In the last two months in Madison, we’ve had two incidents of gun play at music venues. First, at a Majestic Christmas Eve hip-hop party hosted by the ever-positive local hip-hop artist, Rob Dz, a fight broke out and guns were pulled on staff and security personnel. And, more recently, at High Noon Saloon, someone was pistol-whipped, and a shot was fired in the men’s bathroom. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, of all days.
In the aftermath, those of us who love hip-hop and see it as a valid art form are faced with the challenge of where we go from here.
This Thursday, we have Warner Brothers recording artist XV appearing at High Noon Saloon. In order to reassure the venue’s understandably rattled staff, we’ve made changes in the line-up and instituted radical security measures. Everyone who comes in the door will be wanded with a metal detector and bags will be checked for weapons. If you go out the door to smoke or socialize outside on High Noon’s patio, you will be checked again when you come back in. Period.
I’ve written about this topic before. I’m no expert. I’m just one guy with an opinion. But it’s an informed opinion. True Endeavors has brought more hip-hop shows to Madison over the last two decades than any other promoter. A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common, The Roots, Method Man, Ghostface, Eyedea & Abilities, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S., Doomtree, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Mac Miller, Wale, Immortal Technique, Heiroglyphics, Del The Funky Homosapien, Grieves, G-Side, Danny Brown, Das Racist, Macklemore, Blue Scholars, Living Legends, Afrika Bambaataa, Dead Prez, Sage Francis, Souls of Mischief, YelaWolf, Devin The Dude, Cunninlynguists, and so many more are among the acts we’ve been fortunate to promote.
On the other hand, I’m also white, which means I need to be circumspect before shooting off my mouth.
I agree with Cornell West when he says “race matters.” Newt Gingrich got a big applause line at a recent GOP debate when we attacked Obama as being a “food stamp president.” This is despicable race-baiting, plain and simple. Rick Santorum said something similar before the Iowa primary, playing on the old stereotypes and coded language that have long sullied our national politics.
Hip-hop is an African-American art form. The legacy of two centuries of slavery and one century of Jim Crow is still with us. Unfortunately, part of that legacy includes violence, particularly black-on-black gun violence, a tragically serious problem in our nation’s urban centers. Those problems are increasingly more common here in Madison, spilling over into our music venues and night clubs. It cannot be tolerated in any way whatsoever or our music venues will be shut down one-by-one and there will be no more hip-hop of any kind in Madison.
Most of the problems surrounding hip-hop in Madison have been with DJ parties and MC battles featuring local artists. The crowd that shows for these events are not easy on the staff. Door people report getting hassled by those not wanting to pay the cover charge. Bartenders report getting grabbed and accosted with threatening comments like, “Bitch, you need to put more liquor in my drink.”
Imagine putting up with that and not getting tipped.
Not everyone is doing this hustle and jive bullshit, but enough are that it creates a negative attitude among those who have to put up with it. Now, with guns being pulled and fired, we’re at a whole other level of concern and push-back.
If I were black, speaking up would have more credibility, I realize that. Still, it must be said: If you cannot go out in public and carry on peacefully and respectfully towards those around you and serving you, you have no business going out. I can’t comment about what goes on at State Street bars that cater to the Greek crowd. There are real problems on State Street, but those problems are not the one threatening to close down music venues in Madison where we do our shows.
So, here’s the deal: White, black, or whatever color, if you bring negative and violent behavior to a show run by True Endeavors, you’re not welcome and will be asked to leave.
I’ll close with this: XV is a positive hip-hop artist. He’s not about the thug life. In fact, XV is about as far removed from gangsta rap as any artist out on tour.
Come to the High Noon this Thursday to see his show and the openers, A.N.T., Tre Money, and WES3 (tickets here).
Support live hip-hop in Madison. Let’s not let the actions of a few ruin hip-hop for the many.
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