Skepta has issued an apology and removed the artwork for his latest single, Gas Me Up (Diligent), following accusations that it alluded to the Holocaust. The artwork featured a group of men with shaved heads, one of whom had the words “Gas Me Up” tattooed on his head.
Swiftly, individuals drew connections between the image and the tragic deaths of Jewish people in Nazi gas chambers during World War Two. Skepta expressed regret and recognized the potential for offense, explaining on social media that the artwork, created for his album rollout centered on his parents’ arrival in the UK in the 80s, skinhead culture, and football, had been misinterpreted by many.
The Mercury Prize-winning artist later shared the “mood board” for his album on X (previously known as Twitter).
The collage featured 1980s images depicting football hooligans, skinheads, prison canteens, and the logo for 2 Tone Records. This record label, known for its multi-racial acts such as the Specials and the Selecter, actively opposed bigotry.
In response to the backlash surrounding Gas Me Up, a slang term for hyping someone up or praising them, Skepta posted the imagery to provide additional context after reflecting on the situation.
He expressed the belief that he couldn’t continue being the artist fans know and love if his artistic expression was subject to policing. Skepta wrote, “So to help with context, here are some pictures from our mood board for the 1980s UK story for my album Knife & Fork.”
The artist Gabriel Moses, responsible for creating the artwork for Gas Me Up, also shared Skepta’s initial statement on his Instagram account.
Subsequently, he posted a clip from Beanie Sigel’s music video “Feel It In The Air” with the caption “Last 24 hours.” The video depicted the rapper’s residence being surrounded and raided by the police.
In November of the previous year, Skepta disclosed his plans to host his own festival at London’s Crystal Palace Park on July 6, 2024. Following this, he announced his first album in five years, titled “Knife and Fork,” on New Year’s Day.
Expressing gratitude for the support during his hiatus, Skepta stated, “It’s been years since I dropped my last album, and I want to thank you for all the love during my absence. I’ve seen the messages, tweets, and TikToks, and I’m truly grateful that my music is still resonating with the world even in my absence.”
Accompanying the album will be a film titled “Tribal Mark,” which narrates the journey of a Nigerian immigrant navigating life in a foreign land.
“Gas Me Up” remains slated as the inaugural single from the album, set for release on January 26. In the lyrics, the artist exudes a lively and self-assured demeanor, celebrating his achievements in music, fashion, and his role in the acclaimed TV show Top Boy.
Furthermore, he acknowledges his musical hiatus with the lyrics: “I’m talking about taking a year out, still, I can’t see no competition / Can’t see anyone threatening my position.”