Black concert promoters allege Syracuse police shut down rap shows based on rumors, perceived violence

“Any Black establishment that does entertainment in this county — we get this every single time,” said promoter Azariah Yemma.

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Black concert promoters in Syracuse county, New York are speaking out about how cops routinely interfere with their shows. 

“Any Black establishment that does entertainment in this county — we get this every single time,” said promoter Azariah Yemma of Upper Echelon Entertainment, reports. “There’s not a time that we don’t go through this, and there’s never any good reason for it.”

Lil Durk / Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for McDonald’s

Yemma says the police tend to torpedo events featuring Black rappers and hip-hop artists due to the perceived potential for violence at the venue. Days before Chicago-based rapper Lil Durk was set to perform at the War Memorial in early April, per the report, the concert was canceled by the venue on the advice of Syracuse police, amid warnings that a local rapper with past gang ties would perform at the show. 

“The unnamed rapper allegedly served time in prison for committing an unknown crime and has since left the street life behind him,” according to Hasan Hills, owner of HILLS ENTP CORP, one of the promoters behind the Lil Durk concert. Hills said the rapper is a law-abiding citizen who has the right to perform at a music event.  

“You [SPD] just shut our whole concert down … because you don’t like him,” Hills said.

Per the report, after the Lil Durk show was canceled, the venue posted a message on Facebook stating: “The Oncenter regrets to announce that, due to extenuating circumstances the Lil Durk show … has been postponed.”

Yemma said two of the 2021 New Year’s Eve concerts with Grammy-winning artist Young Thug and a 2015 concert with rapper Fetty Wap were two other high-profile shows shut down by police. 

According to local promoters, “police leverage their control of licenses and security regulations to shut down shows,” reports.

Young Thug
Young Thug performs onstage at the STAPLES Center Concert on June 23, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ser Baffo/Getty Images for BET)

Yemma said “there’s never any good reason” for the cancellations.

A few months before the Young Thug concert, he recalled, the Expo Center at the state fairgrounds removed the event listing from its website after police warned the venues that violence could possibly erupt during the show. Yemma said police also yanked the off-duty sheriff’s deputies he hired to work the event. 

“What [SPD] does is they come and try to scare the venues into shutting down. And then the venues pull the plug on us,” Yemma said.

The promotion companies involved in the Young Thug show are reportedly taking legal action against the operators of the fairgrounds for breach of contract.

Meanwhile, local promoters who organize hip-hip concerts in the county stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each time authorities get hip-hop concerts axed. 

“It’s really serious how much money is at stake,” said attorney Kevon Glickman.

TheGrio reached out to the Syracuse Police Department for comment but have not yet received a response. 

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