May 8, 2013

Musical Racism vs. Overblown Hype

Before I step in this giant maelstrom of disagreement that is sure to ensue, let me preface this entire thing by stating two things very clearly.   In my opinion: I do not believe it is fair to use the race card to argue a point.  However, if you are going to throw down racism as your battle cry, you probably don't have much else to stand on.   I dislike when your argument for anything is race.   Just like it shouldn't be used as a slur or put down, it should also be seen as wrong to use it as a platform.   Hi I'm Jewish and my grandparents were orphans because of the Germans so I want this condo for free in perpetuity and a manservant to feed me grapes...see how it could get out of hand very quickly?
Here goes....

The story, as it appears, is that a venue in LA cancelled a show the night before stating they do not allow rap at their venue.   One of the artists that was scheduled to perform was upset by this, and wrote a letter.   LA Weekly also published an article explaining the whole story- and it appears to be written by the event planner  (Jeff Weiss) who coordinated the entire thing.   Which seems a bit incestuous and 'bitter ex-employee biting the hand that fed it' but I don't know the details so maybe that part is incorrect..
Instead of referring to it constantly I am just going to insert the article here, with a direct link, and go through it point by point, highlighting the stuff I comment on below the article:

Racism Charged Against Hollywood Bar That Forbids Hip-Hop

By Jeff Weiss
Published Wed., May 8 2013 at 9:14 AM
Credit: Andy J Scott
Rapper Open Mike Eagle was barred from playing Harvard & Stone
[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
One man's purity is another man's segregation. You don't expect to encounter those ideas in Hollywood in 2013, but they creep in through coding and innuendo.  Public racial slurs are rare, but people casually mention frequenting a club until it became overtaken by "the...well, you know." The doorman in Knocked Up was only half joking when he expressed his hopes for a black midget in the crowd, because the club promoters only permitted one and a quarter blacks for every 25 whites.  Music should be the exception. The best '60s L.A. band (Love) was a rainbow coalition. "To Live & Die in L.A." is a municipal anthem. Kendrick Lamar, the new rap regent, chants "fuck your ethnicity."

But there's a thin line between what's prejudiced and what's precious. Take a show that I co-curated at Harvard & Stone, a steam punk bunker in east Hollywood, where Jack Daniels is barred for being too plebe, and "mixologists" reproach you for incorrectly recounting the Moscow Mule's origins. Sometimes, they book good bands.

So when psychedelic fusionists Chicano Batman asked to partner for the first night of their May residency, I agreed. No money was involved. The event was free. Neither of the acts that I booked, art-rapper Open Mike Eagle and Ariel Pink (for a DJ set), stood to make more than a nominal fee -- a "for the love" gesture in an industry whose tab is often footed via sneaker or soda company.   But on the eve of the show, Chicano Batman's manager texted word from Harvard & Stone that they forbid hip-hop.   A follow-up text from the venue's General Manager, Steven Sue read: "Open Mike Eagle can't perform [because] we only do analog rock'n'roll, rhythm & blues-based stuff. I've never wavered from this policy and I never make exceptions."
So I bowed out. The next morning, Eagle wrote a poignant letter that you should read in full. It expresses anger and disappointment with the eloquence you'd expect from an artist who claims to be haunted by the "gay ghost of James Baldwin."

That's partially why his exclusion felt so unsettling. Eagle is more DIY and punk than 95 percent of the "rock and roll" bands out. He boasts about rolling down Slauson bumping '97 Weezer. He sings as much as he raps, and samples Pavement and They Might Be Giants. He's been embraced by the stand-up comedy world too -- with humorist Paul F. Tompkins reblogging Eagle's Tumblr article and adding, "I look forward to having the great Mike Eagle on one of my shows again."   When I called Leon Jenkins, the president of the L.A. NAACP, he said that the rule felt "discriminatory and racist. It attempts to exclude a certain crowd from the venue by coding it in language about a ban of rap."
If you combine the no-rap rule with Harvard & Stone's door policy banning "sports gear, logos, flip flops, most hats and loud colors," it reads like a sixth grade anti-gang manual passed out to petrified suburban moms.

When I spoke to Sue last night, he attributed the last minute cancellation to a miscommunication. He seemed sincere when he said there was no "sinister" or racist plot to ban rap from the venue, but added the "venue stands by its decision to not proceed with the show as previously scheduled...We believe in doing one thing's like booking a heavy metal act in a jazz club."
Of course, Harvard & Stone has every right to book whomever they want. But one "rock and roll"-influenced rapper won't stop people from ordering $10 "Baby's First Bourbons." Insisting on such rigid ideas about music seems ignorant at best -- separatist at worst. It's always been about cross-genre exchanges of ideas. It always will be.
Boundaries between rock, electronic and hip-hop have never been blurrier than right now. Obsolete stereotypes and totalitarian bans deserve no quarter in modern life. How many times can you hear the same old song?
Let's begin: My first highlight "Jack Daniels is barred for being to plebe" YES! seems VERY racist to fact, IMO Jack Daniels should sue.   That's discriminat...oh, oh yes, you are correct, it is your right to sell whatever you want in your venue.   That is why I am stuck drinking knockoff energy drinks in clubs that sign with knockoff energy drink companies instead of RedBull.   Ok, carry on.

