Hardcore rapper Skull Duggery says artists have a responsibility to describe the violent world around them. Michigan police are countering that violent music is one of the causes of that violent world.
Depending on which side of the stage you stand, a Pontiac, Mich., police plan to call for a citywide ban on concerts with "violent" music is either an attack on free speech or a protective measure for police and communities.
"If you don't talk about what's going on, then no one will ever know about it," said Duggery (born Andrew Jordan), a 27-year-old father of two. The New Orleans-based rapper, whose sophomore album, These Wicked Streets, will be released Sept. 8, could be among those artists whose concerts would be banned from Pontiac if such a proposal went through.
Some artists and their representatives decry the idea as a misguided attack aimed at hip-hop music. Supporters of the measure, including police officers from other regions, call the plan essential for curbing injuries.
Neither side, however, is likely to see the end of the issue soon: Similar
measures have been proposed, or are already in place, in other states,
including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
Duggery is one of several protégés of rapper and No Limit Records mogul Master P, whose Saturday performance at Pontiac, Mich.'s Pontiac Silverdome prompted the music ban idea. Police arrested three people on charges of disorderly conduct at the show, where authorities say sets by P and rapper Scarface were marred by numerous fights in the audience.
In the wake of the altercations, during which fans tossed chairs throughout the theater, Pontiac police Sgt. Conway Thompson said the department will recommend to city officials and the stadium authority a ban on music of any kind that encourages or entices violence. Silverdome executive director Eric Williams was unavailable for comment on the proposal.
Rapper E-40 (born Earl Stevens) contends that authorities are demonizing hip-hop music because other, non-music events have also ended in violence -- without prompting bans.
"The same situation could happen outside a movie theater after a Jean Claude Van Damme movie," said the San Francisco-based rapper, who recently released his seventh album, The Element Of Surprise. "A lot of violence occurs in the parking lots of baseball fields or inside, in the stadiums."
The Master P show marked the second time in recent weeks that a concert in Pontiac was sullied by violence. In July a performance by Latino rapper Big Punisher ended with his security guard Felix Cabrera allegedly firing a pistol into the air to calm an unruly crowd. The alleged incident sparked riots outside the theater and has been linked to a subsequent shooting that city police are investigating. Cabrera was handed a felony charge of discharging a firearm in a building.
The assistant prosecuting attorney in Cabrera's case said the police-advocated ban may be an idea whose time has come:
"When you have that many people in that kind of situation, it becomes dangerous for police, the performers and the audience," Kenneth Frazee said. "I have to respect their feelings about this because they could be injured by either the performer's entourage, or people who want to exceed the energy level given by the performers."
Duggery counters that music that sounds aggressive is not necessarily promoting violence, a position also held by hip-hop community veteran Phyllis Pollack, press representative for Scarface's former group, the Geto Boys. "There are problems trying to interpret what is violent," she said. "If you don't listen to a whole song, you might not realize it's an anti-violence song."
Michigan, where a state senator has proposed that concert tickets and advertisements feature warning labels, is not the only state where local officials have called for a ban on some concerts.
In Harrisburg, Penn., a concert last Friday at the Zembo Mosque ended with an arrest warrant issued for hardcore rapper Noreaga, who allegedly beat a fan after the show. A representative for the Shriners-owned venue said he was misled into renting the hall for the show, saying Mosque policy forbids rap shows.
Local Shriners spokesman William Moore was unavailable for comment on Tuesday (Sept. 1), but a representative from the national office of the philanthropic organization said most policies, such as a ban on rap music, are instituted locally.
Last year in Manchester, N.H., the Colosseum nightclub stopped playing hip-hop after authorities claimed it attracted a violent crowd. Hip-hop returned after a two-week absence, but the violence did not, thanks to a stepped-up police presence, according to Deputy Chief of Police Dale Robinson. Colosseum owners could not be reached for comment.
Robinson said banning groups with violent lyrics could curb assaults and other crimes at concerts. "I think there are some bands, because of their themes and their following, who have those types of problems and a disregard for people's safety," Robinson said. "It could be someone onstage who may not intend to rile up the people but in fact does do it, and causes the fights."
Although he's opposed to a ban on hip-hop performers, Duggery said he could support a prohibition on some heavy-metal groups, such as shock-rocker Marilyn Manson.
"I wouldn't want my child listening to that," he said. "But rap music, we're just out there talking about the streets, we ain't devil-worshiping."