Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hip-Hop + Rochester = Violence (?)

Once again, a hip-hop concert in Rochester has led to bloodshed. It doesn't seem to matter at what venue the show is held; Water Street, Milestones, Marquee, and now Montage have all dealt with violence when holding a hip-hop or dancehall reggae show. Sadly, it seems to me that this city simply cannot hold these types of shows without something awful happening. The big question, and it's one that I don't think anybody in town wants to have to answer, is what to do with these events? Clearly we can't just ban them from Rochester. Too many people in and around this region are hip-hop fans and the vast majority of them are decent, law-abiding citizens who just want to have a good time.

To put it in economic terms, this is a serious issue for the attraction and retention of young, educated, and highly mobile urban folks. Too often, young people that have the means to get out of town are doing so because they just don't feel safe in this city. For those that are hip-hop fans, much of that bad experience may be related to these shows. Scores of young, educated black men and women from Rochester's inner city ship out for NYC, Atlanta, Charlotte, and elsewhere and this situation certainly isn't helping reverse that trend. This may be my first rant for which I cannot come up with a proper solution. I don't think that we can legislate our way out of this problem.

It's sad that rap/hip-hop has gone from being a creative outlet for urban angst, much like punk and grunge was for depressed white kids, to being all about, as Nas said, "clothes, bankrolls, and hoes." Of course, this violence is not necessarily hip-hop's fault. The violence at hip-hop shows is symptomatic of what is wrong with our city. There are too many guns on the streets and not enough job opportunities. There are too many drugs on the streets and not enough hope. We need to be tougher on violent offenders and we need to be more congratulatory of those who choose the right path. We need to break up the concentration of poverty that ravages the so-called "Crescent" and in its place, construct more attractive mixed-income housing so that the poor not only have decent living conditions but also so that their children can see that hard work does pay off even if it's not as instant as drug dealing and gang banging.

This is all empty rhetoric because there is no funding out there for accomplishing these things. There are few resources out there that we can use to better our community. Case in point, at the same time that Bush and his cronies are adding billions to the war budget, they're cutting Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that are meant to improve our cities. Instead of a comprehensive agenda for urban America, the federal government is content to let our cities rot. It's obvious that if we are going to save our city, we're going to have to do it ourselves. But the question remains, how?