His attendance at the event named after and honouring the civil rights leader comes nearly a year after the country star was filmed saying a racial slur.
Lil Durk brought Wallen out during his set to perform their collaboration ‘Broadway Girls’. Introducing the musician onstage, he said Wallen was “genuine at heart” and added: “Can’t nobody cancel shit without me saying it, you know what I’m saying?”
Wallen was greeted by some cheers as he said “What’s up Nashville?” and the track kicked in. Watch footage of the moment below.
Following footage emerging of the country musician uttering a racial slur in February 2021 – something he later apologised for and said that had happened because he was “on hour 72 of 72 on a bender” – he faced a huge backlash from the music industry. He was dropped by his booking agent and suspended by his record label, while his songs were pulled from radio and streaming playlists for some time.
Wallen was also ineligible to attend or win any trophies at the 2021 Country Music Awards and Academy Of Country Music Awards.
In September last year, it was reported that Wallen had only donated a third of a pledged $500,000 (£366k) to Black-led organisations. He had promised to donate the money after he saw a spike in sales following the backlash against him. “We tried to calculate … how much it had spiked from this incident,” he explained during an interview on Good Morning America.
“We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organisations, BMAC [the Black Music Action Coalition] being the first one.” Two months after Wallen’s pledge, he had only given $165,000 (£121k).
Earlier this month, Wallen made another surprise appearance at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry venue. His performance was criticised by a name of artists including Jason Isbell and The Black Opry, an influential collective of Black country music artists and their supporters.