It's July 14th at 6pm and my ears are starting to bleed as I hear the presumptuous and prejudice thoughts of a club owner. A friend of mine and I listen quietly as a judgmental, uninformed, older man, rants about the hip-hop culture of today. At the end of his rant I ask him one simple question. "Have you heard my music?" His answer, "No."
I get so sick of hearing, "hip-hop use to stand for something, and now it's nothing more than a circus for non talented, illiterate youth who aren't real musicians or songwriters." I am sick of the culture of hip-hop being labeled as violent, misogynistic, and/or filth. Is it true that there are some expressions and views within the hip-hop community that are violent and disrespectful to women? Yes. However, there are also just as many expressions and views that are uplifting and inspiring to the culture. To judge an entire culture based on the actions, expressions, and views of one subgroup based within the culture is disgusting to me! It's like saying all black men make babies and leave them because you have three black friends who didn't take care or their responsibilities; or all white men are in the KKK because you know of five klan members. The immediate repercussions of such thoughts affects the culture on many more levels than arguments on social media, or sparking articles in hip-hop blogs. The culture literally suffers major blows in functionality, and the progress the culture has made takes 100 steps back.
By now we have all heard of the incident that occurred at Irving plaza on May 25th 2016 involving Troy Ave. William J. Branton police commissioner of NYPD soon after gave an interview condemning, " the crazy world of these so-called rap artist who are basically thugs." He went on to say that the music, "celebrates violence, drugs, and the degradation of women." Due to this incident many venues around the country saw this as an opportunity to ignite the discussion of the safety of hip-hop concerts and events; and like the for mentioned club owner their logic is based on the assumption that rap concerts automatically draw in thugs, gang bangers, and low life people who's sole purpose is to incite violent exchanges. This is BULLSHIT! I have been a show promoter and event coordinator for 8 years now, and never once have I had an incident like this occur. We all know that there are often bad apples that can spoil a bunch but that does not mean every Apple is spoiled.
In 1999 Roca Fella Records and Def Jam Records went on a 2 months 46 city Hard Knock Life Tour, that housed a roster of some of the most popular gangster/hustler rap icons of the time including Jay-Z, DMX, Method man, Red Man, and the list goes on. During the duration of the tour, not once was there a fight, shooting or violent incident. At the start of the tour many record executives and concert promoters saw it as a certainty that violence would occur. Jay-Z says, "they don't want to see this happen. I just wanna see us go all the way through, wit no problems. It would be great for Hip-hop." The sold out tour still holds its place as one of the most well received and highest grossing rap tours of all time.
So how do we deal with this problem? First we have to recognize that there is a problem and not only with the people who choose to remain close-minded about our culture, but also deal with the events that give rise to this shallow form of thinking. When I read about a shooting, or violent event that takes takes place at a concert, I don't blame it on the show, or the artist I blame it on the people who brought the problem into the space. Hip-hop, and street shit are not the same thing. Yes there are people who live a street life that listen to hip-hop, but there are also people who live a street life who listen to pop music. If a shooting occurred at a 5th harmony concert, would you then say that pop music is the cause of the violence? Would you blame the incident on 5th harmony? I wouldn't! I would figure out what/who was the cause and make sure it never happened again.
We have to take responsibility for our actions. We have to understand that everything we do as a culture is under a microscope whether we want it to be or not. If you have a problem with someone who is going to be at a show you are at, settle that shit before you come! Don't bring it into the culture, because that makes it hard for us to justify our stance against the prejudice that derives from your POOR DECISIONS. We have to protect the culture we have fought so hard to keep alive, because if we don't, it will die, and there are venues, and publications and radio stations that are ready to kill it. Don't give them the ammunition to do so. I love hip-hop. I live and breathe it. I don't know what I would do if it was not in my life. More than ever we must not give fuel to those who seek to discredit our art.
It is now, July 15th 2016 at 12:30 am. The house lights come up, the crowd begins to scatter, the music is turned off and people seemed to be exhausted and elated because of the near holy experience that was just lived. That night we not only proved the club owner wrong, we garnered a win for the culture. Hip-hop has always been a voice for the people, and actions speak louder than words, so let's not stop with this win. Show the shallow minded uninformed people what hip hop really is. Fire flames for this cold world.