Last week, the Campus Activities Board (CAB) announced that B.o.B would be headlining this year’s Modstock Festival. Bobby Ray Simmons Jr., professionally known as B.o.B, rose to fame in 2009 after the release of his song, “Nothin’ On You,” and has collaborated with artists such as Jessie J, Bruno Mars, and M.I.A. The artist has expressed sympathetic views toward conspiracy theories, including the belief that the earth is flat and that the Sept. 11 attacks were a government conspiracy. More concerningly, he promoted anti-Semitic views in his 2016 song “Flatline,” in which he says: “… before you try to curve it / Do your research on David Irving / Stalin was way worse than Hitler / That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) criticized the song in an open letter expressing unease because of his apparent support of a conspiracy that the U.S. government is under Jewish control. The ADL was also concerned with B.o.B’s reference to British pseudo-historian David Irving, who is a known Holocaust-denier.
CAB hosts three major concerts a year—Stokes Set, Plexapalooza, and Modstock—that all share a budget. Performers are paid, although the amounts are undisclosed. Each performer has to be approved by BC after CAB searches for artists over a months-long period. The organization claims to find artists who are both affordable and would pass the University’s assessment of every performer’s adherence to Jesuit values, according to past Heights interviews with CAB. The Live Entertainment (LE) division of CAB spends most of the year searching for artists that the organization can afford and the University would approve. As of last September, none of their suggestions had been rejected, according to Mike Florio, CSOM ’19, at the time CAB’s director of LE.
B.o.B’s controversial views are very easily accessible—even his Wikipedia page dedicates a section to his “Beliefs.” While CAB has said that its invitation to B.o.B does not constitute an endorsement of his views, B.o.B’s views do appear inconsistent with “Jesuit values”—and, more importantly, general decency—calling into question the stringency of the review processes for these artists. Equally concerning is the fact that B.o.B will receive some undisclosed payment for his performance.
BC, whose approval is needed for any pick, is also partially at fault. The day after the organization announced that B.o.B would perform at Modstock, Fox 25 reported, “BC administrators say they have not yet heard of any controversy with the B.o.B concert.” More appropriate would have been some condemnation (or at least an acknowledgement) of the artist’s past anti-Semitic statements. Most appropriate would have been the easiest decision of all: don’t invite (and pay) an artist whose lyrics promote a Holocaust-denier.
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor