Skepta has apologized and taken down the artwork for his new single "Gas Me Up (Diligent)" after some alleged that the image was a reference to the Holocaust.
The photo included several pictures of people with shaved heads, one of whom had a tattoo with the words "Gas Me Up."
For some, the image seemed like an allusion to World War II. When Jewish people and members of other minority groups were sent to German concentration camps, they often had their heads shaved and received tattoos with identification numbers before they were killed en masse in gas chambers.
Skepta issued a Jan. 10 apology on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
"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," he said. "It has been taken offensively by many and I can promise you that was definitely not our plan so I have removed it and I vow to be more mindful going forward."
The rapper posted a follow-up message about an hour later.
"I can honestly see how my single artwork without context can be deemed offensive, especially in a time like this but again that was not my intention," he said. "After some thought I don’t feel like I could continue being the artist you all know and love if my art is policed, I have to quit if I can’t express my art as I see it. So to help with context here are some pictures from our mood board for the 1980’s UK story for my album ‘Knife & Fork.’"
The board included several pictures of skinheads with tattoos and the logo for 2 Tone Records, a short-lived label which put out many iconic U.K. ska albums in the early 1980s. The 2 Tone name came from a desire to overcome racial tensions that had arisen in the nation due to increased immigration from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
While these days skinheads are often associated with neo-Nazis, that wasn't the case when the subculture first emerged in the 1970s. There were many Black skinheads at the time and to this day there are still people who identify as anti-racist skinheads.
Some commenters on X appreciated Skepta's move.
"Thank you for taking and down and going with different artwork," one said.
But most didn't want the rapper to make the change.
"Don’t change nothing. Art is to be expressed," one person said. "Art is the experience or the reality of the people. Should be without apologies," said another.
"Gas Me Up (Diligent)" is still due out on Jan. 26. The rest of the new LP is expected to come out at some point this year.
Skepta hasn't released a full studio album since 2019's Ignorance Is Bliss, which made it to the No. 2 spot on the U.K. albums chart.
The rapper has been putting out music for more than 15 years. Some of his most notable tracks include 2010's "Rescue Me" and 2014's "That's Not Me" featuring JME, another rapper from the London grime scene.
While the distinctly British genre generally includes rapping, it also has more diverse roots in the island's garage, jungle and dancehall scenes.