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D.C.-based hip-hop and rock fusion act Funkmnkyz was only a few songs into its gig at Centreville sports bar Fast Eddie’s last Friday night when something jarring happened: One of the restaurant’s managers came onstage and told the band members they couldn’t rap anymore. The instrumentalists could continue playing, but the vocalists had to stop.
“We’re a band who plays hip-hop,” Funkmnkyz bassist Eric Dolinger says. “We’ve never had sung lyrics.”
Dumbfounded, Funkmnkyz (whose name is pronounced “funkmonkeys”) ended its set abruptly and left the venue.
“A lot of questions obviously were raised by that,” Dolinger says. Was there some sort of miscommunication? Had Fast Eddies’ management listened to Funkmnkyz’s music before it booked the band? “We gave them multiple YouTube and ReverbNation sites to listen to our music,” Funkmnkyz’s MC Quest says. “On their website and on other sites that promote Fast Eddie’s as a venue to play at, all of these websites state they’re an all-genre live-music venue.”
Fast Eddie’s typically hosts country acts and ’80s hair-metal cover bands, but if it’s actually a rap-free venue, it certainly hasn’t banned hip-hop from its downstairs space, where Quest said he heard a DJ playing rap music that was “10 times as vulgar” as anything Funkmnkyz was performing on Friday. Actually, Funkmnkyz makes a point to preach a positive message in its music. A sample of their lyrics: “Christian or Jew, Muslim too/Tom Cruise, Ellen D’s, or just be you.”
“There’s a perception in the live-music community that hip-hop is bad for business or that it attracts an element that is not favorable,” Dolinger says. “If you listen to our music, I think you’d be hard-pressed to hear our songs and then go out and do something unsavory as a result.”
After Funkmnkyz was cut off, the incident got even stranger. Around the time the music stopped, Terence Nicholson of opening rock band Thaylobleu was approached by the same staff member, whom Nicholson says told him, “The owner is here, and he doesn’t like bandanas.” Nicholson respectfully removed his bandana, which he had worn earlier during his band’s set without issue.
“If there was a dress code,” Nicholson says, “we should have been informed when we walked in at 8 p.m. Not 12:30 a.m.”
All five members of Thaylobleu are black, as are Quest and his fellow Funkmnkyz MC, Vice 17. Although he saw multiple black staffers working Fast Eddie’s that night, Quest feels that the band was singled out.
“They profiled us because myself and my frontman are lyricists,” Quest says. “I felt like they put us in a certain atmosphere of what they thought rap sounded like or made people do.” Even in a musical sense, Quest says, Funkmnkyz strays from traditional hip-hop, playing live instruments and fusing a number of genres including rock, funk, and metal.
The general manager of Fast Eddies’ Centreville location, Rob Jirak, declined to comment. Another staffer reached by phone did the same, saying the occurrence was “just a business thing.”
“I was not happy,” says Mike Davis, who came out to Fast Eddie’s with his fiancée and paid the $10 cover charge solely to support Funkmnkyz. “I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, why they were cut off.”
Davis says he tried to get more information from the manager after the band stopped playing. When he asked to speak with the owner of Fast Eddie’s, he says the employee told him he couldn’t do so.
Funkmnkyz won’t be playing Fast Eddie’s again anytime soon, but going forward the group hopes its message of positivity and unity will help dispel nasty stereotypes of hip-hop. “When you try to do something like that, you run into resistance like this,” Dolinger says. “If they had let us finish our set and allowed us all to have a good time and leave a clean and well-paid establishment behind us, they might not feel that way the next time someone wants to do a hip-hop show there.”
Funkmnkyz is just like any other band in the D.C. region, Quest says. “We’re just trying to play good music and have a good time doing it.”
Photo of Funkmnkyz via Facebook