Earlier this month, Pharrell stormed off stage while performing in Saudi Arabia after fans were allegedly throwing electronic wristbands at him. While fans doing too much at shows is far from a new trend, the increase in aggression is cause for concern, and unfortunately, it’s unclear where exactly it stems from.

Fans have been slowly getting more and more agitated for a few years now, and a few moments have been incredibly notable. In the summer of 2022, Lil Durk was performing at De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands when he stopped the show to get physical with a fan. The fan had frustrated the Chicago rapper by insulting the late King Von, and Durk paused the show to shove the fan down some steps.

In September of 2023, another aggressive fan got on stage while 50 Cent was performing at Chicago’s United Center, and charged the G-Unit leader. That supporter was tackled and led away by security.

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Why Are Fans Getting More Aggressive?

If you think rap fans have gotten more aggressive at shows in recent years, you’re right. Every week it seems a new report emerges of fans getting on stage or throwing hard objects at rappers while they perform.

Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, a professor of communications at the University of Arizona who specializes in media effects and audience behaviors, told The Huffington Post in 2023 that the pandemic is partially to blame. From disruptive, drunken airline passengers to aggravated restaurant diners, manners and etiquette haven’t been firing on all cylinders since the world opened back up in 2021.

More interestingly, Stevens Aubrey said that during quarantine fans developed an even more intense parasocial relationship with celebrities and performers, leading them to believe at shows that they’re just watching an old friend perform.

“Fans are let into the informal daily lives of many of their favorite performers, making people feel like they have a rather intimate one-way friendship with these performers,” she said. “After all, they frequently ‘talk’ on their phones through these short-form videos. In the minds of the fans, they are friends.”

She continued, “Throwing things at a performer can be considered violence, but another interpretation is that it is an act of desperation. Like, this is their one and only chance to get the attention of the performer.”

But considering the violence often perpetrated against artists, and more specifically rappers, the growing normalcy of this type of etiquette is concerning. For example, security didn’t even bat an eye when an overzealous fan got on stage and dapped up Drake during his show in Austin, Texas last year.

“Y’all not doing security out here?” Drake repeatedly questioned as security finally came up and threw the supporter off stage. “Boy, you slow as f**k.”

On the flip side, fans have also gotten themselves seriously hurt in the process of trying to interact with rappers. In December of 2023, Blueface and Jaidyn Alexis were seen on video bringing a fan on stage and pummeling a woman after she allegedly threw ice at Blue’s fiancée.

Carla Penna, a psychoanalyst and crowd researcher in Rio de Janeiro, told the Los Angeles Times in 2023 that social media is also to blame for this toxic bond fans feel with artists.

“With the support of unbounded social media, the real or fantasized distance between the fan and the artist diminished,” Penna said. “Thus, in a show, the audience might feel entitled to join the artist in person on the stage or join the artist in a symbolic way by throwing objects that represent or symbolize themselves.”

While fans might mean well with their interactions, the result is often fear and frustration for the artist. Some rappers have even gotten themselves in trouble for retaliating. Last August, Cardi B was briefly investigated for battery by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after she hurled a microphone into the crowd when a fan threw water at her. Cardi wasn’t charged, but it created an unnecessary bit of legal drama for the Bronx-bred rapper that was undoubtedly frustrating.

The point is, fans need to enjoy the show and stop trying to be part of it.

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