A British gay-rights group is demanding a genuine apology from Beenie Man after the dancehall star responded vaguely this week to disapproval over allegedly violent, homophobic lyrics.
Claiming his raps promote the killing of homosexuals, the organization OutRage! has for weeks been asking concert promoters to cancel Beenie Man shows.
In the Jamaican icon's "Damn," featured on various compilations, he raps, "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica/ Come to execute all the gays." Another compilation tune, "Han Up Deh," includes the lyrics "Hang chi chi gal wit a long piece of rope" — "chi chi" being a slang term for homosexual (also used on "Bad Man" from 1997's Many Moods of Moses).
"It has come to my attention that certain lyrics and recordings I have made in the past may have caused distress and outrage among people whose identities and lifestyles are different from my own," reads a Beenie statement issued by Virgin Records. "While my lyrics are very personal, I do not write them with the intent of purposefully hurting or maligning others, and I offer my sincerest apologies to those who might have been offended, threatened or hurt by my songs.
"As a human being," he continued, "I renounce violence towards other human beings in every way, and pledge henceforth to uphold these values as I move forward in my career as an artist."
OutRage! called Beenie's statement hollow.
"When someone is sincerely sorry, they acknowledge the wrong they've done and apologize to the persons they've harmed," OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell said Thursday (August 5). "Beenie Man's statement doesn't do any of those things. He's panicked by the threat that he's gonna have concert cancellations all over the United States and Europe."
OutRage!'s campaign has already led to some cancellations in Europe, including a June concert in London, where police questioned the dancehall star about his lyrics. Later in the summer, when The Associated Press questioned Beenie about the lyrics, he said it was part of Caribbean culture.
"The idea that he suddenly had a genuine change of heart in the last two weeks is not credible at all," said Tatchell, who believes Beenie's statement is purposely vague so as not to alienate fans in Jamaica, which is considered one of the most homophobic places in the world, according to London's Guardian newspaper.
Tatchell also accuses Virgin Records of wrongfully attributing the statement to Beenie and claims it was written by the star's attorney during a phone call between himself and the lawyer on Friday. "He drafted it in the lounge at JFK Airport," Tatchell said. "Those are not Beenie Man's words."
Clyde McKenzie, the public relations chief for Beenie's management company, would not comment on who wrote the statement. Beenie Man himself was unavailable at press time.
"I will say that I'm not happy with what has resulted from the whole thing," McKenzie said. "I thought they wanted Jamaican artists to spurn violence against gays. I think [the statement] accommodates gays. I don't think one necessarily has to be specific, because the next thing you know, another group wants an apology. If he gives a blanket statement, that's a safe approach."
Earlier this week, McKenzie took to the Radio Jamaica airwaves to argue that Beenie's statement should not be called a haphazard apology because it was not meant to be an apology, and that Beenie has the right to continue criticizing a lifestyle he does not approve of. OutRage! has since called the comments an attempt to downplay the statement to Jamaicans.
"He said he does not advocate violence against any group of people because of their belief systems or value systems. I think that is a reasonable step to take," McKenzie said. "I also made it clear that [the statement] did not endorse a particular lifestyle. If you say a person should not be hurt because of what he believes in, you're not necessarily agreeing with it."
"This is not about making homophobic comments," Tatchell responded. "It's incitement to murder, which is a criminal offense. ... I just met with the chief law enforcement officer in Britain, and he is seriously considering bringing charges against Beenie Man, his record companies and record stores and radio stations who play his violent, homophobic songs. There's a possibility he will be prohibited from entering Britain on the grounds of committing incitement to murder."
OutRage! is now lobbying U.S. officials to ban Beenie from performing here and vows to continue the pressure until he apologizes and expresses remorse.
"It's also necessary for him to either buy up the CDs with his songs that encourage the killing of gay people or to donate royalties for those songs to an organization that supports victims of gay-bashing attacks," Tatchell said. "We can't accept any apology as long as he's still profiting from these songs."
OutRage! is also targeting dancehall star Bounty Killer for allegedly similar lyrics, as well as Buju Banton, who is wanted for gay bashing in Jamaica.
Beenie Man, who nearly died in a car accident in January (see "Beenie Man In Near-Fatal Car Accident"), released his latest album, Back to Basics, on July 20 (see "Beenie Man Brings It Back To Basics On New LP").