Brooklyn’s been home to rappers from Foxy Brown to Mos Def to Notorious B.I.G. The New York City borough is such a hotspot for hip hop that the shout-out “Where Brooklyn at?” is a staple in rap songs. Plus, each year Brooklyn hosts an annual hip-hop festival where rap royalty such as Q-Tip, KRS-One, and De La Soul have performed. Given the borough’s historic ties to hip hop, why is a petition circulating to convince a new club in Park Slope to showcase “indie” music rather than hip hop? Evidently, the neighborhood’s been gentrified so much that black people are no longer wanted there, even though Park Slope was once a mostly African-American and immigrant ‘hood.
A person using the name Jennifer McMillen (which Gothamist reports is probably a pseudonym) doesn’t want an establishment called Prime 6 to be a venue for hip-hop artists because, well, “family comes first” in Park Slope. And, you know, no rapper or rap fan has ever had kids or spouses or parents, so they just don’t get the concept of family (right). On the other hand, indie artists must all be regular “Leave it to Beavers,” as McMillen deems them the appropriate type of musicians to perform at Prime 6. Yeah, because indie artists never get high or drunk or swear or brawl. They’re good, clean fun the whole family can enjoy (right). But if Prime 6 turns into a “Yo MTV Raps ‘bling-bling’ ” kind of club, as McMillen puts it, Park Slopers will have to worry because there will be lots and lots of crime. I’m talking drive-by shootings, car-jackings in broad daylight, and crack whores cruising the streets. Isn’t this what happens when black people—oops, I mean, rappers—move in?
“It’s not ‘racist’ to equate hip hop with an elevated crime rate,” McMillen states on her petition. “It’s just a statistical fact that crime is more likely to occur among urban audiences than among audiences of other demographics.”
And McMillen know this is Gospel because even her “African-American friends and colleagues” don’t deny hip hop’s violent history. Yeah, McMillen can’t be racist because she has African-American friends and knows to call them African-American and not black. She can’t be racist because she claims to actually like hip hop and R&B. She can’t be racist because everyone knows that “Park Slopers are about the least ‘racist’ people on the planet.” Yeah, Park Slopers like McMillen are so anti-racist they want to make sure the new local club plays indie music to keep black people from crossing paths with their children.
Thus far, Jennifer McMillen’s petition has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures but fortunately from many folks who see that her racism is showing. These people have used the “name” and “location” fields of her petition to tell McMillen that she’s “the worst kind of gentrification,” “yupster scum,” and plain “full of it.” So, exactly why is her petition offensive?
McMillen makes a lot of racist assumptions throughout the text of her petition. Her biggest assumption? That hip-hop audiences are made up of black lowlifes. We know this because in the petition, she refers to African Americans, points out that she’s not racist, and equates hip hop with crime first and foremost. Although McMillen says she’s a hip-hop fan, I seriously question if she’s ever been to a hip-hop show. I question this because I’ve been to more hip-hop shows than I can remember, and I know that whites typically outnumber blacks in the audience—at least that’s been my experience on the West Coast. I also challenge her claims about crime at hip hop shows.
Hip hop has a violent history in the sense that two of its superstars, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, were murdered. Because of these tragedies, whenever there’s violence at hip-hop shows, it makes national headlines. But murders at nightclubs are rare. Drug use and possession, along with underage drinking, are the types of crimes that routinely take place at clubs. There’s no evidence, though, that more of these crimes take place at hip-hop venues than at indie rock venues. In Los Angeles, neither hip-hop venues nor indie venues appear in the news much. Recently, there’s been a slew of articles about the dangers of raves, however, because last year a teenager overdosed at a rave here.
Raves have a bad rap, as does hip hop. The difference is that when people object to raves, there are no racial overtones in the criticism. The same can’t be said for hip hop, and Jennifer McMillen’s fears about Prime 6 are a case in point. McMillen fails to realize that hip-hop fans include people like my husband and me—middle class, early 30s with no criminal records and master’s degrees. And when Mr. Nittle and I want to catch a hip hop show, we don’t trek to Sodom and Gomorrah or whatever hellhole she thinks hip hop venues call home. More often than not, we head to L.A.’s affluent Westside. So, yes, Jennifer, it can be done. Rap fans can catch shows in a nice part of town without property values tumbling or children getting shot.