The original artwork, for an upcoming song called “Gas Me Up (Diligent),” featured numerous men with shaved heads while one has “Gas Me Up” tattooed on the back of his skull.
The imagery drew backlash due to it resembling Nazi concentration camps where prisoners had their hair shaved off before being sent to the gas chamber.
Skepta commented on the controversy on Tuesday (January 9) and announced he’s decided to change the artwork but defended his intentions.
He wrote on X: “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.
“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.”
The British rapper went on to post his mood board for the cover art as proof there was no intended link to the Holocaust.
He then 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.
“So to help with context here are some pictures from our mood board for the 1980’s UK story for my album Knife & Fork. ‘Gas Me Up (DILIGENT)’ will be out January 26th as planned.”
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…
— Big Smoke – (@Skepta) January 10, 2024
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… pic.twitter.com/59oUOPe8Hp
— Big Smoke – (@Skepta) January 10, 2024
After the artwork was released online earlier this week, there was swift backlash with many, particularly in the U.S. which is less familiar with British skinhead culture, comparing the rapper to Kanye West.
“What in the Kanye is going on?!” one person wrote on social media. “Im always amazed by the amount of people these kind of things have to go through and no one flagged it?! Smh.”
Another said: “The connation and imagery this conveys is of Jewish concentration camp captives with shaved heads with Gas Me Up tattooed to the back of their shaved head? One of the most offensive and distasteful artworks ever. Embarrassing.”
“Gas Me Up (Diligent)” serves as the lead single from Skepta’s upcoming album Knife & Fork, which he announced earlier this month.
“It’s been years since I dropped my last album and I want to thank you for all the love during my hiatus,” he wrote on Instagram. “I’ve seen the messages, tweets and Tik Toks, I’m truly grateful that my music is still resonating with the world, even in my absence.”
He continued: “I’m happy to announce my next studio album #KnifeAndFork is loading this year, the first single #GasMeUp (Diligent) will be out January 26th. Can’t wait to see you all @bigsmokefestival happy 2024.”
The Boy Better Know co-founder, whose last album Ignorance Is Bliss arrived in 2019, previously announced he was retiring from rapping in 2021.
“I feel like right now I want to become more behind the production. I want to produce albums for people — I’d love to produce Rihanna’s album, that would be a dream. I’d probably make Rihanna’s hardest album,” he said at the time.
“I feel like now I just want to branch out. I can’t be a rapper, it’s a waste of a talent. I feel like rapping for artists is some sort of therapy… but after a while it’s like, I’ve said everything — from being a confused African child to being a chief in my dad’s village. I’ve rapped myself to my nirvana.”
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