It is no secret to lovers of any genre of music, that black culture is the roots and foundation for majority of the most popular and most listened to sounds in the mainstream, especially for the USA. From Hip Hop in New York, to House in Chicago, Techno in Detroit, Disco in Philadelphia, Jazz in Louisiana, Dubstep in the UK, even Rock music with Little Richard. What makes these genres so popular is relative to its particular fan base, and how they connect & express themselves personally through these sounds; there is no music culture without the fans! So it would be fair to say, to separate the two is un-cultural, and appropriating.
The most successful genre past its first decade, and continues to dominate the mainstream, is Hip Hop, without a doubt. Promoters make top dollar hiring DJ’s that play top charting artists, that majority of the time lean towards hip hop creatives like Drake, Travis Scott and Jay-Z, to Kanye West; the latter of which themselves contributed to the hip hop culture in its early years. From its creation in the urban jungle of the Bronx DJ Cool Herc originated a sound, from looping breaks in disco records, that has forever changed the lives of many struggling in the taxed environment of the inner cities in the late 80’s and 90’s. It still changes lives today in many ways, but for some promoters and venue owners, they want the change all for themself. Many times venues have rejected not the music, that will still play on their radios, but the fans that make up the culture.
If you are a Chicago hip hop head you have probably seen many venues come and go that used to primarily service hip hop. Places like Subterranean in Wicker Park have been safe havens for the genre. A lot of the experiences that the hip hop community share are finding venues in the city that do not shy away from hip hop based events and crowds. It has become common place to silently acknowledge that some venues or locations reject Hip Hop performances and their audiences. The excuses venues and promoters use to turn away these crowds are quite vague, ranging from lack of money to the common favorite, being Too Urban.
Too Urban is a phrase rappers endured back in the infancy stages of hip hop, and today we still run into this subtle prejudice to discriminate against black or latin patronage. Racism in nightlife runs so deeply that establishments in 2021 would rather have empty bars than be packed with POC, even if a night results with no complaints, some creative networking and a fulfilled cash quota mid week. A certain stigma has become associated with the Hip Hop community that big money likes to pretend they do not avoid on purpose, but it is too profitable to ignore, so venues and promoters try to pick away at the culture to serve their own purpose and preferred customers. No baggie pants, no jerseys, no shorts, sneakers, ripped jeans, or hats, are some of the subtle ways to avert a certain demographic of people. Others will be straight up and say no live Hip Hop, the crowd is Too Urban, but we will like your art work and style to display and sell to our people, thanks. Not even if you tastefully balance live cabaret and jazz with contemporary hip hop for your rooftop poolside guests, is the culture tolerated; But they never return the money either.
This can very well be a symptom of gentrification, coupled with a thug culture stigma that has been associated with Hip Hop, (popularly emphasized in Bone Thug N Harmonys intro dialogue in THUGGISH RUGGISH BONE). Big money over time moves into cheap neighborhoods, purchases and redevelops property, and once that happens the local music venues follow suit. So what is a city full of expressive people and artists to do when the neighborhoods they grew up in now have yuppy venues that no longer want to promote the music of their cultural upbringing? This is a question that the artistic community needs to reflect upon, as well as the hip hop heads that make up that culture. This old attitude is past its time.
The people and hip hop cannot be stopped from persevering, that is in very essence of Hip Hop, to persist. But some kind of fear or prejudice that still exists in corners of our world, still holds some of us back from our potential. Hip Hop was, and still is, an outlet for creatives, outcasts and individuals to free their mind, express themselves and connect with a community of motivated and ambitious minds. To refuse to let that potential find a home and grow, would be to send our brothers and sisters back to the streets, the very urban environment the wealthy fear, creating the very stigma they run away from. Whether it is a taproom in Lakeview, a rooftop poolside bar in Wicker Park, or an after hours club, the nightlife industry needs to recognize all facets of the artistic community work and thrive together.
Is it not ironic after all for a whole demographic of people be considered Too Urban when the growing cities themselves, considering the aesthetically pleasing upgrades, new developments and business, are adding to the increasing urban environment? Is it not perhaps that maybe it is the corporate white collar prejudice that are too urban, and the culture is too human? In response to this discriminate rejection fueled by prejudice and negative stigma, Ever Evolved introduces Too Urban Open Mic at Magoos, November 18th, December 9th and 23rd at 8pm for everyone 21+. Presented with the S.H.I.T.T.S. Podcast and sponsored by My Radio Chicago. No waiting for permission to fit a certain box to find a home for hip hop culture, be the outlet for the culture, take it back! All creatives welcome, let us grow together! Much love to venues like Subterranean and Innjoy, Magoos for welcoming every and all.