HERE IN THE CITY OF BALTIMORE, AMERICA, they (the City) are ripping up all the roads and digging out water lines and putting them on top of the road, temporarily, I guess, to fix something, I don’t know what, the water, the roads? It’s gotta be something important, why else would they be doing all this ripping up of the roads? Infrastructure or whatever. It’s boring! You pay your taxes for it.
As long as they fix the roads after they rip ’em up, I’m in favor of all this, whatever it is they’re doing, but since the roads are getting holes dug and they are working on stuff down inside the holes, a lot of times they can’t get the work done in one day and they gotta put these giant metal plates over the holes, and then they put blacktop around the edges of the plates so the plates don’t slide around and you go and drive your car into the hole, right? I didn’t ask anybody about this, I just figured, they didn’t fill in the hole, so they need the hole to stay a hole for a while, so they put the plate.
Then here comes your car, down one of these roads where there’s a bunch of plates. What do you do? Nothing personal, but if you are the average driver I drive in front of, behind, or sometimes under, in Baltimore, you fly along at your normal 10 to 25 miles per hour above the speed limit, and your car hits the plate, BAM! And little chunks of blacktop get kicked up and bounce all over, and then your car gets to the next plate, BAM BAM! And more gravel and dust, and then BAM! BAM! BAMBAMBAM! All the way down the street they are digging up, and the metal plates slide around a little bit, you can see it. It’s amazing there aren’t lots of stories of cars falling into these fucking holes, man. Would it kill you to slow down? Do you get how slowing down might fuck up your car less? Does it really, really, really make that much of a difference on how fast you need to get someplace?
Just one time, keep track of how long it takes you when you’re driving like the fucking Grand Prix or Grand Theft Auto or Super fucking Mario Kart or whatever, and then once, just once, drive close to the speed limit, and see how much of a difference it is. I understand all about driving at a certain rate of speed, usually a wee bit over the posted speed limit, to catch all the lights going down a street, but a lot of times I’m driving along, minding my own business, and I check the rear-view and I have some motorist on my ass and I look up and we’re headed toward a red light two blocks away. Hey, annoying motorist, why you gotta be all tail-grabbin’ my ass when we are both now in a position to see The Future in front of us, as in, Red Light, which means we should be slowing down, as in not speeding up? Why do people speed up for fucking red lights? Try looking farther than the car in front of you when you’re driving, it’s amazing how much more information you will get that helps you make decisions as to how you are piloting your 2-ton deathmobile.
Meanwhile, it seems like there’s always some detour away from the street you want to go on, or there’s the thing with the giant blinking arrow or the yellow sign showing how two lanes are all of a sudden turning into one lane, or there’s work being done on a building next to the street and half the road is blocked by a giant construction-thing. It’s almost as if the normal state of our city streets is that they are not 100 percent available all the time for us to drive. And it’s stressful! You’re driving down the street you drive down every day and it starts to get jammed up with cars, and you’re right on top of the car in front of you, and you can’t see what’s going on down the street! What’s going on down the street? This is my street, I’m supposed to be able to drive down whenever I want and not ever get delayed! Somebody’s fucking up! What do I do? I’m gonna scroonch up my car even tighter behind the car in front of me! I’m gonna honk my horn! I don’t care what’s in front of me! Nothing should be in front of me! Honking my goddamn horn will fix it! My horn will make everybody drive correctly and get the hell out of my way! This is my road! Other people in other cars better recognize! And the bicycles! Try looking two cars ahead for a week. Try imagining there’s things happening up ahead that cannot be resolved by you climbing up my ass and honking your horn at God. Just try.
A lot of people put their car on like it’s a suit of armor and then they go out on the street and forget there are other human beings with lives and families and stuff in the other vehicles. People get in their car and get on their phone or crank their music up so loud they are in a sensory deprivation tank, you know? It’s almost like cars are too easy to drive, so people get bored and wanna do something interesting while they are driving. A lotta people drive their car like they are at home sitting on their couch, and nothing should interrupt them and they shouldn’t have to pay attention to anybody else or cooperate with anything except brute force or The Law. Personally, I think we gotta come up with more Draconian punishments for the aggressive driving and the distracted driving, man, I wish there was a way to electrocute the ear or hand of anybody who is texting or blabbering on their cellphone while they are driving, but of course, if you got electrocuted in your ear while you were driving, we’d have a whole new level of distracted driving going on, I guess, so it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of Vehicular Street Justice.
