Toronto’s Transit Commission (the TTC for short) is something of a popular punching bag for locals who complain about delays and overcrowding. It was deemed the best public transit system in North America despite those flaws. The TTC is the focus of Instagram comedian 6ixreacts’ “NYEAH EH,” a comedy rap song that has the performer putting on an exaggerated “Toronto manz” voice (“are you DUMB!?”) and jokingly threatening to kneecap TTC workers if they don’t let him in to the subway. For context: Toronto’s fare systems are weird, as the Presto payment card hasn’t been fully implemented yet and many still use loose change to get in, which causes frustration when compounded on top of ever-increasing prices. Regardless, “NYEAH EH” is more an extremely niche and over-the-top sketch than a serious drill-inspired screed, but the TTC and Toronto police aren’t seeing it that way.
As reported by CP24, the TTC condemned “NYEAH EH,” with the commission’s executive director Brad Ross releasing a statement on Twitter calling it a “criminal act…completely unacceptable” and noted that the song’s video, shot in subway stations and train cars, was not authorized. He says that the TTC has asked YouTube to remove the clip, “based on the violence promoted in the video,” (6ixreacts makes his hands into a rifle multiple times) adding that “at least once a day TTC employees are assaulted or threatened for doing their jobs.” CP24 says that Toronto police are now investigating after receiving a complaint.
The debate now is whether the language and imagery crosses a line or is acceptable under the umbrella of comedy. Literally any low-budget rap video you’ll see on a cursory scan through YouTube has kids making their fingers into gun gestures. Some have actual firearms depicted in them and they’re not removed. “Hot N****” is still on the site and it got Bobby Shmurda in jail, such were the specificity of its threats. “NYEAH EH” follows in the lineage of these clips, borrowing their iconography to raise the frustrations Torontonians have with the TTC to ludicrous heights, considering that Canada is still stereotypically not known for being a country of aggressive people. Then again, the violence against TTC workers described by Ross in his statement is a real issue that should be taken seriously, so while 6ixreacts is indeed making what he calls an “innocent” joke, it’s probably not in the best taste.
Sadly, no matter how this case turns out, it’ll likely be another example of Toronto’s black youth being demonized through rap and music. Most coverage of “NYEAH EH” hasn’t placed focus on the fact that 6ixreacts is mainly known for comedic reaction videos, implying that he and his friends featured in the song are legitimately dangerous criminals by removing that context. Toronto likes rap, but is scared by the music’s audience, as the city’s underground hip-hop only makes headlines through sensationalist stories like this and the charges against Drake-cosigned rapper Pressa. This is what keeps DIY rap shows from being held in Toronto, the unfounded (and pretty dang racist) fear that rap in any form will instigate violence in the streets. Toronto isn’t outwardly hateful like the worst parts of America, but the city’s conservative NIMBY-ism is what partially prevents its rap scene from truly flourishing.
We’ve reached out to 6ixreacts for comment.
Phil is on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.