Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hip hop is not the problem

I physically cringed when I read yesterday's headline that a fight had broken out and arrests made (including that of Rob Dz, one of the area's most well-respected emcees) at a local hip-hop show at the Brink Lounge. Great, I thought, just what we need more of in Madison, another excuse for people to stigmatize the music based on the actions of a few bad actors.

Lo and behold, I (and many others) was sadly right: The Brink has now officially decided to stop booking hip-hop acts all together.

The Daily Page reports on several elements of the incident that I had only suspected, but do now look to be the case. That police likely responded with excessive force, quickly and needlessly escalating a situation that was, by the time they'd arrived, well under control. Sixteen MPD officers (plus an undisclosed number of Capitol Police) showed up when called about a fight between two women at the show. How is that at all reasonable? They then peppersprayed and arrested several of the event's performers for, as far as I can tell, trying to 1) get their equipment out of the building, and 2) protest when they saw what they felt to be excessive force being used on the female suspects.

I wasn't there, so I can't make any definite judgments on how things were handled and why, but after hearing from several witnesses and people directly effected, I can't help but suspect that this was a case of inappropriate action on the part of the MPD, based mostly on the overall stigma now associated with hip-hop in this city.

It's an absolute shame, too. As mentioned in the Daily Page article, "...media and political attention to hip-hop in Madison is focused on negative matters and doesn’t focus on positive events like recent shows geared towards registering voters, collecting winter coats for the indigent, or raising money for a child with cancer."

Every experience I've had with Wisconsin hip-hop artists has been an overall positive one. A lot of the emcees and DJs do a lot of work in the community to not only bolster the profile of their music, but to help kids find a productive purpose in life, to do community organizing, and to work on behalf of social justice issues. Hell, sometimes what they do is just artistic expression without any immediate or grander purpose, but that's just as valid.

The problem isn't with the genre as a whole (you could make an argument against certain specific artists glorifying violence, etc., but I can't think of one single local musician who'd fit that profile). The problem is with individuals who happen to be in the audience and decide to do something stupid. But that happens at shows of all different genres. I'd be really curious to see statistics on fights and other disturbances breaking out at live shows in general, and if there's any correlation between their frequency and corresponding genre. I doubt it.

So now, based on ill-founded but widespread fears, hip-hop artists have one less venue to play in town. We could start focusing on regular ol' security issues, good capacity and organization regulations, and personal responsibility - or we can keep choking out an otherwise vibrant and relevant form of artistic expression. Which is it, Madison?


M Big Mistake said...

You hate to just say this is blatent racism...but...

After having spent half a year as a bouncer at a pretty tame club...and a few years gigging out...I can say that there are assholes at all kinds of music shows. I haven't noticed the hip hop ones being any worse. If anything...the hip hop shows are just more well attended...and more people means more potential for conflict.

Walk down State Street on any Saturday night at bar time and there is plenty of crap going down too...I don't think the music has anything to do with the problems.

It's stupid.

Dustin Christopher said...

I think hip-hop is clearly to blame here. Anyone with enough common sense to tell you kids who play video games go on to shoot up their schools will tell you hip-hop evokes violent, uncontrollable passions in its victims, and almost always starts them down a path of wild gang activity and the abuse of that dangerous and highly addictive gateway drug marijuana.

Ow... I think writing that just gave me a stroke... How do people DO THAT?!?

The CDP. said...

I want to mention that I was at the P.O.S. show at the High Noon on Monday, and it was one of the most positive and fun shows I've seen in years. Nothing but love and respect, and not a hint of pepper spray.

Emily said...

MBM - I have no doubt that that's one of the elements involved here. Or if not racism, certainly classism. It's unfair bias, in any case.

DC - I nearly had a stroke just reading what you wrote.

CDP - Exactly.

Dustin Christopher said...

Oh, and in a serious point I forgot to make while being crass, Matt Brink told US that he's not permanently shying away from hip hop shows... He's just got to make some better security arrangements. He told us he absolutely WILL be hosting hip-hop performers again.

doctressjulia said...

I think the problem is likely inept security who, at the drop of a hat, call the police to do their jobs for them. How hard would it have been to remove the two ladies from the bar?? I mean, were they 6'4" or something? Please. I've been a bouncer and bartender for over 15 years- and calling the cops was always a LAST LAST resort. They are thugs, and only escalate the problem, every time.

Wise1 said...

Hip Hop is completely to blame for the violence that happens after any event. To say, write or type that it has nothing to do with violence is to look at life with idiot colored glasses, in that case I have some property to sell you.

Puhleeeese...look at the numbers-they don't lie.

Emily said...

Um...what numbers?

Anonymous said...

why would thes guys get involved in the first place they should have let the police do there jobs to claim racism is stupid was there only cops of one color If the dj's would have minded there own business they would not be in trouble

Emily said...

Anon - Cripes, please at least attempt coherent spelling and punctuation before posting. Thanks.

Secondly, I don't get the impression that you've really been reading all the accounts of what actually happened.

Jackson Kid said...


I am glad to see that there are many people behaving in a reflective manner when it comes to these types of negative situations. It is easy to react but much harder to reflect when so many topics-- racism, policing, discrimination-- are brought up all at once. Unfortunately, there has never been an organized meeting/forum between the Madison hip-hop community, police and business owners to discuss, in an honest manner, all of these topics that rear their ugly heads periodically. It is clear that nothing has been resolved. And without commenting on the specifics of the Brink situation, it goes without saying that if these problems aren't discussed and resolved, the broken record will continue playing.

-DJ Pain 1

The Lost Albatross