The cancellation of Rock The Bells dates in New Jersey and D.C. needs to serve as a wake up call to Hip-Hop. There is no way we should allow Hip-Hop’s only major live touring property to lose two dates in two of the biggest markets in the country because of poor advance ticket sales. We must do better.
Hip-Hop is on an economic collision course fueled in part by hyper capitalism and greed. The post 90’s (or post Puffy) world of Bentleys, champagne and private jets has created an unsustainable economy that, if left unchecked, will collapse in on itself. One only has to look at the cancellation of RTB to see the signs. For an event so loved by the fans, so coveted by artists, managers and agents there should be no reason that ticket sales should be its undoing.
Now I am not condemning artists and businesses who prioritize money over everything. Nor I am waving a finger even at those who have no appreciation for the culture and look at Hip-Hop as an ATM. But these people must be called out and culled from the herd because they are strangling us in our sleep.
To the Artists I say we must realize that we are all in this together. There must be an equilibrium, a balance in the art vs. commerce relationship. Yes, you deserve a fair rate for your work and services but – to paraphrase Jay-Z – overcharging because of what was done to Cold Crush – must stop. RTB ticket prices are tethered to RTB Artist fees. The resulting price point proved to be too high for too may of the ticket buying public. This is economics/free market 101 – the market has spoken and we must listen.
Despite what the artist or manager says, the fees were too high and the public was not paying. We must reign in these fees. Artists must not determine their success by standards set by the 1% of Hip-Hop. Mathematically, it is a losing battle. Chasing Jay-Z and Drake or trying to make real the fantasies of Rick Ross and 2Chainz is folly. Follow your own path, set your own goals and achieve your own success.
Gouging Guerilla Union or Live Nation or your local club will produce short term benefits. However, in the long term it will consume the very partner you need. I am very proud we have accomplished with The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival but I have always looked at Rock The Bells as the leader in our category. Their demise does me little good as compared to the potential benefits of their success. I realize we are all in this together. The rising tide floats all boats. This mentality needs to replace the ‘get money’ mantra in Hip-Hop if we are all to succeed.
To the fans I say, we have to support. We must put our money where our mouth is. I first read about the cancellation on Miss Info’s blog and one of the comments really stood out to me.
“They didn’t think they’d make it at the door?
We last minute over here!!!!”
I know what is to take that risk at the door. Let me tell you – it sucks. It will put gray hairs on your head and holes in your stomach. And evidently will cause your corporate partner to get cold feet and pull the plug.
If you love Rock The Bells as I know we all did, we should have bought the tickets. Plain and simple. Fans – you are a part of this ecosystem. We need you to vote with your wallets to keep this alive. Being cool and waiting to the last minute makes us look weak to outsiders.
The EDM is world is coming to replace us in the eyes of the media, and in the board rooms of sponsors who help underwrite these events. The same day our big event is cancelled, The Pretty Lights Festival sells out. To the middle age gray hair cutting the checks, Hip-Hop looks like a losing investment. Which is all the more infuriating when you realize that, as Kanye has been vocalizing on his BBC interviews, our power has never been greater.
Made In America, Yeezus Tour, Brother Ali and Immortal Technique are just some of the successful tours Hip-Hop is producing. We are fine. We are great. We just let this one get away from us. Let us make a commitment that this is the last time we let the opportunity to see Wu Tang, Cudi, Kendrick, Rakim and Slick Rick slip by us.
To my fellow event producers and entrepreneurs I say – choose your partners well. As a fellow Festival producer I know how difficult it was for Guerilla Union to issue that statement yesterday – I would imagine that this cancellation was not their idea. More likely, it was the idea of the big box partners who could not tell you the difference between a Tyler The Creator and a Big Krit. They do not share your love or commitment to the culture. You treat them like an ATM and they will so the same.
Too much of our culture has been sold to these people for a few pieces of silver. And they will turn on us in a heartbeat. We need to strengthen the Hip-Hop economy so that we can lean on each other. We need to work with brands who see our value beyond ticket sales and concessions. This may mean taking a smaller sponsorship check or not having the brand-of-the-moment on your flyer. My advice is, be patient and look at the entire landscape and make the decision that’s best for you.
Over the past ten years, Guerilla Union has shown a resiliency that leaves me no doubt they will take this setback on the chin and bounce back. When they do we must be ready to get their back and let this be the last time this happens to Hip-Hop.
From Black’s forthcoming album No Poison No Paradise, out October 15.
12” Vinyl: http://www.fatbeats.com/blogs/news/9166693-black-milk-no-poison-no-paradise-deluxe-edition-sets
CLUB BANGER ALERT!!!!