Swizz Beatz Responds to Critics Who Say He Promotes Gentrification of The Bronx

By Sameer Rao Aug 09, 2016

After facing criticism for erasing the Bronx’s artists from a borough-focused fair, producer Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean said that he would plan a special event with greater input from Bronx artists. 

The controversy started with the announcement of the "No Commission Art Fair" in Swizz Beatz’ home neighborhood of the South Bronx last Wednesday (August 3). The Bacardi-sponosored music and art event, set to take place August 11 through 14, is based on a similarly-named event during Miami’s Art Basel festival last year that offered all proceeds to participating artists. "I think without the Bronx, a big hole in the world would be missing," Swizz Beatz said in a promo video for the event, referencing hip-hop culture’s birth in the South Bronx.

The event faced immediate criticism. Local blog Welcome 2 The Bronx noted the fair’s marginalization of Bronx-based artists (only a third of whom had "tenuous at best" connections to the borough, and none of whom are Latino). It also compared the fair to last year’s controversial "Macabre Suite" show, in which the producer participated; that event was sponsored by real estate developers like Somerset Partners who seek to rebrand parts of the South Bronx as "The Piano District."

"This four-day event is nothing but using the Bronx for turning a quick buck but not investing in our borough’s people," read the post. "How dare you come into our home and disrespect us." 

Swizz Beatz eventually responded to the criticism by speaking with Welcome 2 The Bronx’s Ed García Conde. Swizz discussed his motivation for holding the event in his home borough, as well as his intent to collaborate with García Conde on another event while shifting "No Comission Art Fair’s" focus to Bronx-based artists:

"I wanted to bring something special for the people of the Bronx which is why the event is free, something that anyone can enjoy and have asked for," he said on why he’s holding the event at the property.

All that being said, after speaking with Swizz some more, we agreed to collaborate on a future event that will be curated to include Bronx artists as the highlight and to hold it at a more neutral location that doesn’t have such charged up negativity around it.

No date or logistics is set for this event, but the will and commitment are there by Swizz Beatz because he wants to not only give back to the community, but to be able to do something for the very very concrete for the community he came from.

(H/t ArtNet, Remezcla)