Tonight in Seattle:  

Let's talk about the Chop Suey shooting

I put off writing about this earlier this weekend but I now feel like it is probably time to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

This morning I got an e-mail from my Dad that was one line: "Please tell me you were nowhere near Chop Suey on Saturday night." I wasn't; I was actually at home in bed. What I wrote back was something like I was not there but I have been to dozens of hip hop shows and have never once felt unsafe. I did not add that I will have been to more hip hop shows than you're comfortable with but not enough to support a scene I wish to see flourish.

As you probably know by now, Chop Suey was the location of a shooting in the middle of a hip hop show on Saturday night. The show's host, 29-E, was killed and two others injured when a gunman entered the side door of the club and opened fire.

Discussions on Slog were pretty intense and many commenters were eager to blame hip hop in general. The PI wrote "Seattle has seen other fatal shootings recently at venues and clubs hosting hip-hop groups." With all do respect to the city's best daily newspaper, I would like to see one other example aside from Saturday night's incident. They mention a November shooting outside of Vito's Madison Grill, a shooting from almost a year ago outside of The Baltic Room and one outside of Level Five near Seattle Center in October 2007. There was also a shooting outside of the Sugar bar last year (which was later reopened as the rock club the King Cobra).

All of the other events mentioned were DJ events playing hip hop or top 40 music. Not one was another live performance. This is not an insignificant detail.

I've been to several hip hop shows over the past few years and have never come close to feeling unsafe. Whether it was the packed Memorial Stadium to watch Nas and Public Enemy at Bumbershoot or the ridiculously successful 5 night Program at Neumo's at the end of 2007 where Blue Scholars headlined five straight shows (all sold out) or the Wu-Tang Clan's GZA last summer, I've always felt like the crowds were more respectful of the performers and into the music than at many of the indie rock shows I have been to.

From what I can tell, this shooting Saturday night was a personal issue that took place because the assailant knew where the victims were going to be. I'm not so naive to suggest that there is no violent imagery in hip hop and that it never translates to real-life violence - I'm only saying that live hip hop shows attract a different audience than top 40/hip hop dance club nights do and to equate the same is convenient at best and irresponsible at worst.

What I am saying is that is that there appears to be a rush to judgment and an eagerness to blame hip hop but no credible person in the hip hop community approves of this act. While I have no contacts to poll, I am certain they all believe this event is damaging to the scene they've helped build. My fear is that the immediate "knee-jerk" reaction will lead to increased regulation and scrutiny of a community that is being unfairly maligned.

Moreover, by assigning blame to a community or scene, you are indirectly paving the way for the defense of the truly guilty people. "How could my client have any other fate than what happened Saturday night, he grew up listening to NWA and conditioned him to believe there is no other option." Hip hop has its own problems to deal with, of course, but it didn't kill 29-E on Saturday night.

I genuinely believe this is an isolated incident that can be addressed with greater security at clubs. This was an act of murder and the Seattle Police Department already have two suspects in its custody. The justice system is there to let this action take its course.

Northwest hip hop need not suffer from the actions of a few individuals with private axes to grind and scores to settle.

I agree with you. I haven't read much about this shooting, I just found out about it today. I was surprised to hear that happening. Admittedly, I don't go to a ton of hip hop shows, but the ones I've been to I've felt 100% safe the whole time. I'm mostly talking about Blue Scholars, Common Market, Dyme Def shows. I'm not familiar with the artists from this show, so I don't know how they differ.
I had the same reaction as you when I read about it. I thought there was going to be some uproar and people would say that hip hop shows are unsafe or it's gang related or whatever.
Just judging from the atmosphere at the hip hop shows I've been to, this seems like an isolated incident not an epidemic. I think Seattle's hip hop community will rally around this in a positive way.

Thank you Chris

I totally agree. Thanks for saying it.

yea - totally well put, ChrisB. Folks certainly shouldn't think twice about heading out to a Hip Hop show or to Chop Suey.

Our thoughts are with all that were affected by this tragedy.

ChrisB, what a thoughtful and thought-provoking response to a very sad situation. It did cross my mind that the shooting was exactly one week after our event at Chop Suey.

I second what Liz said too -- our thoughts are with everyone affected by tragedy...

Chris, thank you for saying what you did, and it's ALL true (except that 29-E wasn't the host. He was there as a fan that night. Prezwell Jackson, who just came off of life support last night, was the host.) Hip Hop was not to blame that night, although many closed minded and uneducated people in the city assume it was. This incident stemmed from a months old situation which unfortunately had to end on Saturday because the shooters (yes, there were two) knew where their target would be at. I've been to well over 100 live hip hop shows and have never felt unsafe. Dance clubs get FAR more violence than live hop hop events as history will prove.

I love hip hop. I have loved it for a very long time. When a situation like this occurs, especially after a few weeks of prior news reports about shootings and gang violence, I know it will have a negative effect on the hip hop community. The unfortunate thing about that is: there is no way around it. No one will blame Jimmy Buffet for a death in a bar fight, but hip hop will be slammed for any associated violence. The hip hop community does not have to let that be a long term effect, however. Continue having shows, have a block party that would make Afrika Bambaataa proud, but mainly keep talking about it. We need to keep telling people the truth: Gang violence and gun violence are products of desperation, lack of opportunities, and hundreds of other things that truly affect the stress levels and lives of those resorting to them. If anything at this point, hip hop should be growing as a venue of communication for violence to stop and for hope to continue. That's what hip hop used to really mean in my eyes: not how it is, but how it can be.

Thank you Chris. This is the most positive thing I've yet heard in regards to last weeks tragedy. As a hip hop artist myself (What up Mack?), I can vouch that I have been to a vast amount of shows and have never seen anything of this caliber happen. Including shows with the same artists that were performing. 29-E was a good dude and had nothing to do with this beef that he lost his life over. Same with Prez. This affects everybody. So thank you very much for being a voice of reason. I wish the nay sayers would read this...

There are just some people who immediately subscribe to stereotypes. Prejudice has always been a part of our society so it's inevitable that there would be lightning speed judgments without even knowing the details. I'm not even a hip hop fan, but I do know that it's not right to simply dismiss this as an another hip hop related violence. People have their own problems and music has got nothing to do with it. You deserve a pat on the back, Chris.

Peace bruddahs and sistaz.

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