"Neither stood to make more than a nominal fee..."
Uhhhh, pardon my ignorance but I believe that Mike Eagle very clearly states monetary loss as a reason in HIS letter which I will address next.   Just saying.

"On the eve of the show" 
Welp.   It says that the MANAGER for the other ACT performing texted Eagle the night before the show.   That DOES NOT mean the manager was unaware there might be an issue BEFORE the night before the show- it just means that's when he chose to discuss it with Mike.   It could very well be that this entire thing did actually go down the night before- but again, when we read the second letter, you will see, it does not actually clarify it either way.   

"they forbid Rap and Hip Hop"
I actually think that's funny, not racist.   I have seen people turned away from super successful high end venues on "Urban Night" because they did not fit the Hip Hop image.   I have seen trashy hooker lookalikes politely told they could not enter because the venue was at capacity, when in fact they just really did not fit the vibe and a group of 10+ walked right in after.   Just like with the Jack Daniels, it's a private venue, IMO they can pretty much serve whatever they want- when it comes to alcohol AND music.

"If you combine...reads like an anti-gang manual..."
WOW.   Because that sentence isn't racist.   I literally 'lol'ed reading that line.   It actually sounds like something I would write if I was being sarcastic and petty...

"How many times can you hear the same old song"
I dunno, "New York, New York" is still pretty well known and I bet it's been played a lot more than "Bugatti" or whatever other song is currently on the popular set list these days. 
So that was my own little take on the article.   Honestly it read like something crafted to get a rise out of the venue while standing with hands raised in mock surrender, knowing it would incite a lot more.   Case in point- I had a phenomenal twitter brawl regarding this very article already today.   I bowed out and decided to write this instead mostly because the idea of saying all of this and addressing all of the points I needed to across multiple tweets just made my teeth itch.   

To quickly cover a few of those points- somehow it turned from being about racism to being about bad business decisions.   It is entirely possible it was a bad business decision by the venue, but Eagle is naive if he thinks crying about one cancelled low paying gig will get him any footing in this town.   And why did Jeff feel the need to write about it altogether if Open Mike had posted his letter?   Seems like there is more to this than one artist not being allowed to rap on a stage.   And no, Matt- that doesn't mean he should lie down and take it like a bitch- it means Mike Eagle should have called the venue directly and explained his music ISN'T just rap and hip/hop.   That's the claim the article makes anyway right?  That he is a broader artist who was discriminated against.  Communication here would have gotten everyone a lot further and avoided a slightly nasty article that really just drags down everyone involved.

And to address my own anti litigious tweets- I CANNOT STAND THAT WHEN PEOPLE DISAGREE IN AMERICA, THEY AUTOMATICALLY JUST SUE THE HELL OUT OF THE OTHER PERSON.   To me, that is the DEFINITION of being a bitch.   Boo hoo, poor entity, can't take a little rejection or negativity or whatever so you turn to a crummy legal system and abuse it to cause pain and make some money.   Congratulations, join the rest of the rotten humans led by their decaying attorney leaders.   SMH.   I still cannot stand lawyers- apologies to those of you I know personally who are in fact attorneys.   Some of you are decent but blech, your industry blows as a whole.

Now- on to the letter written by the aggrieved artist himself...before I post his letter, I want to explain that not being familiar with him and his work, I went through his website before I started writing this part of my post. I figure if I am going to address this issue, I need to be informed.   
This is the first video I saw:

Oddly enough- if I had seen it without this article I would have immediately been interested in him as an artist (Bruh he's repping a RUSHMORE shirt, what's not to love?)   Now, because of the sour after taste so obvious in his own published note, I wonder why he took it so extremely personally. He has talent, he should have let that shine...I explain later but moving on...  
I like this video a lot actually:

Now here is the letter he wrote:

I admit that I use the term ‘racist’ loosely.
In the past i’ve said that my android phone is racist against emojis and that Instagram is racist against Twitter. Aside from it simply being humorous to me, it points out the absurdity of an entity choosing not to operate alongside of another entity categorically rather than for reasons of quality.
Last night I got a phone call explaining to me that a series of messages between the manager of Harvard and Stone (the venue) and the show’s organizer resulted in my removal from the show. Apparently this series of messages began with the manager asking if there were any rap or dance acts on the show, and ends with the organizer being told explicitly that due to a policy against rap acts that ‘Open Mike Eagle would not be allowed to play the show.’
As I write this, I feel very disappointed.
Disappointed not for any lofty, humanistic, or idyllic reasons though. I tour the entire country. You hear these kinds of notions in more rural areas. I’m never any happier to hear them and every time it happens I check my cell phone clock to make sure its not 1989. But these notions still do indeed exist.
I’m disappointed as an individual. Disappointed because i was looking forward to this show, i’d been promoting it, i stood to make a little money, and i need the practice for this festival I’m playing at the end of the month.
Disappointed because this opportunity was taken away from me when i haven’t done anything wrong.
I’m not a violent person and i don’t promote any negativity in my music.
A knife fight has never broken out in the audience during my They Might Be Giants mash up.
This whole thing is very embarrassing.
Not necessarily because i thought that LA entertainment would be past this. But because i have to have this sensitive conversation with my family and fans. Embarrassing because I can’t talk about how all this went down in an honest way without saying how I really feel about it. 
Im fucking offended. Because whats basically being said to me is that the manager of this bar doesn’t care if i promoted. Doesn’t care about the little money I was supposed to make. Doesn’t care that I’ll look like a jackass to anyone who comes there to see me. 
What he’s saying to me is that since i’m a rapper, he doesn’t care about any of this. But if I was any other kind of musician then he would care.
Thats why I feel like the word ‘racist’ is appropriate. I’m being punished for being part of a category. And while I don’t want to pretend I know enough about this man I haven’t met to attribute his prejudice to racial stereotypes, I do wonder if he would have made the decision if he’d looked at my videos or whatever he ‘checked out’ and saw a white man holding a microphone.
I can’t imagine that he actually listened to anything that I said.

