Rapper Skepta vows to be ‘more mindful’ as he removes artwork after Holocaust criticism

Rapper Skepta has responded after artwork for his upcoming single was criticised for alluding to the Holocaust.

Artwork for the grime star’s upcoming track Gas Me Up (Diligent) featured people with shaved heads, with the words “gas me up” tattooed on one, inspired by the period during which his parents moved to the UK in the 1980s.

The expression to “gas somebody up” is slang for hyping them up or praising them.

Parallels between the photograph and the deaths of Jewish people in Nazi gas chambers during the Second World War were made by social media users.

Following criticism of the artwork online, Skepta, who won the Mercury Prize in 2016, said he had not intended to cause offence and removed the image from the X platform. He also said he understood the reaction “without context” and shared a mood board of pictures that inspired the imagery.

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‘I vow to be more mindful’

Real name Joseph Adenuga Jr, the rapper wrote: “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.”

He later shared some images from the mood board, writing: “I can honestly see how my single artwork without context can be deemed offensive, especially in a time like this but again that was not my intention.

“But after some thought I don’t feel like I could continue being the artist you all know and love if my art is policed, I have to quit if I can’t express my art as I see it.”

The mood board shows images of skinheads with tattoos, some of whom are swearing at the camera, and was shared “to help with context”, he said.

It also features a dining room with long tables from an institution such as a school or prison, and the logo for 2 Tone Records, an independent record label that mostly released ska and reggae-influenced music.

The single is due for release at the end of January, the first from his first album in five years, Knife And Fork, which was announced on New Year’s Day.

It will still be released on 26 January “as planned”, Skepta said.

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