On Wednesday night, at New York’s Irving Plaza in Union Square, four people were shot during a show headlined by T.I. According to the NYPD, Brooklyn rapper Troy Ave—who was one of the injured—fired five shots inside the venue. He can allegedly be seen on video barging through a door at Irving Plaza, cocking his gun, and firing a shot. He was arrested by the NYPD on Thursday and charged with attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon. According to reports, Ronald McPhatter, aka B$B Banga, a member of Troy’s B$B camp, was shot and killed; Troy, who was shot in the leg, and the other two victims are expected to make a full recovery. There is still no word on whether or not there was another shooter present. As of right now Troy is the only suspect and the leg wound is said to be self-inflicted. The details will be much clearer after the ballistics report is released.
It’s a sad moment for the city, especially coming on the heels of two NYC rap OGs squashing a decade-old beef to deliver a summer anthem. The shooting will undoubtedly affect rap shows in New York this summer and beyond. NYPD Commissioner Bratton commented on the shooting Thursday morning, and what he said speaks to the ugliness of the possible changes to come. In an interview with WCBS 880, Bratton reinforced the typical narrative around hip-hop shows and violence, saying, “The crazy world of these so-called rap artists, who are basically thugs that basically celebrate violence they did all their lives, and unfortunately that violence often times manifests itself during their performances, and that’s exactly what happened last evening. We should be able to wrap it up quickly.”
Bratton managed to mix in some truth with that coded language by adding, “Unfortunately, the lifestyles that they live or the lifestyles that they came out of often times follows them into the entertainment world and the success they have in it. It’s unfortunate, but you would like to think with all the wealth that comes to them, the fame, that they’ll turn their lives around, but they continue to hang out with the same people they hung out with when they came out of that world of desperation, poverty, and crime.”
His second statement is unfortunately correct but his overall sentiment is irresponsible and prejudiced. What Troy allegedly did was egregious and while his actions will be blamed on hip-hop as a whole, they shouldn’t. Irresponsible people with guns aren’t unique to rap music or a Brooklyn upbringing. America has a gun problem, not hip-hop. Is George Zimmerman a hip-hop head? Maybe Dylann Roof enjoyed listening to some Wu-Tang from time to time. The music one listens to—or makes—is not evidence to be used as an explanation for stupid behavior.
How is last night’s shooting hip-hop’s fault, and not the venue’s? How did a gun make it into Irving Plaza in the first place? Wednesday night's shooting was a failure of the security screening process, and that rests with Irving Plaza. New York’s rap scene over the last several years has been mild. The last time there was a shooting at a rap show was in 2013 during a Fat Trel show at SOB’s in Greenwich Village. I’ve been to dozens of shows in the city over the years and have always felt safe. No shots fired or fistfights, just good people enjoying America’s last true art form. The Bad Boy Reunion show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week was one of the best shows of the year and went without incident.
Now, does some rap glorify guns, violence, and drug dealing? Sure. But so do Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, yet they never get blamed for violence that occurs in their communities. We are five months into 2016, and according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, there have already been 153 shootings involving four people or more in the United States. Blaming rap music for this instance of violence is the easy way out of a discussion this nation has been dodging for decades.
I reached out to a couple friends who happened to be at the concert to comment on last night’s events and Bratton’s ignorant comments. Mr. Mecca, a jack of all trades who has been covering hip-hop in some form or fashion for years told me,
"The person who did this deserves to be in jail, paying for his crimes and there's no one in hip-hop who will tell you different. When one of [Bratton’s] employees was able to commit a coroner-ruled homicide by choking a man to death with a restricted hold on camera, and still remain an officer on his watch, it makes it difficult to accept moral critique from the commissioner.”
Mecca was backstage during the shooting and tweeted about hearing hearing the screams:
Jeff Rosenthal, one of half of hip-hop comedy duo It's the Real, says the blame rests with the venue:
“This stuff happens anywhere: movie theaters, elementary schools, wherever. So the fact that it happened at a concert is unremarkable. That being said, in all of my years going to hundreds of shows, I can count the amount of fights on my fingers, let alone something like this. People just want to have a good time. Something like this sucks, but it's indicative of a poor job by security and nothing else.”
When a white person walks into a public space and lets off a couple rounds into innocent people, they aren’t referred to as thugs. They are painted by the mainstream media as lonely, troubled souls. John Holmes, the guy who shot up an Aurora, Colo. movie theater in 2012? Not a thug. Dylann Roof, who walked into a church and killed multiple people on a racially charged rampage last year? Loner. George Zimmerman has been exhibiting thuggish behavior since killing Trayvon Martin, but is somehow still free to sell the murder weapon in an auction. We all know the words “terrorist” and “thugs” are reserved for people of color.
Why do people like Commissioner Bratton act as if only black and brown youth are menaces to society? An ex-cop was busted recently for running a prostitution ring. Is he not a degenerate thug like “these so-called rappers?” This isn’t me being the PC police, this is me being tired of having to defend rap music against old racist white people. That the shooter in this case was allegedly a rapper does not affect my argument.
Will the powers that be in America ever stop pointing fingers instead of finding a real solution to gun violence? Probably not. The gun lobby in Washington is too powerful, its influence too strong. Until Congress decides to stop putting money over the safety of the American public, scapegoats will continue to be blamed.