Pharrell Williams Axes His Star-Studded Festival Following Cousin’s Death By Police

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Virginia Beach, VA – Pharrell Williams has reportedly decided not to bring the Something In The Water festival back to Virginia Beach in 2022. After his cousin was killed in an officer-involved shooting last March, the Neptunes producer/rapper doesn’t feel like his hometown is the right place for it.

In a letter to the Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney on Tuesday (October 5), Pharrell outlined his reasons for the cancelation, explaining the festival helped ease racial tensions, promoted economic growth for the city and unified the area — but he feels he’s not getting anything in return.

“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by — and with toxic energy,” he wrote. “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.”

He added, “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.”


Pharrell’s letter was in response to a note from Duhaney dated September 26 in which he expressed his disappointment in Pharrell’s decision to discontinue the festival. According to 10WAVY News, the 2020 and 2021 festivals were canceled due to COVID-19, but the inaugural 2019 festival — which boasted acts such Missy Elliott, Travis Scott and Migos — as had an economic impact of more than $24 million.

In the wake of the March shooting, the Something in the Water executive producer helped launch Listen Learn Love VB in an effort to “fast-track the diversity and inclusion conversation” and “rebrand Virginia Beach as a “sanctuary for human rights.” But sources say it fell apart when some Oceanfront business owners opposed the message.

Lynch was fatally wounded by a Virginia Beach police officer who claimed he was wielding a handgun, which his family disputes. The Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said he died after he was shot in the torso and thigh. He was 25.