Nearly a year after being caught on camera using a racial slur, Morgan Wallen appeared on stage at the event honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
The country singer made a surprise appearance at Nashville’s MLK Freedom Fest on Saturday night, joining rapper Lil Durk for a performance of their recent collaborative single, “Broadway Girls.” In introducing Wallen, Lil Durk said he was “genuine at heart,” and added, “Can’t nobody cancel shit without me saying it, you know what I’m saying?”
In February 2021, footage of Wallen using the n-word was posted to TMZ. In the video, which was filmed by his neighbor, Wallen was seen drunkenly yelling, “Take care of this pussy ass motherfucker. Take care of this pussy ass n****.” Wallen later attributed his behavior to being in the throes of a 72-hour bender.
In the immediate aftermath of the video’s release, Wallen was dropped by his label, barred from award shows, and temporarily saw his music pulled from the radio. However, less than a year later, Wallen has rebounded from the scandal relatively unscathed. His streaming numbers actually increased, and his recently announced US tour is largely sold out.
Wallen’s appearance at MLK Freedom Fest marked his second surprise performance in as many weeks. Last weekend, Wallen joined fellow country singer Ernest on stage at Nashville’s legendary Grand Ole Opry, where he was met with a rousing reaction from the audience and a celebratory tweet from Grand Ole Opy’s social media manager. Others were not so happy about Wallen’s return to Grand Ole Opry, however.
“Last night @opry you had a choice- either upset one guy and his ‘team,’ or break the hearts of a legion of aspiring Black country artists,” Isbell wrote on Twitter. “You chose wrong and I’m real sad for a lot of my friends today. Not surprised though. Just sad.” Isbell added, “The thing that really upsets me is bigger than one person’s words. It’s the idea of a young Black artist walking into that venue and wondering if ANYBODY is on their side. What a lot of us consider to be a grand ole honor can be terrifying for some. Doesn’t have to be that way.”
Black country singer Joy Oladokun echoed those sentiments, tweeting: “Morgan Wallen’s thoughtless redemption tour is the nail in the coffin of me realizing these systems, and this town is really not for us. imma keep making my lil music in my attic, y’all can listen if you want. i don’t know that i’ll do this work forever.”