Bad Rap - Hip Hop Awards Ain’t So Hip

by Lee Abraham

Music and violence. The two are old drinking buddies. Go to nightclubs for live music long enough and you’re bound to catch some of the fist flying action yourself. Same with concerts. Face it, there’s nothing new about testosterone pumped and alcohol fueled tough guys beating the living daylights out of each other over a girl. Or spilled drinks. Especially when the music is loud and the hour is late.

Now, it’s one thing for a couple of party hardy patrons to square off and rearrange each others’ face, but it’s another to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and get nailed as an innocent bystander. Just ask the parents, families and friends of the nine kids who were trampled to death at a recent Pearl Jam concert in Denmark by an out of control, stampeding crowd. Or the eleven Who fans that suffered a similarly horrible fate at a 1979 concert in Cincinnati.

At least those two tragedies were -accidents-. You know, unintended, unforeseen incidents that spontaneously combusted and went up in flames. In contrast, when someone puts up their dukes in a bar, they waive the right to play the victim card. Same with punks throwing their weight around in a mosh pit. Hey, if you’re so pumped up that you’ve gotta be in the middle of a body slammin’, bone crunchin’ frenzy to get the most out your chosen musical experience, well, go break a leg, as they say in show biz.

Look, punks in a mosh pit and bar room brawls are not -news-. Unfortunately, the recent tragedy at a Pearl Jam show -is- news. Why? Because people died. But it didn’t take a death for another recent outbreak of violence at a musical event to make the news. Sadly, the riot at ‘The Source Hip Hop Music Awards,’ held on August 22th at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium was newsworthy because the fighting involved -artists- and their entourages, not fans. Didn’t matter that the event was being taped for television. In fact, the broadcast of last year’s award ceremony set the record for TV ratings on a Friday night. Maybe this year some of the thugs were hoping for some -really- hard hitting, prime time exposure.

Witnesses reported fighting even before the show began. One confirmed scuffle involved punches being thrown as rapper DJ Quik and his entourage arrived. But the real rumble didn’t come until the show had already been underway for a couple of hours. At the time, only a few awards had been presented, and many of the top name entertainers had yet to appear. The mayhem broke out -backstage- and then in the auditorium, after controversial female rapper L’il Kim’s performance.

It was ugly. Andre Dow, AKA Rapper Mack Minister, got the shit kicked out him and was hospiatlized with face injuries. While most people scrambled to the exits for safety, the police report that when the bedlam erupted, "...up to 75 people ran up onto the stage." As the cops were trying to restore peace, several smaller fights, including rappers and their ‘posse,’ broke out. People also began throwing bottles and CDs from the award show’s complimentary gift bags they had been given. Ultimately the police managed to control the situation.

In spite of being very different musical forms reflecting the tastes of very different fan bases, hip hop and punk are similar in that violent lyrics, and artists motivated by anger and aggression are prevalent in both. Same with violence surrounding their scenes. But while most punks do their bashing in mosh pits with their bodies, hip hop’s gang banging too often escalates into gunfire in the streets. And unlike punk, which enjoyed a high profile for a short time, only to settle into a small, tattooed and pierced niche on the underbelly of the music biz, hip hop is huge. And has been for awhile.

But that doesn’t make hip hop -good-. And I’m not talkin’ -musically-. That question is open to debate, and best answered in the ear of each listener. But the fact that Dr. Dre, who is regarded as the pioneer of 'gangsta rap,’ won "Solo Artist of the year," and "Album of the year," as well as the event’s, ‘Lifetime Achievement Award," gives you an idea about where the creative muse inspiring this scene is coming from. Quick bio: Dre was a founding member of -Death Row Records- and -NWA-, which is short for ‘Niggaz With Attitude.’ NWA became famous for their unapologetic, viscous hardcore lyrics, and are best known for their controversial underground hit, "Fuck tha Police."

Sure, America is a free country. And regardless if anyone else likes it or not, everyone can listen to whatever the hell they want. Or -make- whatever music they want. Blame the 4th amendment. Freedom of speech, and all that. But what does it say about the -artistic- value of a genre if the genre’s ‘artists’ and their entourages are slugging it out, literally, at their -own- awards ceremony? A press release after the melee from The Source management makes an attempt: ''We regret what went on this evening and we are deeply embarrassed by it." At least they didn’t claim to be surprised.