Home In My Words Oh Canada, Where’s The Respect For Urban Artists?

Oh Canada, Where’s The Respect For Urban Artists?

by amc

I really felt that I had to speak on this, so here are my two cents about it all.

Toronto’s diverse culture allows us to celebrate many culinary and musical festivals, and the two are usually known to bring each other into the mix. That transpired on August 5th when one of Toronto’s favourite festivals, Jerk Fest, had a musical bill that was a feast for R&B lovers. The performance line up included R&B juggernaut Joe, along with Ruben Studdard and Canadian favourite Jully Black. Unfortunate for many, this particular night of the event didn’t go down as planned. Now, there are many versions of what transpired throughout the night and suffice it to say, we know there is always more than one side to the story. Since I wasn’t there and do not know what initially transpired, I can only tell you the story through the eyes of a few people involved and pieces gathered online.


On Friday, August 5th, Jully Black was on the bill and set to perform at 6:45 pm for the Love And R&Bsegment according to the Jerk Fest website. Apparently, due to a power outage, she was not able to take the stage until 8:30 pm. As per the video below, you will see that there was no mention of the power outage, but Black was completely shut out from performing because the organizers had a 10 pm curfew. The show went on, but only with the two American headliners – Joe and Ruben Studdard.


What have you done for urban lately?

A great bone of contention that remains here in Canada for many is why we don’t support our artists. What I would like to make clear from my perspective, is that we don’t really support our urban artists. Rock/country/pop artists already have a built-in platform and support system here. However, when it comes to soul and R&B? Not so much. The landscape and support system is bleak. We do have community stalwarts like Honey Jam and Manifesto, along with a few other initiatives doing their share of creating platforms – but on the real, where are the rest of the big brand initiatives that can do so much more if they actually chose to?

Imagine we’re still beating the same topic to death: where are the outlets/what is the system infrastructure/what are we doing to support our fellow artists? Where there are many variables to the issue, we would hope that at this point and time we can say that there is a shift in the narrative. But that’s a whole other post and story. Canada is home to an incredible list of soul and R&B artists who left their home of maple syrup and bacon, to cross the border for some of that American love – and a few never looked back. There are also those who simply leave or touch base down south for other opportunities. Why? Because they receive more sustainable support there that their own hometown can’t even seem to find a way to muster up.

Deborah Cox


Melanie Durant

Ivana Santilli

Melanie Fiona

Divine Brown, and I could go on.

But let’s get back to the issue at hand with Jully Black.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

I don’t know. Personally, I feel that there could have been things in the Jerk Fest/Jully Black debacle that could have gone differently. Outside of the issue at hand, these solutions just make sense to me on the whole:

  • Keeping artists and attendees up to date with what’s transpiring is the easiest way to go. If I was standing there for how many hours without notice as to what was going on, I would have been extremely irate.
  • Jully never even got a chance to sing? Where I have seen some take the stance of, “The bigger acts take precedence…”, I say check yourself. A lesson learned for the organizers, you could have shortened the sets for each artist and at least give the hometown favourite a chance to sing a few songs. Support your own. Right is right, and that would have made sense. Not everyone was there to simply see the other 2 headliners.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about money. I have seen some argue, “Well, she got paid anyway…”. So that is your justification for blatant disrespect? We could and should do way better than that for our fellow artists.
  • It would have been nice to see a letter of apology or a release of some sort explaining what transpired. Don’t take the silent position while everyone is wondering what went down. I haven’t seen anything of the like come from Jerk Fest (of course, please correct me if I’m wrong), but I did see a post from Jully Black via her Instagram account apologizing for the way she handled a few things, I take it in regards to KerryLee Crawford. An attempt to clear the air would have been a step in the right direction.
  • When hosting duties swing left. Okay, the situation may have been a tad awkward for host KerryLee Crawford, but I don’t feel there was a need for him to add his remarks or the statement “Negativity begets negativity if you speak negativity that’s what will manifest. And if you speak positivity, that’s what will manifest.” To me, the tone in the statement simply added fuel to the fire, and it truly wasn’t needed – as the boos from the audience indicated.
  • Branding. Yeah, I have to go here. As a brand, the entire situation is not a good look for Jerk Fest. However, here’s to hoping that lessons are learned for future reference.

Again, I don’t know the entire story, but from what I have read about it all – right is right, and wrong is wrong. As Jully stated, “don’t forget we have our own.” With that being said, it’s only fair that we treat our own – artists and audiences alike, with the same respect as we would treat others across the board. Just do better. It’s really that simple.

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