On The Flip Side
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Issue: Earlier this month at the BET Awards, which were taped in Atlanta, several notable scuffles broke out between rappers backstage and in the parking lot, leading to gunfire, bruises, and a significant police chase that all unfolded behind the scenes of the storied event. It’s another event in a seeming trend of incidents at rap concerts and shows around the country, even making its way to Boston’s House of Blues in recent months. Should police and other forms of security be called to venues when rap and R&B shows take place?
HOB Security Rightfully Raised:
In March of 2012, popular rap collective Odd Future visited Boston’s House of Blues and, within minutes of their appearance on stage, were escorted off by the police.
The House of Blues has always maintained an extraordinarily strict security presence for its concerts, but has notably upped its police force for rap and R&B concerts in the past several years. Odd Future was shut down due to excessive crowd rowdiness as well as several members of the group climbing the venue’s rafters, supposedly intoxicated and under the influence of some illicit substances. In this case, the heightened police presence was less presumptive than it was necessary to control a situation that had gotten ridiculously out of hand.
In the coming weeks, notable rap and R&B acts such as 2 Chainz, Nas, and Lauryn Hill will visit the Landsdowne Street venue, with sold-out shows anticipated for each one. If history repeats itself, the HOB will up its security presence for these shows—rather than hiring additional security for quieter, indie acts like The xx or Cat Power.
Without bringing the issue of race into the fold—because Machine Gun Kelly, a white rapper from the south, appeared at a Microsoft Store in Atlanta and had to be forced offstage by police and mall security because of his raucous performance—it is understandable that the House of Blues wishes to protect its reputation. As a concert hall with a liquor license, capacity for thousands, and a national presence, it must do what it deems necessary to ensure a safe, protected experience for its fans. Additionally, the House of Blues is still subject to the same codes as any other building in Boston, and must follow police procedures in terms of both its performers and its fans.
Although it’s hard to imagine that Nas or Lauryn Hill will be scaling any rafters or inciting crowd riots, both acts have been known to be exceptionally vocal in their opinions about politics, race, culture, and their fans as a whole. It’s a tricky situation to single out one or two specific genres of music, but if the House of Blues has seen them as a problem in the past, it makes fiscal and lawful sense to hire additional security for these shows.
No Basis For Boosted Security:
Given the influx of rap performers coming to one of Boston’s premiere concert venues, the House of Blues, in the upcoming year such as 2 Chainz, The Weeknd, Nas & Lauryn Hill, and The Roots, one thing to consider is the heightened amount of security that the HOB has been experiencing, only for rap shows. This is not a necessary precaution.
Last March, the Odd Future show at the HOB got shut down due to crowd storming and a member of the crew climbing the rafters alongside the stage. While Odd Future certainly has a reputation of gathering a “rough crowd” shrouded with controversy, especially given the feminist groups that used to protest their shows in their early years, a double standard has shown itself. Last month at the All American Rejects show at the HOB, the band’s lead singer also climbed the rafters, and of course, there was no response from the venue’s security.
Why is there this discrepancy? I can’t help but think that these security “precautions” are based in an intrinsic assumption about the types of people that certain concerts will gather. Rap concerts are, generally, performed by black entertainers. However, this is not enough of a reason to assume that there needs to be more security guards and police officers patrolling the party.
What about a hypothetical Frank Ocean concert coming to the HOB? He’s a black performer, yet his soothing love songs would in no way fuel the fire of an aggressive crowd. Would it be assumed that more security was needed because of his skin color and the crew he rolls with? What about dubstep or electro shows? Infamous for drug use and throbbing bass beats, these concerts are no doubt way more intense experiences than a Frank Ocean show would be (and I can say this confidently, I’ve been to both a Frank Ocean concert and various electro and dub concerts), but generally draw a predominately white crowd. I didn’t see any extra security at past Crystal Castles shows there. Is this basic presumption at the root of the decision to add more police officers?
I hope this is not the case. However, one can’t help but make the connection and assume that this is the mindset of the HOB staff.