How many times do I have to say it? Hip-hop doesn't kill people. People kill people.
Unless you've been sequestered in a shack in the middle of nowhere for the past two months, you've heard about the so-called "wilding" in LoDo back in mid-June. And by now you certainly know about last week's fatal shooting outside the Bluebird Theater. From even a cursory glance at any of the coverage, you'd think hip-hop was the instigating factor in both incidents.
Before I clear up that misapprehension, let me deal with another aggravating misconception: For the record, hip-hop is a culture, not a style of music. And while I'm being a master of the obvious, let me also point out that rap music is an inanimate object, for chrissakes; it can no more pull a trigger than throw a punch. Yet for some reason it has become the scapegoat for the diabolical deeds of a few miscreants.
It's the fuel that feeds the fire, some might argue. Still, there has to be a fire to fuel in the first place.
Maybe I'm completely deluded, but it seems to me that the majority of rap fans are ivory-colored, peaceful, tax-paying, middle-class suburbanites living in places like Highlands Ranch and Northglenn, not exactly a gangsta's paradise. And the minority, the sheeple who emulate what they perceive to be thug life (50 Cent refers to them as "wankstas"), are just plain socially retarded. Period. Point-blank. And even that clueless contingent is as harmless as a cat without claws, living vicariously through the music. Remember when Michael Bolton, the Initech programmer with the unfortunate name in Office Space, was rolling down the street bangin' Scarface's "No Tears" on his way to work? When he passed the black street vendor on the corner, he turned the music down and slunk in his seat. That, friends, is the typical member of the record-buying public -- the folks who helped bring Eminem to prominence -- and it's a safe bet that they aren't the ones stirring things up.
So who is? While I'm no Harvard grad, the answer seems simple: people with anger-management issues. People who just don't give a fuck. Gangstas. The sort of straight-up, hard-core Gs responsible for last Wednesday's shooting. And, hello, these types were likely loose cannons to begin with -- undoubtedly long before they ever set foot in the club. Ultimately, rap was no more responsible for making them go berserk than Rob Halford was responsible for the fan who decided to prematurely stop breathing back in the '80s.
To put things in perspective, consider this: Booze makes some people lose their shit -- but does that mean we should reinstate Prohibition? Is everyone who tosses a few cold ones back ready to throw down? If you're applying the same illogic, they are.
Bravado is an inherent element of rap; I won't argue with that. But that doesn't mean those who listen to the music are all about busting a cap in someone's ass. Most of them know how to separate entertainment from reality. Hell, I own the entire Sopranos catalogue on DVD and watch it as often as I can; combined with repeated viewings of Scarface, GoodFellas, The Godfather and countless other movies, I've probably seen a million people get whacked. And I've even fantasized about being "the bad guy" myself.
But I'm not the bad guy. And neither are most people who gravitate to rap music. In fact, I've witnessed plenty of acts of idiocy at punk and metal shows and cowboy bars. Ignorant, immature people do stupid shit, regardless of what music they're listening to.
Aside from subjecting offenders who seem to get off on violence for violence's sake to the Ludovico treatment, à la A Clockwork Orange, what's the solution? Clubs like Rise (which used to host Carmelo Anthony's Tip Drill Tuesdays, with some of the hardest-hitting crunk this side of the ATL), Soul and Club Sky may have it figured out. They've all played a fair amount of rap -- on the weekends, no less -- and still managed to avoid the seemingly obligatory melees. Maybe that's because the folks these clubs attract are more interested in hooking up than throwing hooks. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the clubs themselves don't blow things out of proportion.
To paraphrase Lil Jon (profiled on page 80), if you don't start no shit, there won't be no shit.
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It's time for hip-hop to stop getting such a bad rap.
Upbeats and beatdowns: You can break the body, but you can't break the soul. Linda Storey is the embodiment of that adage. Stricken at the age of 23 with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the myelin that insulates the nerves, Storey, a Broomfield-based bassist/guitarist and singer-songwriter, refused to succumb to the debilitating malady. Although the effects of MS confined her to a wheelchair and ultimately sidelined her for nearly two decades, after raising her two kids, she started writing again -- with the help of voice-recognition software, since she'd lost the use of her arms and legs. She released Willow, her debut album, in 1998, and her latest offering, the aptly titled Don't Let It Stop You, continues to offer musical proof of the resilience of the human spirit. That same determination spurred Storey to organize a benefit for the Colorado Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 12, at the Soiled Dove. The evening will start with a screening of Broken Wings, a PBS series hosted by Pat Morita focusing on people living with disabilities; Storey appears in a segment. After that you can see Storey live: She'll perform with daughter Jessica and the rest of her band, the Alleluia Blues. Other acts on the bill include Chris Daniels and the Kings, Mark Olinger (formerly of Firefall), Melanie Susuras, Little Mary, Phil Jensen and Junith Ponds.
And finally, some sad Mootown news. For the past seven years, Chris Dellinger has all but owned the scene. As the leader and only constant of Blister 66, he's been the guy you either love to hate or hate to love -- but no matter how you feel about the cat, he's made an undeniable mark. Despite numerous lineup changes, Dellinger's somehow managed to keep the band going -- until now, anyway. Blister 66's last show is this Friday, August 13, at the Bluebird Theater, with Phunk Junkeez, Saint Dog, Judge D, Mower and Pimpadelic.