Coming up in the entertainment industry (nightclub’s to be specific) I learned quickly that Chicago and City Hall hate hip hop. Sure; the city publicly endorses Chance the Rapper and the Save Money army, but it probably helps that Chano’s father is Rahm’s deputy chief of staff and director of the Mayor's Office of Public Engagement AND that their music is usually uplifting and violence free. Before the well-deserved explosion of Chance & Co., seeing a hip hop headliner at one of the best nightclubs in Chicago was a rarity. However, the last few years venue and nightclub owners (Studio Paris and Shay leading the charge) have started a new chapter in this story. Simply put, the best nightclubs in Chicago are booking more hip hop oriented events and for that we give thanks.
Take our nightclub partner Studio Paris Chicago. Last month alone, they booked Metro Boomin (producer of #WhatATimeToBeAlive), DJ Esco (Future Hendrix’s fulltime DJ), DJ Ruckus, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Oreo, Ja Rule, and have both DJ Sean Mac and local Chicago musician OddCouple booked for upcoming dates. Even a club like Cuvee, known for its extremely strict front door policies, is getting in on the action having booked Big Sean this Friday (3/31). While this may seem like nothing special, I’m telling you from experience: These types of artists were not getting booked so frequently in River North just 3 years ago.
In 2015, when we produced #OreoFest, we had our own run-in with this behind-the-scenes discrimination when law enforcement from the Portage Park police department caught wind we were doing an “urban show.” On the morning of 12/27/17, I received a phone call from someone representing the Alderman of the ward and CPD claiming we couldn’t put a certain group of artists on stage. See…we booked Lil Durk as a surprise performer and that simply wasn’t going to fly.
When covering the event, Leo from UIC radio writes:
Now for those not familiar with the Chicago music scene grabbing Lil Durk for a performance in his hometown may not appear to be much of a feat or accomplishment and that is understandable. Because it’s not rare to see a Migos performance in ATL, or catch a Joey Badass show while in NY. Whereas, in Chicago a Durk performance is a rare event mainly due to the early tension between club venues, CPD (who flanked the stage upon Durk’s arrival) and the initial flag bearers of “the drill movement.” Yet and still, Durk’s performance went off without a hitch as he performed “Bang Bros” and capped off the night with Metro and Oreo as Chief Keef’s “Faneto” vibrated throughout the building.
Understand…that really happened. Police officers came to our show and rushed the stage when Durk tried to get up there. If it weren’t for the police officers we had on-staff as security (close friends of mine), they might not have stepped back and let the show go on.
That being said, on the phone that day, I told the person who called me I didn’t know what he was talking about and that everyone involved in this show – the fans, musicians, us, and Portage theater – all want the same thing: A peaceful and fun event for our city’s urban youth. He hung up after reiterating his warning. They didn’t care my team's intentions.
It wasn’t only after our show had no instances of violence did we get a pat on the back from the neighborhood for doing something so “innovative.” Listen, playing hip hop in a venue IS NOT INNOVATIVE. It’s called being INCLUSIVE.
Like Leo said, in other cities, New York, Miami, Los Angeles; hosting hip hop centered events like this is nothing new. In fact, there are venues built on urban artistry being their core business model. Avenue in New York, owned by Strategic Hospitality, is an 8 year old nightclub that’s all hip hop music and it’s in Manhattan; not segregated to the far south side or west side like in our city.
On that note, we want to set the tone for our future monthly nightlife spotlights and bottle service recaps. While we work with all of the best nightclubs in Chicago (Studio Paris Chicago, The Underground Chicago, Shay Chicago, Cuvee, Joy District, and Prysm Chicago) we will only call out our partners who stand in line with our values as an entertainment marketing group.
Yes; we represent them, but they also represent us and we want to make sure they resonate with you…our fans!
Once again, shout out to those club owners changing how Chicago views luxury events and the music allowed in. If we had continued to wait for Rahm and the city, we’d have never seen change.
Need help getting into any of these clubs? Got thoughts on hip hop music in Chicago? Let us know in the comments.
Thanks for your time.