[WARNING: This article contains disturbing content]
On Thursday, rapper Slowthai shocked viewers when, during his performance at the Mercury Prize (a British/Irish music award show), he took off his jacket, revealing a t-shirt that read: “F*** Boris.” Boris Johnson is the current prime minister of the U.K.
The letters on the “F*** Boris” shirt were created using naked animations of Johnson – but that’s not all. Near the end of his rap, Slowthai yelled out: “F*** Boris Johnson! F*** everything! And there ain’t nothing great about Britain!” while holding a mock severed head of the prime minister.
The photos are captioned: “F*** BORIS TSHIRTS OUT NOW!!!!!! LINK IN BIO.” The Instagram post has more than 85,700 “likes” as of publication.
Some Instagram users offered support for Slowthai’s disturbing message. “King of the world!!!” wrote one user, while another wrote: “Babbabaaaahahaha Boris noggin!” next to a knife emoji. A third wrote: “This is amazing.”
Social media was buzzing with commentary, with some praising Slowthai:
“Slowthai finished his Mercury performance by pulling a dummy of Boris Johnson’s decapitated head out of a bag and shouting (for the third time), ‘F*** BORIS!’ Amazing.” – Laura Snapes, deputy music editor for The Guardian
“Winner reveal shortly. Slowthai definitely best performance waving a Boris head and shouting f*ck Boris. No need for nuance #mercuryprize.” – Alex Lawson, business news editor for London Evening Standard
Others on social media condemned the rapper’s behavior:
“Slowthai holds fake decapitated Boris Johnson head at Mercury Prize 2019. Because this is just normal these days – and greeted by rapturous applause. Waiting for all politicians on all sides to condemn this 100%, no ifs, no buts.” – Julia Hartley-Brewer, journalist and broadcaster
“Could you imagine the uproar if someone on a pro brexit march wandered through the streets with a severed head of Corbyn? So why the celebration of what #slowthai done? Politicians are actually getting murdered these days.” – @samzala93
On Friday, Slowthai released an unapologetic statement on Twitter:
Last night I held a mirror up to this country and some people don’t like the reflection. Yet this is exactly where we’re being taken, cut off and at all costs. The people in power who are trying to isolate and divide us aren’t the ones who will feel its effects the hardest. They’re not the ones queuing at the food banks, not the ones navigating Universal Credit, and not the ones having to deal with systematic oppression and hate crimes at the hands of privileged politicians who say what they want without fear and consequence.
We as a people are not being looked after and our best interests are not being served by those in government – this is their job and they’re not doing it well enough. This “act” was a metaphor for what this government is doing to our country, except what I did was present it in plain sight. No Boris Johnsons were hurt in the making of this Slowthai performance. I don’t condone violence in any form.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for his role in the Brexit “Leave” campaign, as well as several personal controversies, including multiple instances in which he used language that many have called “racist.”
American comedian Kathy Griffin was at the center of a similar controversy back in 2017 when she posed for a photo while holding a mock severed head of President Trump.
Griffin apologized for her actions, but was nevertheless fired by CNN and investigated by the Secret Service. Approximately a year later, the comedian retracted her apology, stating: “By the way, I take the apology back. F*** him!”
Griffin later said the following at a roundtable discussion hosted by GQ: “Initially I had so many mixed feelings, and there was so much legal stuff going around. But now I feel like I just think it’s important for me to stand by that photo just because of the First Amendment.”