Do Swedish authorities unfairly treat African American rappers?

Heran Mamo
Jul 18 · 6 min read
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Daniel Benavides.

Updated July 21: This story added G-Eazy’s response to the TMZ article about his white privilege concerning his arrest. It also included social media posts from Rich the Kid and Snoop Dogg reflecting on their arrests in Sweden.

The U.S. State Department is calling out the Swedish government for unfairly treating American rapper ASAP Rocky, who was arrested July 2 on “suspicion of assault” after a fight broke out between his entourage and two men reportedly stalking them June 30. But Sweden has a bad rap for mistreating American hip-hop artists, specifically the black artists.

Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, documented the fight on his Instagram, calling the men “drug addicts” who “were slapping girls butts who passed.” TMZ also released footage of Rocky throwing one of the men onto the street in Stockholm, where the rapper was supposed to perform at SMASH music festival.

Global news agency AFP currently reported Rocky has been held in custody for the past two weeks. This decision was made July 5 after a Swedish district court declared him a flight risk — meaning likely to flee the country to avoid prosecution — and kept him in pre-trial detention as the investigation continues. He could face a sentence up to six years in prison if convicted. But a State Department spokesperson told POLITICO, “There are certainly some facts about the arrest and detention that raise concerns. We expect all governments, including Sweden, to treat American citizens fairly and with respect.”

Congressman Adriano Espaillat, U.S. Representative for New York’s Thirteenth Congressional District, has gone to bat for the Harlem-born rapper. According to an interview with Complex, he wrote letters to the State Department, U.S. Embassy in Sweden and the Swedish Ambassador in Washington, D.C. last week, demanding justice for Rocky’s case. In the letters, Congressman Espaillat outlined Article 36, which is “within the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations which basically entitles any foreign national in any country to contact the embassy right after an arrest.”

Based on the lawmaker’s knowledge, Rocky was not given this right. But he’s not the only American rapper to be wronged on Swedish soil. Migos member Quavo and Bay Area rapper G-Eazy have also dealt with rough patches in the country, but the degrees of roughness differed per rapper. In varying situations with American rappers, Swedish authorities have allocated excess transgressions for black artists and privileged arrangements for white artists.

When asked by TMZ about Rocky’s arrest last week, Quavo referenced his legal troubles in Sweden: “Sweden had us down on the curb. As soon as we went to Sweden, they had me, me and my cameraman down on the curb, and they were trying to lock us up too,” he recalled. “They ended up letting us go, it is what it is. But Sweden real tough.”

No further details were given about the Atlanta rapper’s harsh encounter, but he concluded the interview saying, “Free my boy Rocky.” Many American rappers have echoed this statement on social media, including Rich the Kid, who shared the time he spent behind bars in the country. “I was locked up in Sweden before , the police raided my room weed it was horrible,” he wrote.

Fellow rapper Sheck Wes also took to Twitter two weeks ago to delve into his own “aggressive” confrontation. “Police frisked me and the whole gang down in Sweden and stripped searched my mans with no consent and we just had too agree shit was wild aggressive , and that’s fucked up,” he wrote.

Before these artists publicly took painful trips down memory lane back to Sweden, let’s not forget what happened to Snoop Dogg there almost exactly four years ago. He was arrested July 26, 2015 after performing at a concert in Uppsala, because he “showed signs of being under the influence, and weed is completely illegal in Sweden…,” according to TMZ. But the Long Beach-raised rapper — who was in the passenger seat and not driving [under the influence] as suspected — claimed the authorities showed signs of “racial profiling.”

Snoop recorded a video in the police station, narrating his abusive experience: “They came and snatched me out of my car…. Sorry about that peoples, I ain’t never gonna be back in your country.”

On my mamas im sick and tired of the pigs. N America n these countries that jus don’t respect us fuck that new me new u u do we do 2 💥💥💥💥🔫

TMZ reported after he was forced to pee in a cup for a drug test, the police found him to be clean.

