The story of the biggest club in hip-hop history, as told by the people who lived it.
The year was 1993. Jessica Rosenblum, OG hip-hop head, party promoter, and arbiter of downtown cool, had just found a permanent home for her Sunday night rap party, Mecca. It was the perfect place for Funkmaster Flex, the DJ she was managing at the time, to further expand his following. Peter Gatien, the godfather of NYC nightlife, had a year prior acquired a freshly remodeled 80,000-square-foot nightclub, originally the historic Terminal Warehouse Company Central Stores Building (1890-91) where entire train cars would park and unload. It was known as the Tunnel. What happened next, no one could’ve predicted.
Rap was in its adolescent phase, a marginalized teenager with energy to burn and people to piss off. Thousands of young fans arrived every week to run the gauntlet of security between the sidewalks of the West Side Highway and the long, narrow venue on 12th Ave. and 27th St. The shields of the 10th Precinct never stopped hassling them, and the kids never stopped coming because Mecca was the only party that mattered. This was where the records were breaking, where the bottles were popping, where everybody who was anybody in hip-hop had to be. Though maybe the blue suits were onto something—talk to anyone about the Tunnel and eventually you’ll get to the ugly parts: the beatdowns and snatched chains, the razors tucked inside hat brims.
How did this hip-hop party become one of the most successful and legendary nights in the history of American nightlife? No one person has the whole answer, but talk to enough of the participants and a story emerges—a story about an unstoppable underground force ascending to heights it had always boasted about, but had never quite experienced. The story of the Tunnel is the story of hip-hop.
Everyone is listed with his or her relationship to the Tunnel first, followed by their current title.
Jessica Rosenblum - promoter/event producer/doorgirl; owner of JRose Agency and JRosenblum Events
Peter Gatien - club owner
Funkmaster Flex - DJ/promoter; HOT97 radio personality
Cipha Sounds - DJ; HOT97 radio personality
Chris Lighty - security/doorman/promoter; head of Violator Management
Joie Manda - doorman/promoter; President of Def Jam
DMX - performer; rapper
Prodigy - performer; rapper
Juvenile - performer; rapper
Jadakiss - performer; rapper
Glen Beck - security; co-owner of Emissary Security Group
Rob Scagnelli - bartender; manager of adult nightclubs in the NY area
Derrick Parker - NYPD officer; author of Notorious C.O.P., and co-owner of Emissary Security Group
Mimi Valdés - journalist; founder of Mimi Media Inc.
Michael Rapaport - clubgoer; actor