Skepta apologises and removes single artwork after Holocaust criticism

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By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

Skepta has apologised and taken down the artwork for his new single Gas Me Up (Diligent), following allegations that it referenced the Holocaust.

The image showed a group of men with shaved heads. One had the words “Gas Me Up” tattooed across his head.

People quickly drew parallels between the photograph and the deaths of Jewish people in Nazi gas chambers during World War Two.

Skepta later apologised and acknowledged the potential for offence.

“I’ve been waiting to drop Gas Me Up (Diligent) since teasing it April last year, worked hard getting the artwork right for my album rollout which is about my parents coming to the UK in the 80’s, skinhead, football culture and it has been taken offensively by many,” the rapper wrote on social media.

“I can honestly see how my single artwork without context can be deemed offensive, especially in a time like this,” he continued, adding: “I vow to be more mindful going forward.”

The Mercury Prize-winning musician later shared the “mood board” for his album on X (formerly Twitter).

The collage included 1980s images of football hooligans, skinheads and prison canteens, as well as the logo for 2 Tone Records – whose multi-racial acts, including the Specials and the Selecter, made a point of standing up to bigotry.

Skepta said he’d decided to post the imagery after further reflection on the backlash surrounding Gas Me Up.

“I don’t feel like I could continue being the artist you all know and love if my art is policed” he wrote.

“So to help with context here are some pictures from our mood board for the 1980s UK story for my album Knife & Fork.”

Artist Gabriel Moses, who created the artwork for Gas Me Up, also reposted Skepta’s initial statement to his Instagram account.

Later, he shared a clip of Beanie Sigel’s music video Feel It In The Air, captioned: “Last 24 hours”. The video showed the rapper’s house being surrounded and raided by police.

Last November, Skepta revealed that he would stage his own festival at London’s Crystal Palace Park on 6 July, 2024.

He followed that up by announcing his first album in five years, Knife and Fork, on New Year’s Day.

“It’s been years since I dropped my last album and I want to thank you for all the love during my hiatus,” he wrote alongside the announcement.

“I’ve seen the messages, tweets and TikToks, I’m truly grateful that my music is still resonating with the world even in my absence.”

The album will be accompanied by a film. Tribal Mark, which follows the journey of a Nigerian immigrant navigating life in a foreign land.

Gas Me Up is still planned as the album’s first single, due for release on 26 January. The lyrics find the star in boisterous, boastful form – revelling in his successes in music, fashion and on the acclaimed TV show Top Boy.

He also references his musical hiatus, rapping: “I’m talking about taking a year out, still, I can’t see no competition / Can’t see anyone threatening my position.