Race Card: Hip-Hop Club Unwanted in Park Slope

Nadra Kareem Nittle
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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.

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13 Comments Have Been Posted


also, as someone from NY, i can verify that rap shows here (at least the many i've attended) are also attended by a largely white audience.

It's also pretty weird that

It's also pretty weird that she equates "hip hop" with "commercial" and "processed" music (the last lines of her petition). Has it not occurred to her that "indie" can technically cover all genres of music and not just the shoegazing, folksy stuff it's come to be associated with? You can have indie rap. People do it all the time. And if she's against some kind of looming, MTV-like behemoth of pop culture, then surely she'd want to prevent electronic and pop music from performing at the venue, too? Urgh. I wish she would just come out and say, "I only want skinny white people with guitars and ironically retro fashion senses to play here."

the good news?

I have to say, though: as aggravating as the petition was to read, the "signatures" are just wonderful. I added mine at the location "Racism isn't ironic."

Oh, Park Slope. You make it

Oh, Park Slope. You make it so easy to mock you.

Thank you!

THANK YOU for helping to give these idiotic petition people the negative attention they deserve. I was pleased to see that the majority of "signers" wrote anti-petition comments in the signature fields, but my dismay at the fact that anyone was insensitive, racist, and ignorant enough to write and post such a thing remains. I am going to repost wherever I can to garner still more publicity against this and similar racist acts.

Park Slope already has a

Park Slope already has a reputation for being the vilest kind of sanctimonious yuppie scum to belly crawl Brooklyn. Racist AND classist to be sure. I'll gladly support a hip-hop club there, a punk club, salsa, dancehall reggae, a dive bar, anything that disrupts their self-righteous little world. Hell, since the yupscum have priced most of the real people out of the Lower East Side, I say we move it all to Park-Slope! Mars Bar doesn't have to close after all, YAY!

New York = Flux

I am not sure I understand what the problem is here.

Did it occur to the author that Park Slope (and New York City, heck, the entire world) is in a constant state of demographic flux?

My grandparents grew up in slums over on 33rd St and 11th Ave in Hell's Kitchen, back in the 1920s/30s/40s. Nowadays, that area is becoming gentrified. New York is like that. It changes.

Nobody owns the "rights" to the identity of Park Slope, Brooklyn, or any other place in the United States, etc., except, perhaps, the Native Americans who lived on Long Island so long ago.

"New York" is a myth, and its meaning changes according to who lives there at any particular point in history. Park Slope was once a fairly well-to-do area, until a steady decline starting in the 1960s. Stating that "even though Park Slope was once a mostly African-American and immigrant ’hood" is true, if you have no contextual understanding of what came before that...and before that, etc.

I am not making excuses for the "yuppie scum" (a classist term), but, if this woman's plea to curtail hip-hop is a sign of things to come, so be it. Deal with it. That's life. If that's what the stroller-pushing hipster Mommies want, so what?

New York is a state of mind. Anywhere that had a "scene" is a state of mind. Good Music is a state of mind, but, magically, every once in a while it manifests in an actual place within a certain era. I cannot speak for Hip Hop, but I certainly think that "Rock" music is/was a state of mind. The Filmore East, 1968. CBGB, 1975. I am sure there are countless examples for various cities and bygone eras. Those days are Gone gone gone, never coming back.

Let it go! Let the uptight lady have her "fun"....and run, as fast as you can...away from people like that!

Peace to you.

Yeah right. I was BORN in

Yeah right. I was BORN in Hell's Kitchen, my parents grew up there too, and my Abuelita still lives there, one of the remaining few old neighborhood people in her building. And yes, it is disgusting what the YUPPIE SCUM have done to my block. You think that's classist? Classist is pricing earnest working class people out of their homes. Yuppies whining that calling them what they are is "classist" is as laughable as when racists and homophobes whine that anyone who calls them on their shit is "intolerant". Yes, I inferred you are one. Your grandparents may have grown up in what you call a "slum" but I don't believe you did. You sound like one of the ones destroying New York. CBGB's? Did they tell you that's what it used to be when you bought your latest John Varvatos fashions? Or do you know it because the logo got farmed out on apparel in part to help pay Hilly's medical bills?

I'm sick of "dealing with it" for YUPPIE SCUM. One of them assaulted my disabled husband the other night (BTW, he played CB's in the late 70's, back when it was a thing, not a "state of mind". And he completely agrees with my terminology), to steal a cab he'd hailed. I'm done playing, done being priced out of working class neighborhoods, done being nice.


I have to agree with this poster. While deliberately trying to supress any form of art/music/culture should be forbidden and called into question, it's just a (sad) sign of a natural cycle. My grandparents grew up in a city in a neighborhood called "French Hill" where all the French/French Canadians lived. Over time, the makeup of the neighborhood changed. Anyone who feels that they "own" a neighborhood is kidding themselves, and that in itself leads to violence. And to the poster who is blaming yuppies for the unfortunate curcumstances in their life, I'm sorry. It is classist to assume that because someone is a "yuppie" that they are out to get you and put the poor (wo)man down.

While I'm not deluded enough

While I'm not deluded enough to think I "own" a neighborhood (more the province of the yuppies who get mommy & daddy to buy their place in the latest up and coming high-rise). You're worried that it leads to "violence"? It was an ablist yuppie who assaulted my husband, so who started the violence there?

Again. keep calling me classist--you sound as stupid as the homophobes who accuse other people of being "intolerent" of them because they insist on equal rights and same sex marriage.

"WAAAAH! WAAAAH! I priced everyone out of their living spaces and destroyed the culture of the city, but someone called me a yuppie! THEY'RE oppressing ME!!! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! DO SOMETHING BLOOMIE, OR I WON'T ELECT YOU FOR A FOURTH TERM!"

What, did Privilege Denying Dude get his Tumblr shut down so he has to post on "Bitch" now? How about "Trustafarian" and "Feauxhemian", do they meet your dainty little kid glove capacity to handle a small bit of underclass rage?

Also I bet you're the same

Also I bet you're the same poster pretending to agree with yourself so you look like you have more support.

Hey Bloomberg, Why'd you feel

I read the online petition

I read the online petition and it is ridiculous. This womans assumptions are very wrong. First of all she equates hip hop music with violence, and then urban areas with crime, which is an old conservative argument which has been used to pathologize the racialized poor since the 1950s and 1960s. Secondly, she forgets that it was white upper middle class families that displaced the African American and immigrant communities that lived in Park Slope. They started building supermarkets and stores that no one but those of that specific class standing could afford. And now their peace and quiet will be disturbed by a hip hop club? Give me a break! She wants to replace it with a stroller repair shop? Who are you to tell people what music they can listen to? Clearly you didnt care when you moved into that area and displaced all the communities that lived there? That was okay right? but now putting a hip hop club there is wrong. First of all everyone knows that it is white kids who are the majority of buyers of Hip Hop cds and memorabilia. But there is no problem there. And clearly you have no problem with a club existing, but the main problem is the music this club will play. Apparently rock and roll, heavy metal and a bunch of angry white kids punching each other in mosh pits doesnt disturb the quality of the neighhorhood or your lily white kids from sleeping but hip hop music does. This is a question of RACE AND CLASS, which this woman and all the people that are signing this petition fail to understand.

-my two cents

Turns out this is somebody's

Turns out this is somebody's idea of a joke. There's nobody named Jennifer McMillan or McMillen in Park Slope. Could just be more hype for the spot.

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