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'Watch Me' rapper Silento stuck in UAE over business dispute

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/2/2017 By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press
FILE - In this July 21, 2015 file photo, 17-year-old rapper Silento poses for a portrait in New York. Silento, a U.S. rapper known for his hit song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" has had his passport seized by authorities in the United Arab Emirates over a business dispute.(Photo by Drew Gurian/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this July 21, 2015 file photo, 17-year-old rapper Silento poses for a portrait in New York. Silento, a U.S. rapper known for his hit song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" has had his passport seized by authorities in the United Arab Emirates over a business dispute.(Photo by Drew Gurian/Invision/AP, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The American rapper known for his hit song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" has been stopped from leaving the United Arab Emirates over a business dispute.

A court ruling issued against Silento in the city of Al Ain and seen by The Associated Press on Thursday orders the 19-year-old Atlanta artist to pay a local promoter 300,000 dirhams ($81,500) after he did not perform two scheduled shows.

The Feb. 20 judgment places a travel ban on the rapper, whose real name is Ricky Lamar Hawk, and orders him to surrender his passport to the court until the case is settled.

The dispute centers on two shows Silento was supposed to play in Al Ain and the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on Feb. 18, according to event organizer Makki Taj El Sir Abdel Halim. The shows never took place.

The promoter said he is seeking to recover lost expenses, including performance fees as well as travel and marketing costs.

"He didn't show up," Abdel Halim said in an interview. "I just want to get my own money back. ... I don't want to ruin his reputation."

Jenna Kadhum, who represents Silento in the Middle East, disputed the allegations against the performer and accused the promoter of failing to live up to his end of the agreement.

"Silento did not cancel any shows at all," Kadhum said. The rapper only learned of the travel ban against him on Wednesday, she added.

Kadhum declined to say whether he had handed his passport over to authorities and would not discuss his next legal steps.

The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to comment.

The National, a government-owned daily in Abu Dhabi, first reported on the travel ban Thursday.

Silento acknowledged his legal troubles at the end of a show in a Dubai nightclub in the early hours Thursday.

"I can't even leave the UAE but I'm still in the club," he said, according to a video posted by the paper.

The rapper posted a link on Twitter late Wednesday urging fans to donate to a "Free Silento" fundraising page. Its stated aim: "Bring Me Back To America Again."

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Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Malak Harb in Abu Dhabi contributed to this report.

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Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck

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