This pattern of invasive, merciless treatment stemming from false assumptions — especially speculations about illegal marijuana usage — has spared none of these artists the opportunity to calmly speak with Swedish authorities or simply remain unbothered as tourists. Snoop, Quavo, Rich and Wes’ brief narratives recalling their intimidating visits expose the maltreatment of African American rappers in Sweden, mirroring the stop-and-frisk technique abused by American police officers who inspect individuals for weapons, drugs or other contraband but seemingly switch out reasonable suspicion for racial bias in the process.

Another rapper who tangentially relates to Rocky, Snoop, Quavo, Rich and Wes’ experiences is G-Eazy, who posted a picture with his “No Limit” collaborator on Instagram following his arrest. “Free my bro Rocky. This shit is fucked up and hits home,” he wrote. “I was in that same shit a year ago in Sweden and wasnt allowed a phone call or visitors out there.”

Free my bro Rocky. This shit is fucked up and hits home. I was in that same shit a year ago in Sweden and wasnt allowed a phone call or visitors out there. Praying for my guy for real

But a year ago, the “Him & I” artist underwent a much smoother process — despite being at fault. TMZ reported G-Eazy’s arrest May 3, 2018, after a security guard found him “acting belligerent” in a Stockholm club and tried to tell the “Calm Down” rapper to calm down. He refused and punched the guard multiple times before being arrested by the Swedish police, who found cocaine on him. G-Eazy had a trial in Stockholm District Court the following day, where he plead guilty to the following three charges: “Violent resistance, crime of violence against an official as well as illegal drug possession.” According to E!, he was let go without serving jail time, while only facing a probationary sentence, $10,000 fine and $800–900 payment to the security guard he assaulted.

G-Eazy successfully left Sweden following his less-than-48-hour arrest and performed in Copenhagen, Denmark as scheduled, seen in this concertgoer’s YouTube video of his performance of “Him & I” with then-girlfriend and pop singer Halsey.

Rocky hasn’t come close to being allowed to carry on with his normal routine: His European festival performances and tour dates have been canceled for the remainder of July, according to his management. As G-Eazy “told his side of the story in court and was cooperative,” Swedish’s Supreme Court rejected Rocky’s appeal, according to AFP. While one rapper was bestowed the privilege of speaking his truth and being set free for starting trouble, the other is prohibited from explaining himself for preventing trouble.

Most recently, G-Eazy opened up on Instagram about the different circumstances surrounding his and Rocky’s arrests, after TMZ posted an article previously titled, “A$AP Rocky Treated Way Differently Than White Rapper.” He didn’t shy away from blaming “white privilege and systemic racism” for letting him spend less than two days behind bars, while Rocky currently faces up to six years in prison.

Facts. This is the sad truth…The difference between me and Rocky’s treatment and process in Sweden brings to mind two concepts that disgustingly go hand in hand: white privilege and systemic racism.
Let’s call it what it is.
He should not be behind bars right now. My heart goes out to my brother @asaprocky and his team. We’re riding for yall.
#JusticeForRocky #FreeRocky

In the words of G-Eazy, the “sad truth” about Rocky’s situation is that it goes beyond unjust incarceration overseas or the country’s unfair treatment of all rappers. In an exclusive interview with NME, Skepta — who’s featured on “Praise the Lord (Da Shine)” from Rocky’s 2018 album Testing — said, “they’ll make an example out of us black artists.” Although he did not specify who “they” was referring to, he points out the fearmongering by authorities consistently inciting undue violence toward black entertainers. The perpetual, racist concern that these black men pose a threat begets overbearing physical and legal threats to them under any given country’s jurisdiction. Sweden’s unique, yet gross consistency with mistreating black rappers fails to be welcoming toward American leaders of the hip-hop genre.

After hearing about the conditions of his pal Rocky’s arrest, Tyler, the Creator tweeted, “no more sweden for me, ever.” ScHoolboy Q quote-tweeted him, writing, “I’m not goin nomo eitHer… #FLACKO.”

As the rap community collectively refuses to step foot on Swedish soil, the Change.org petition entitled #JusticeForRocky (and signed by many stars like Diddy and Meek Mill) remains as the battleground to fight for the ASAP Mob member.

Heran Mamo

Written by

I’m a music journalist and recent graduate of USC Annenberg.

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