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An occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.
Much love and thanks to you all for the support I’ve received this year for airing the wage theft committed by some local venues against D.C.-area artists. Many of you have responded in blog comments, e-mails, and over the phone with some good advice: “Fuck those assholes, Heady!” So you’ll be pleased to learn that I’ve already gone that route in dealing with certain venues, promoters, and booking agents.
Since December 2008, I’ve been turning down invites from other bands, local and national, to rock shows at venues that are known to commit wage theft—unless, that is, my pay was guaranteed. It’s not a problem for me to take this action, but when other indigenous D.C. artists—my brother and sister musicians working toward sustainable careers—hit me up to complain after a night of playing their hearts out in places they actually like but walked away with nothing or almost nothing, I realized the issue was much bigger than me.
It involves class and race issues and, simply put, some people unfortunately still have prejudices regarding black culture and music. They love to co-opt our style and imagery to make tons of money—but they don’t necessarily want us there along with the spoils. They don’t want the substance of what’s behind what they are attracted to, and that substance is us—our thoughts, our mannerisms, experiences as a culture discriminated against. Why? Because it challenges them to seriously open up to the real essence and power of the “Spear-Ritual” material we produce as members of the People of Culture diaspora.
But, because they are opportunists, they don’t have a problem setting up shop and gentrifying our long-neglected neighborhoods. They tend to operate businesses using marketing tactics that siphon off the meaning of our community culture for their money-making purposes. They love to seem “down” with what’s happening regarding the dismantling and destruction of our culture and environments. They talk good talk on a crooked walk—trying to look nondescript in the ”hood,” while meanwhile they are working with “The Man” to deliver a our death blow. I personally know of a few so-called “progressive” entertainment entities that contribute to The Man’s political campaigns–playing both sides of the fence. The killer is that these outsider opportunists are able to work themselves into a position where, to The Man, they are the ones who understand People of Culture. To The Man they say they understand and have compassion for us—our struggle to improve our quality of life. They promise that their “We are the World” businesses built on a black aesthetic (with us working the doors, serving the food, and manning the kitchens) will help bring a new harmony to the block.
One thing that’s for sure: These opportunists are vastly experienced in the art of befriending the locals long enough to transplant their vulture businesses in. Once sustainable within their own networks, they close the doors on indigenous people—being sure to keep a few boot-licking notables on board for aesthetics and, if need be, for purposes of justification. You know: “Dude, how can I be discriminating? My waiters are black, my cooks are Latino!” Or even this classic: “Some of my best friends are black!”
Now that their businesses are solvent, they simply become punch-drunk off the power they yield when challenged on their business practices by the indigenous community. They become arrogant, condescending, and devaluing. They forget that they are the outsider, the pilgrim, and begin to actually oppress the indigenous communities. They insult the indigenous community leaders who welcomed them in the beginning with olive branches, corn, and turkeys…who provided the first Thanksgiving dinner for them. They incorporate a classic psychological method of “selecting” one or two from within us to promote as the “type of us” that they will only deal with. Eventually their actions establish that certain type as the “gatekeeper” to deal with us all. That way the pilgrims don’t have to encounter the elements from within our community that will challenge them, and hold them accountable when they do shady shit. The gatekeeper is all they need. The gatekeeper doesn’t want to lose out on the sweet spot position he or she is in, and therefore doesn’t do or say a thing when injustice rears it head by way of his or her ”Master’s” doing. In fact, many times when these venue bosses are challenged, they will afford even more opportunities to their gatekeepers. The gatekeepers know politically that their masters will not be too thrilled with them bringing certain indigenous acts into the venue, so they go way outside the local realms in favor of importing more ”exotically flared” entertainment.
Chocolate City! Do you know any gatekeepers who operate in this manner?
Blink… Blink… Think!
Holla Black with your thoughts and experiences.