By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
As alluded to in Backbeat's lead article ("Our Gangstas," page 71), gangsta-rap artists who sell albums in the millions have been unable to cash in at arenas across the country. The primary reason remains security fears. Promoters are afraid that given the slightest provocation, gangsta fans will start shooting at each other, thereby raising the likelihood of lawsuits, criminal proceedings and other bad things. Since these are the very sorts of headaches that bookers spend their days trying to avoid, the overwhelming majority of them have steered clear of hardcore hip-hop entirely. To the best of my recollection, Fey Concerts, the area's largest promotions firm, hasn't brought a single gangsta headliner to Denver in the Nineties--and the last gangsta concert I recall having been promoted by Doug Kauffman of nobody in particular presents was an Ice Cube date at the Gothic Theatre three or four years ago. Moreover, the Cube concert failed to sell out despite the Gothic's modest, 900-seat capacity. Why? Perhaps because gangsta rap demands promotion to consumers that the standard media outlets don't always reach. It's also possible that some listeners who might have been interested in attending stayed home for fear of violence that, in this instance, never materialized.
In fact, only a handful of rap shows in Colorado have ended in violence--and as a result, more promoters are booking acts that operate in the genre. Small Axe Productions, headed by Bill Bass, has brought numerous hip-hop artists to Colorado rooms such as Boulder's Fox Theatre and did well with the Smokin' Grooves tour, which starred the Fugees. (Bass is also promoting a series of dates by Spearhead to take place throughout the state in early December.) However--and this is key--the aforementioned outfits don't fall into the gangsta category. They're from hip-hop's positive school, and they draw an audience that's varied in terms of race and gender.
The same cannot be said for Ice Cube's latest project, the Westside Connection, but it's coming to Colorado anyhow--although not under the auspices of any of the state's name promoters. Instead, the Tuesday, November 26 Connection date (also featuring Too Short, E-40 and Mo' Cash) is being brought to the Denver Coliseum by Rocky Mountain Entertainment, in conjunction with Fabian Garcia, one of the driving forces behind two Denver acts that also appear on the bill: the Arapahoe Trues and Westword profile subject Deuce Mob ("Join the Mob," February 14). Rocky Mountain Entertainment has some experience with big shows: The company is responsible for a recent Isley Brothers turn. But Garcia is dipping into big-time promotion for the very first time. He says he first got the idea for backing the show while appearing this summer at a Los Angeles concert sponsored by Lowrider magazine.
"There were 40,000 people there," notes Garcia, who performs under the name DJ Fame. "It just showed me how many people love this music. And that made me realize that we could do something like this ourselves. We've all got the knowledge, we've got the money, and nobody else was going to bring them here. So we just did it."
When asked if he is worried about security issues, Garcia initially tries to downplay the dangers. "We're not even really looking at this as a hardcore concert," he claims. "Ice Cube is the hardest one who's coming. E-40 is more like party-type music, and so is Too Short. He's been around--he just released his tenth album, and he's retiring after this tour. So the timing was just perfect." Nonetheless, Garcia concedes that "we'll have metal detectors, extra security inside and extra patrols outside, even after the concert. We're taking all these precautions, even though I don't think we're going to have any problems."
The concert is hardly Garcia's only current venture. The Arapahoe Trues have just released a single entitled "Money Murder Thing" that's getting some spins on KS-104; a full-length is expected this spring. In the meantime, Garcia is busy completing Mile High Underground, Volume 1, a compilation featuring a variety of Denver hip-hop and R&B artists, including D-Town Brown, Apostle, Billie Jean and G-Som. "I think it's going to go over really big, because there's a real blend on there," Garcia says. He's speaking with several industry types about distributing the package, which he hopes will be available for purchase within the next couple of months. But when he's asked if Thump Records (the company that released Going Solo, Deuce Mob's debut CD, earlier this year) is one of the enterprises with which he's negotiating, he replies in the negative. "Thump won't be involved in this," he states. "They kind of went to sleep on us with the album. I don't know why. Maybe it was because we weren't out in L.A.; it's hard to have as much effect over the phone as you would if you were out there. But I'm not tripping on that at all. We've got too many other things going on."
Those things include the promotion of more concerts. Garcia says he and the powers at Rocky Mountain Entertainment are planning to bring a slate of shows to Colorado in the first months of 1997. "We're going to do some big ones and some smaller ones, too--R&B acts in clubs or whatever," he says. Adds Garcia, "We're trying to do this for the people in Colorado, so we'd appreciate it if everybody who comes to see the Connection keeps the peace so we can keep doing it over and over. Other people don't want to bring these artists out here--we're taking a chance. So hopefully everyone will stand behind us and support what we're doing."