tour announcement - at Trusts Arena, just five minutes from my home in West Auckland - "fake" so clearly there are some promoter-artist communication issues going on.
It might also be because someone on Twitter who replied, "Stay out of my country thank you," got more likes than Kelly's actual tour announcement.
There's a much bigger reason than noob promoters and Twitter snark for this show not to go ahead. Anyone who's watched the stunning documentary Surviving R Kelly knows exactly why Kelly shouldn't be touring, or performing, or releasing music of any kind. He should almost certainly spend the rest of his life trapped in some kind of closet, preferably one with bars on it.
In the doco, alleged victim after alleged victim line up and make so many claims of sexual abuse against Kelly it's impossible not to believe them. Just watch the first five heart-breaking minutes then try and get through I Believe I Can Fly without flying into a rage-fit.
Here's a list of people who've distanced themselves from R Kelly, deleted their collaborations from streaming services, spoken out against him, or called for his career to end, since the documentary aired: Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Chance the Rapper, Cara Delevingne, Ne-Yo, Common, Meek Mill, Kerry Washington and Chrissy Teigen.
New Zealand, it's time to do the same. If there really is a concert that's "a threat or risk to public order or the public interest" it's the one planned by R Kelly. No one wants him here, no one needs him here, and no one's going to go. I certainly don't want him bringing my neighbourhood into disrepute. For the record, Te Atatu Peninsula is not okay with R Kelly. It seems many others aren't too.
I asked INZ about R Kelly's immigration status. They said they hadn't received a visa application. That's good. They also said some artists from the United States can "travel under the visa waiver arrangement and do not have to apply for a visa in advance of travelling to New Zealand".
That's not good. In fact, compared to Tyler the Creator's situation, that's an absolute outrage. INZ might have made mistakes in the past, but right now is the time to step up, correct them, and stop R Kelly from entering the country.
Because, honestly, f*** this guy.
Where to get help:
If it is an emergency and you or someone you know is at risk, call 111.
• Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843
• Victim Support: 0800 842 846
• Lifeline: (09) 522 2999
• Family Violence Info Line: 0800 456 450