Ready for my response?   Here ya go:

Babes, you can't "use the term 'racist' loosely".   That's irresponsible and kind of annoying.   

"Last night I got a phone call"
See-  it appears HE was informed about the cancellation the night before, but it doesn't actually clarify that the night before is when the manager found out about it.   Just a thought.

"Series of messages between organizer..."
Oh now it comes out- the PROMOTER screwed up.   Ahahahahaha BECAUSE THAT never happens.   I firmly believe promoters tend to be the root cause of most discord between venues and artists.   So really, Open Mike should be BLASTING the promoter for not knowing or telling him earlier that his genre was not accepted at the venue.   The venue and it's manager really aren't the issue here at all, according to Mike's OWN WORDS.

"I stood to make a little money"
Yup.   That's usually about the time you start hearing claims of inequality or whatever...when people can feel it in their wallets.   I'm sorry you lost the chance to make money, but as you said in that letter- you tour the entire country... you should be ok (I actually think you are talented and now that you have been given this giant spotlight to stand in, assuming you can hide the fact that you threw down the race card and make people forget, you could actually blow up based on your talent).

"A knife fight..."
So it's not ok for the venue to decide that maybe rap or hip/hop is not the energy of the venue but you can allude that the genre automatically includes knife fights?   Come on now.   I looked online for that mashup by the way, I didn't find it yet but I am curious to hear it.

"This whole thing is very embarrassing"
Yes.   Yes it is.   For everyone involved.   Which is perhaps why maybe instead of writing it up the way you did and defacing your own flyer (see the end of his letter) a well timed phone call on the same eve of the cancelled performance to the venue owners (Who are complete sweethearts and probably just as embarrassed by the stupidity of all of this since the only person who really walks out of this somewhat unsullied is the LA Times for shining a light on this hot button issue.)   This is where I stand by my assertion that communication would have helped a lot more that what actually went down.   

"The manager of this bar doesn't care"
Well, again doll, because you didn't actually talk to the manager directly, how do you know?   I'm sorry you are embarrassed in front of your fans, but real fans would stand by you anyway and if you had somehow turned this into something positive you would have come out on top winning--- for example, done a live web cast from your home and performed the stuff you would were going to perform anyway and state clearly- due to a miscommunication between myself and the venue the location of the show has been changed to my couch, but because I love my fans- here you are anyway... See- THAT would have been classy.

Instead of highlighting the entire last paragraph I will finish with this- even though you acknowledge that you don't know him you continue to state that he probably wouldn't have cancelled if you'd been a white guy holding a mike.   Not cool bruh.   Let's say that is true...why do you get to call him a racist (because essentially that's what you are doing here) when you don't know his side of it?  

Of course- as I was writing this, twitter kept exploding and then I found another article written by Jeff Weiss on his own blog- it appears the event literally was cancelled the night before in this one, so I am including that link as well but at this point I have made some of my beliefs clear and you can feel free to disagree as you will:

Anyway, I had so much more to say but they are playing new mixes on Power 106 and I want to make sure I am up to date on my rap/hip hop before I go to the club tonight, so I can dance my white girl ass off...

...And pretend no one is staring at me wondering why the white chic who looks like she will probably be a soccer mom in the next ten years (I won't tho) knows all the lyrics to the Trinidad James songs and can dougie.   Because that would be racist...


  1. Well said. From what I read, the venue doesn't allow rap or "dance" aka EDM, so that kind of kills the racism bit.

    Also, the music policy of H&S is pretty well know, so the promoter was probably a moron to think their rap act would be the exception or act surprised that their rap act wasn't allowed. Does it say anywhere that the venue decision occurred the night before or was a surprise?

    Irresponsible journalism and sour grapes. Grow up.

  2. Thank you!

    In his blog post (last link in my post) Weiss says it was the night before... Really still a promoter issue rather than venue/artist drama.

  3. It's a promoter's job to work within the confines of the venue's policies. It's established that H&S doesn't book rap, so it shouldn't be a shock when the venue gives you the thumbs down after it vets your lineup. Really though, shouldn't the promoter be the one making sure their acts are kosher?