Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival won’t be returning to Virginia Beach.
The rapper-producer is pulling the festival from his hometown. In a letter to city manager Patrick Duhaney, shared by WAVY-TV 10, Pharrell said he can no longer throw the annual event in his “beloved 757” because of what he calls “toxic energy.”
He explains that he started the festival to “ease racial tension” and “unify the region.” However, following the fatal police shooting of his cousin, Donovon Lynch, things haven’t been the same.
“I wish the same energy I’ve felt from Virginia Beach leadership upon losing the festival would have been similarly channeled following the loss of my relative’s life,” wrote Pharrell.
Lynch, 25, was among those killed during three separate shootings that also claimed the life of Deshayla Harris. The officer who fired the fatal shot did not have his body-worn camera turned on at the time. Police also said Lynch brandished a weapon before he was shot, which his family disputes.
“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by–and with toxic energy. The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovon Lynch, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2,” said Pharrell, referring to the May 2019 mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center that left 12 people dead and four injured.
“I sang about a room without a roof, but I am tired of kindly and politely being shown the door,” added the “Happy” hitmaker.
In closing, Pharrell demanded a call to action. “Until the gatekeepers and the powers-that-be consider the citizens and the consumer base, and no longer view the idea of human rights for all as a controversial idea… I don’t have any problems with the city, but I realize the city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either.”
His message was in response to a letter from Duhaney who said he felt “immense disappointment” after he learned Something in the Water may not be held in 2022.
The 2019 festival featured performances from Travis Scott, Migos, Missy Elliott, J Balvin, SZA, Jhené Aiko, and more. While the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural event reportedly resulted in an economic impact of more than $24 million.
Pharrell has not announced whether the festival will return in 2022 to a different city.