Exclusive Interview: Biracial Rapper Tiny Jag Pulls Out of AfroFuture Music Festival Due to Race-Based Ticket Structure
by Marquin Stanley
UPDATE: We reached out to Tiny Jag and were able to conduct a Q&A, which we have included in this article. Keep reading for more!
Detroit rapper Tiny Jag pulled out of AfroFuture Festival after making the discovery that white patrons were being charged double the amount of people of color. While people of color are being charged $10 for early-bird tickets and $20 for regular tickets, white festival attendees will have to pay $20 and $40 for tickets. Tiny Jag was unaware of what was happening with ticket prices until a fan on Instagram informed her of the situation. Jag was upset when hearing of this as she is a biracial woman herself.
Speaking with Detroit Metro Times, Jag says, “I was immediately enraged just because I am biracial.” Jag continues on, “I have family members that would have, under those circumstances, been subjected to something that I would not ever want them to be in … especially not because of anything that I have going on.”
AfroFuture Festival, which is set for August 3rd in Detroit, began facing backlash as people learned more about the situation. Festival founder and director Numi Ori took to Twitter to explain the ticket structure as she says, “Black and brown people deserve access to quality events in their city and it isn’t fair when events happen in their city that they don’t have a chance of being apart of because people who don’t look like us take advantage and also have more access to collective wealth.”
Jag was expected to perform music from her project “Polly,” which was named after her grandmother. “How do you want me to come to a performance and perform these songs off a mixtape that is titled after this white woman that you would have charged double to get in here? Like, it’s just outrageous from so many different angles,” says Jag. With the conversation continuing online, the festival continues to face controversy over the ticketing structure.
In the midst of the controversy surrounding AfroFuture Music Festival’s ticket structure, you chose a day to go on Instagram Live and have an open discussion on the issue. Tell me what that experience was like and did you accomplish your goal?
TINY: Before the live conversation, I talked to a fellow artist, who goes by Fuzzy Slippers, and he told me, “Be in touch with your goal before you do this because if not, you may end up disappointed.” I had to sit down and realize what my goal was and I realized my goal for the live conversation was actually different than what was on my mind at the time. I was so happy he had me do that because I realized that my actual goal was to simply have the conversation. Not to convince anyone of anything. Not to argue or accuse anybody of anything. It was to make sure that we are not artists out here who see something that deserves a conversation and then don’t use our platforms to speak on it.
With the live conversation, I need to know where people are coming from because this knowledge will help me help us. It’s vital for me to know where you come from otherwise I may never be able to reach you. Based on some reactions I got, I think some people expected me to debate with people and that is not what I wanted to do. I wanted people to say exactly what they meant without feeling uncomfortable. I was there to tell them the issues I had and I wanted to hear what others had to say, which is why I chose people with varying perspectives so we can see what comes from this.
The revelation of Tiny Jag pulling out of the show due to the festival’s ticket structure in addition to the public’s reaction caused many major publications to pick up the story. What are your thoughts on being apart of a major story like this early on in your career? How do you feel seeing your name in the headlines in this manner?
Both my mother and Fuzzy Slippers told me, “You have to look at this like a blessing.” It is not another rapper girl with my man or some crazy drama. It’s something that I care about and many others care about. It can be difficult to navigate, but being a biracial woman and my other life experiences have prepared me in handling this one.
I’m still numb to the reactionary part of the publicity. The only part that I have a very strong reaction to is the fact that it’s all been mostly about me only being enraged because I’m biracial. And that’s because my initial reaction was based off of my emotion, which caused it to be based off of how it effects me personally, . That’s the only part I’m not okay with because I don’t care what ethnicity or race I am, I would have had a problem with that. I hate that it’s like, only because I’m biracial I have this issue. I am making sure that there is clarity by continuing to talk, but as far as just reacting to the fact that it is catching wind like this… I’m numb to it. It’s happening too fast for me to even feel it and I don’t want to because I don’t want to lose focus on being true to me and what I have been building so far.
What happened after you pulled out of the performance that sparked the media frenzy?
Everything was fine until there was a narrative being spread on Twitter that it was folks lack of knowledge about how much we need equity and how I must be subscribing to the idea of equality. There were just too many assumptions being made about me. That’s why I decided that I had to at least apologize to the people that I may have offended by supporting this. I also have to make it clear that this offense has nothing to do with me not knowing the difference between equity and equality.
