British rapper Skepta in ‘anti-Semitism’ row over artwork for new single

Skepta and the single artwork
Skepta, left, pulled the 'Gas Me Up' artwork, right, after receiving a backlash - MIKE MARSLAND/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES
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A British rapper has withdrawn artwork for a single titled “Gas Me Up” after becoming embroiled in an anti-Semitism row.

Skepta, the stage name of Joseph Olaitan Adenuga Jr, prompted a backlash when he teased some artwork for his new single which depicted a man with a shaved head and the words “Gas Me Up” tattooed on his scalp.

The Mercury Prize-winning rapper later abandoned the artwork following allegations on social media that the visuals referenced the Holocaust.

Critics online pointed out that the imagery of a shorn-headed man tattooed with the words “gas me” evoked the practice of shaving Jewish victims before leading them to the gas chambers, and some on social media branded the single cover “anti-Semitic”.

‘I vow to be more mindful’

Skepta, 41, pulled the artwork for his single, while making clear that the imagery was not intended to reference the Holocaust, but the skinhead subculture.

Posting on X (formerly known as Twitter), he wrote that the artwork for his upcoming single was based on “my parents coming to the UK in the 80’s, Skinhead, Football culture”, but it had 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”.

The artist emphasised it was not his intention to cause offence - KIERAN FROST/REDFERNS

He added: “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 rapper shared a mood board of artwork created for his single, which mainly included images of young men with skinheads and head tattoos, wearing the shirts and suspenders attire of the skinhead subculture.

The collage also included the logo of 2 Tone Records, known for producing the ska and reggae-influenced music associated with the skinhead culture.

To be “gassed” in modern slang is to be excited, and to “gas up” is to praise or hype up someone.

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