After an initial silence in the face of outrage from Jewish organizations, the Olympia performance hall has cancelled a show next month by a French rapper with a history of antisemitic song lyrics.
Patrick Levy, owner of the 1,300-seat venue, told B’nai Brith Canada that contractual obligations with the show’s producers had to be examined before Olympia could scrap the Dec. 4 performance by Freeze Corleone. Ticket holders will be refunded.
“We are pleased that Olympia theatre’s management disavowed Corleone’s antisemitism in recent correspondence,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League of Human Rights, who had written to its management last week demanding that Corleone’s appearance be dropped.
Rotrand had charged that Corleone “exploits and abuses his platform to espouse a particularly virulent form of antisemitism.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemned Corleone’s “ignorant and hateful rhetoric” and criticized Olympia for condoning the normalization of antisemitism, but stopped short of demanding that the show be cancelled.
CIJA cited 12 examples of Corleone’s lyrics that it finds “problematic,” among them (in French): “Build an empire like the young Adolf, determined with big ambitions like the young Adolf,” “Every day, don’t give a f—k about the Shoah,” and “Gotta spin money in my community like a Jew.”
In addition to his song content, CIJA denounced other public comments Corleone has made that amount to Holocaust denial.
Corleone, 30, whose original name is Issa Lorenzo Diakhaté, was investigated in 2020 for incitement to hatred in France, but not convicted. His recording contract with Universal Music was terminated and streaming platforms removed his songs. He is believed to be living in Senegal today.
At first, the administration of Olympia declined to speak to the media about the Jewish organizations’ alarm, with the exception of Le Devoir which quoted an unnamed source at the venue who defended Corleone’s “freedom of expression” and noted he was never convicted of inciting hatred.
“Rap is a genre all of its own that is characterized by writing that wants to be provocative and denunciatory of the facts of society. The artist is known in the milieu for his shocking formulas on numerous subjects and claims to be neither racist nor antisemitic,” the newspaper quoted an email it received.
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn stated following Olympia’s decision: “Corleone’s rhetoric goes well beyond the bounds of artistic expression. The Holocaust resulted in the deaths of six million Jews. Corleone’s denial is not only inaccurate but dangerous. His hatred must find no harbour in any Canadian city, including Montreal.”