Madison’s Music Scene: A Community Divided?


Dedicated to every MC, rapper, singer, musician, DJ, Pop star, band, artist, and music persons.

Dear Madison Musicians,

I’ve read the article from the Isthmus and I’ve read the Tone Madison article about The Frequency banning Hip Hop shows. I have followed a lot of artists who have ultimately decided Madison isn’t an accepting community for all genres of music. This lack of acceptance forces musicians to plant their roots elsewhere or change their genre to blend in. Hot off the press: Hip Hop on the chopping block. I am sad about the repeated attack on our Hip Hop community. I’m also aware we live in a time where racism is on the forefront of many news stories, a battle far from over. I wish we lived in in a world where violence did not occur, where people were all color blind, and where music was celebrated through diversity everywhere. But the real world we live in simply does not accept diversity. Racism is real. Violence is real. And the lack of our education is real. There are a lot of stigmas about Hip Hop culture and its music and we must strive to educate our community: all genres, all colors.

First of all, what is Hip Hop music? By Wikipedia’s definition: “Hip hop, also called hip-hop or rap music, is a music genre formed in the United States in the 1970s that consists of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Other elements include sampling (or synthesis), and beatboxing.”

According to this definition that means anyone who shows up to several of Madison’s venues with a laptop, a microphone, a sampler, and or a DJ kit should be sent home. Pop stars, Electronic artists, and DJs fall under the same category of music because quite often these genres borrow ideas from Hip Hop and often feature rappers and synths. Who knows what kind of crowd they may bring in? Unless you’re white, then it’s probably a little easier to get a show. Yep because that’s exactly how it is at other venues where Hip Hop has been banned.

I’ve been present at “Electronic” shows where a white rapper is on stage and yet the venue says, “No Hip Hop allowed.” Is rap acceptable in this case? Is the general thought that when a white male is on stage we won’t think of violence? I’ve been to rock shows where all I feel pouring out of the microphone is violence. Where girls have been raped in the bathroom or in the backseat of a car. But is that different because it’s rock? The music itself isn’t to blame, but to say that Hip Hop is so violent and so dangerous compared to all other scenes is unfair. Every genre, even Top 40 Pop, has its creeps. I’m not going to pretend to understand the thinking behind people’s prejudices or the horrendous stigmas we force upon a community of MCs/rappers/artists in Madison, WI. But I am going to think and about a very serious issue: Madison’s music community is divided.

Our first step is to admit that we are divided and to find a way to have some uncomfortable conversations and then keep having those conversations until there is a united music scene. From what I’ve seen since I joined Madison’s music community in 2013 is that there are a lot of great people and a lot of great venue owners in this city. I have not witnessed racism from any of the music venues including The Frequency but I understand that our Hip Hop community again feels under attack and isolated. We have once again publicly flagged Hip Hop as a threat to the music scene. There are several recorded incidents and police reports that occur at Hip Hop shows as violent and sometimes result in arrests or hospital visits. What I’d like to know is how many unreported incidents occur at rock shows, pop shows, and Electronic shows? It seems to me that white violence has always been treated differently than any other race of people who engage in violence. Why else must an entire nation strive to tell you that Black lives matter?

Racism is real. And it’s a hard conversation that needs to happen. If Madison ever hopes to be the next Austin in the music world we need to talk about these things. There are stigmas that our society and the press have put into our minds and those fears have existed far too long. ‘If a black man walking down the street is alone: he is dangerous.’ Is that true? Absolutely not! But I actually heard this conversation at my place of work and it’s 2016. This unspoken hatred and ignorance is not just a Madison issue, it’s a national issue. This kind of thinking is wrong and inhumane but no one wants to talk about it and we need to. There’s so much fear online, in media, and in our local newspapers. This daily dose of fear is projected on us and if we go about our lives unaware, we stay divided.

I think fear inevitably gets the best of us and when our lives are threatened we want to protect our loved ones, our jobs, our businesses, and our homes. Hate is a strong thing that still runs rampant and after everyone cools down: we need to keep the conversation going about Hip Hop, about racism, about violence, and how we can come together. No one is going to accomplish this through posting articles on Facebook or by changing your profile picture in support of or against something. We need to get off the Internet and come to a public place. Treat it like it’s a show we’re all dying to see and have the uncomfortable conversation as ONE community. We are a large community of musicians and music is supposed to bring us together not tear us apart.

I am utterly frustrated and I want to be a part of a positive change in this city because I love Madison and I love all its music. I know there are already organizations in existence that have tried to do this or are still trying. What I think we need to do is come together as a Madison Music community: bands, artists, MCs, and DJs. We need to have a weekend conference filled with music and the hard talks. Unite as musicians and not support bans of any kind that isolate parts of our music community such as Hip Hop. We should be performing with our Hip Hop community and make sure no one is left behind: put them in the line up. There’s a lot we can learn from each other and I want to believe that through educating each other; we can actually build a stronger, united community.

Your fellow musician,

Joey Broyles

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One Comment on “Madison’s Music Scene: A Community Divided?

  1. What hits me the most is how this was only a few days ago. People are very quick to emotional responses, and I think this is something that needs to be taken with a level head.

    What does the data show at this point? I agree it’s silly to ban a type of show because of the audience response, when each incident needs to be looked at with context. It’s just music. The performances know they need to be kosher with the locale, so what of the crowds that go to the shows? What backgrounds do they come from, and do certain genres “deserve more scrutiny” than hip hop?

    Lest the data shows otherwise, I think this is more a livelihood issue than a music scene one. People get angry at locales where you’re supposed to be having fun because their lives suck. Their attitude sucks. “Burn The Money” has more to do with this than anything, lest I’m missing something in the lyricsof tunes you won’t play anymore. If we care for the people who go to the scene, the scene gets better, and venues open to those scenes.

    I am happy to see you putting in your words for the conversation of Hip Hop in Madisob. What shows I have gone to thus far were hosted by Rhyme & Reason, and while i don’t know their reaction to this yet, I’m sure it effects them too. I enjoyed the shows they put on, and I hope they can continue to function.

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