Hip-Hop Under Heavy Manners

The Police’s Sunday-Night Tunnel Vision

Flex believes hip-hop is unfairly under attack, notwithstanding the recent violent shoot-outs involving Puff Daddy's posse at Club New York, and later Lil' Kim's entourage, outside of the Hot 97 studio on Hudson Street. "From Puffy to Jay-Z to Peter Gatien, I see how the press and the authorities go after high profile figures they don't like, whether it's in hip-hop or the nightclub world," observes Flex. "I know these people personally, and they're nothing like they're portrayed in the media." Does he see this campaign as a form of racial profiling? "I don't see it so much as anti-black, as anti-young people and anti-hip-hop lovers, many of whom happen to be black. Newspapers don't understand what an expressive music hip-hop is. All they see is violence and controversy."

The truth is, going out to a hip-hop show can still be scary. Any responsible hip-hop promoter knows there is always a potential for mayhem, and takes appropriate precautions. But Flex parties are for the most part peaceful, if boisterous, affairs compared to past venues:the Times Square dancehall Latin Quarter, where '80s partygoers stored weapons in brown paper bags under parked cars and in trash cans, in anticipation of the inevitable interborough gun battle that would spill out onto the sidewalk; or Union Square, where marauding knuckleheads leaving the club would attack visiting Amish farmers setting up shop in the nearby green market; or the World on Avenue C in the late '80s, where, during a Zulu Nation reunion, a fight broke out that quickly transformed the club into a free-fire zone, despite the peace, love, and unity rhetoric emanating from Zulu Nation leader Afrikaa Bambataa in the DJ booth. On one recent Tunnel Sunday, the closest thing to actual violence came when one young fellow threatened to bitch-slap his date. Bouncers quickly separated the fractious couple. In the end, nothing much happened, except for music, style, and culture.

With the future of Flex's respected party in doubt, what happens now? "If Peter sells the Tunnel and opens another club, I'll go with him," Flex shrugs. "If he leaves the nightclub business altogether, then I'll find a new venue. This night is very important to me. I don't do the Tunnel for money; I do it for love."

Research assistance by Chelsea Peretti

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