im from fairbanks screenshot

Fairbanks rappers Bishop Slice and Starbuks. Screenshot captured from “I’m From Fairbanks” music video.

ANCHORAGE — What began as a normal evening of scheduled performances at the annual Tanana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks Thursday ended in dramatic fashion when the final act was cut short, and the performers were kicked off the fairgrounds.

The aftermath of the event was captured live on Facebook, igniting an online conversation centered on mostly anger and frustration with the fair official’s decision and support for the booted performers, Bishop Slice, a.k.a. Julian Lillie, and Starbuks, a.k.a. Michael Cofey, both well-known Fairbanks rappers.

Lillie was about halfway through his set when the audio completely dropped out and his microphone was cut off.

“I thought maybe we blew the speakers or, you know, like, we had a power outage or something. He (sound guy) approached me and said that this would be the last song,” Lillie said in a phone interview Friday. “They told him to cut me off.”

Shortly after the sound was cut, a few fans began shouting “Bishop Slice, Bishop Slice.” They were promptly scolded by Joyce Whitehorn, the fair’s general manager, who said, “knock it off, all of you, or you’ll be eighty-sixed out of here.” Lillie recorded the incident and posted the video to Facebook:


Whitehorn was the person responsible for ordering the audio to be cut off. She received a complaint about some of the lyrics, according to Lillie.

“The same people that had complained about us are the same people that go to our shows at the Marlin, and they support us,” he said. “It’s kinda weird.”

This is the fourth year Bishop Slice has been booked to perform at the fair. The fair’s website describes his act as “Clean Hip Hop and Soul appropriate for all ages.”

“I didn’t cuss in none of my original music, you know, because I like to keep it at a friendly level. Because I’m playing at the fair, you know, I’m aware of that, and I’m aware that families are there,” Lillie said.

Despite its title, the song he was performing when the audio was cut, “Savage Language,” does not contain a single swear word, Lillie says. He’s performed the song the three previous years at the same fair with no complaints, he added.

Alaska’s Oldest Fair

The Tanana Valley State Fair is the oldest in Alaska, according to its official website. It was established in 1924, 12 years before the Alaska State Fair began in Palmer.

The standard array of rides, games, 4-H contests, even Supercross races highlights its family-friendly atmosphere and performer schedule. Entertainment coordinator, Isaac Paris, was recently quoted in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer saying, “If you want to enjoy a show with your 13 year old, the fair is a great option.”

The about section of the fair’s website also says, “The fair educates and entertains all participants by providing opportunities to share a rich variety of individual and community endeavors. The Fair encourages and welcomes involvement by all.”

Thursday’s incident, however, proves it was a welcome not extended to all performers, Lillie and Cofey argue.

After his set was cut short, Lillie asked Whitehorn for an explanation. He said she told him that his kind of music wasn’t allowed at the fair. It was at that point that Cofey began broadcasting live on Facebook.


“It’s our fairgrounds and it’s not going to happen,” Whitehorn told Cofey after he asked for an explanation as to why their set was cut off.

Cofey: “I’m just asking why we’re being kicked out.”

Whitehorn: “Because I asked them to.”

Cofey: “So, you asked him to kick us out because we performed music that we were asked to perform?”

Whitehorn: (inaudible response)

Cofey: “We didn’t have any swear words. There was no violence. Nothing negative happened, other than our performance being stopped.”

Whitehorn: “You’re a really good speaker, but I’m sorry that’s the way the rules. That’s how it is.”

Community Response

After Cofey’s video was posted to Facebook, the community of Fairbanks rallied around the performers, Lillie says.

“We’ve been getting nothing but support,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s people I don’t even know. It’s kinda cool that, you know, Fairbanks would come together and defend us and stand up for what’s right.”

Cofey says he sees Thursday’s incident as insight into a bigger problem.

“It’s really not about rap music,” said Cofey. “It’s about how she treated us. And it’s about how … we gotta wake up. We gotta wake up as a community, we gotta wake up as a country. This is happening every day, everywhere. Period.”

Following Thursday’s incident, another Fairbanks band, Awaken, Antagonist, announced they would be canceling their performance at the fair. They were scheduled to play at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The band issued a statement on its Facebook page regarding the decision:

Apologies to all the fans and friends who are coming out tonight to the fair. We have decided not to play the state fair due to an incident that occurred during Bishop Slice‘s set on Thursday. The Tanana Valley State Fair gm shut down the set prematurely even though a healthy crowd had appeared and showed support for the entertainment they paid and came to watch because a select few had been “offended”. In other videos you can see more of the event unfold on the artist page. This act had been invited and had played the fair for a 4th year in row with no prior issues. Shortly after we were contacted by the state fair talent buyer (who invited us to play based on demand) about our music since it became clear after listening…. It was not for the light hearted and easily offended (even though we use no profanity). Much respect goes out to him for sticking his neck out for these artists. I hope this fair management realizes that everybody is not a grandparent and thinks only certain types of art is acceptable.


Neither the fair’s general manager, Joyce Whitehorn, or board president Gabrielle Larry replied to KTVA’s request for comment. Any reply sent after publishing will be added to this article. 

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