What reaction did your family have to the revelation of a race-based ticket structure being set for the festival?
At first, their reaction was disbelief. My mother didn’t even believe me. She said, “I think you jumped the gun on this one because there’s no way that’s the truth. Show me.” After I showed it to her, she was proud that, on my own, I was able to come to the decision to stand on my own two feet before she even knew about it or told me how she felt. She was happy that I took a stance and I wasn’t afraid to share it no matter what the backlash would turnout to be. And then, of course, she was like, “No, this ain’t it.” Me and my mom are close spiritually so she knows my heart. She told me she knew I wasn’t going to go through with that. She’s happy that I took care of me.
It seems that a lot of media outlets are glazing over the fact that you had to find out about the ticket structure from a friend on Instagram, which is odd because you would think the performing artists would be given insight on something like this.
If the ticket structure was apart of the festival’s identity and we’re so proud of it, why did I have to found out about it from a non-POC friend, who was excited for the show and ready to buy tickets until they saw the ticket structure? That was devastating for me. Thank God she gave me the benefit of the doubt and didn’t just assume that I was down for it.
It does make sense that people may automatically assume that the artists involved with the festival are in agreeance with every aspect of it, including the ticket structure.
Absolutely because that’s how business works. You don’t affiliate with things that you don’t agree with. So why on earth would I be on this festival with my name on it if I don’t support what you guys are saying? I had to go public with my withdrawal because I was so public with my support. Maybe it was 24 hours of support, but that was enough. Enough people saw me supporting the event that I had to come forward and say that I am no longer supporting it and that’s just simply off of the fact that I don’t have those views.
The festival founder Numi Ori took to Twitter to address the situation and speak on behalf of the festival’s stance. What are your thoughts on her response?
I believe that her stance is admirable. Socio-economic dominance is something that occurs and often trickles into the arts as well as anything that has to do with economics. It is a conversation that we definitely need to have and make headway with, but I don’t feel that this festival was going to change the state of black equity with $20 tickets. For us to try to accept the fact that we were going to dismantle the discrepancy of equity with a festival was insulting for me and I felt like it was insulting to our ancestors as well. It takes time and a lot of assembly to make this kind of change. I believe the goal is awesome, but the means in which they were trying to do it leaves room for hate. It lacks credibility, it’s negligent, it wasn’t very thorough, and it can honestly be detrimental for us.
I’m happy she tried to shed some light. I did invite her onto our live conversation to try to share some insight, but she had a prior engagement. I didn’t want them to go under any fire that they didn’t need or that wasn’t justified by what they were doing. I’m happy that she did add some clarity because it did help soothe that initial reaction to the ticket structure. I think that her response shed some light so that we can possibly come together and get to the same place. I think that helped her from being completely misunderstood.
What are your final thoughts on this situation and what do you hope people take away from Tiny Jag after this?
I want people to take away that you are 100 percent allowed and you will 100 percent survive after you stick to your guns. You are completely allowed to do that. You are allowed to be resilient and not waver in your beliefs even if you believe your own community may spew negativity towards you. That negativity that you are receiving from those that you thought were your peers is nothing compared to that feeling you get when you try to go to sleep and you know that you did not stick to your guns. That feeling is way worse.
We have to be more willing to tell how we feel. Then it will become a normal thing for people to tell how they feel and stick to their guns. It’s only rare right now because we are not doing it. If more people bring us different perspectives and say how they really feel, it would be easier to navigate without bumping our heads so many times. We would have some very valuable information and so many varying perspectives to be able to make more objective decisions. We need to keep doing this so we can be more intellectual and connected with each other so that we have the knowledge and power to make better choices. We have to make expressing ourselves a more acceptable practice. Making sure that you are walking in your purpose and the moment that you are not, something is done and said about it.
With the story making it to headlines, this wouldn’t have gotten to that point had I known what the deal was when I was asked to do the show. I would have just politely declined. I wouldn’t have had anything to say once the ticket structure news came out. I wouldn’t have been apart of the show anyway. We have to just be vocal, be clear, and set our expectations.
Take a listen to Tiny Jag’s latest project “Salem” now!
Feature Image Via Detroit Metro Times