You know what one of the best things about the holiday season is? The parties.
But you know what can be the worst thing about a party? The bouncers. I make it a point to be super sweet to bouncers, because they are the gateway to places I need to be, and it doesn’t matter who I know inside that party, because the guy working the door does not give a fuck about anyone inside that place. So I smile. I stay patient. Sometimes I wait for lines of partygoers to die down because I don’t want to seem holier than thou skipping lines because I’m press or on a guest list. I have my ID ready. I move to the side if there’s some type of hold up. I’m like a bouncer’s fantasy, as long as they don’t pat down my boots. But let’s not talk about that.
So anyway, I show up to a spot ready to go. ID in hand, +1 by my side, and walk up to the bouncers. Convo goes like this:
Bouncer: What are you here for?
Me: [So-and-so]‘s party.
Bouncer: Do you have reservations?
Me: No, I’m on the guestlist.
Bouncer: Well what about [the person with you]?
Me: I have a +1 on the list.
Bouncer: Well you still need reservations.
At this point, another guy interjects and hands the bouncer the guestlist, in other words saying “fuck yo reservations.” Score one for me. It’s obvious this guy is already being a dick. After looking over the list, fronting like my name wasn’t on it only to have another bouncer point it out to him, and checking my ID, he decides to fuck with my +1 who was admittedly a little bit under dressed for the event. I wasn’t even putting up a fight, just a sad face because I knew I wasn’t going to leave my friend out in the cold or in my car while I went inside for a drink and to mingle, so my plans for the night were shot. Then the conversation went like this:
Bouncer: You see everyone walking in? They’re dressed casual. He…well, he’s a little too casual. You know, he’s dressed urban.
I said something snarky and flattering toward my friend, so as to help them not feel some type of way about the criticism of his appearance. At this point I just wasn’t digging the scenario so I bounced, but on the drive home my cranky ass self kept coming back to that word – “urban.” It has always sat negatively with me, and it seemed to be sitting extra negatively with me when directed toward someone I care about. But why?
I’ve spent the last few years of my life dedicating my attention, passion, time, and effort into the market that some people label “urban music.” In those last few years, I can’t recall one time that I referred to this genre of music as “urban.” My Geography degree taught me better than that. Urban has to do with high population density urban centers, technically, in other words – large cities. The counterparts to this being, of course, suburban and rural. And as someone who has lived in both urban and suburban areas and who has also spent quite a bit of time in rural areas, I know damn well that “urban music” is coming from places far from urban.
I also know that I spent my whole childhood dreaming of moving to New York City. I wanted Manhattan – urban – life. A tiny apartment until I moved into a swanky condo with a nice city view out of my windows, a nice car, a steady job, great public transportation at my fingertips and boredom a non-issue. I changed my mind and decided to be a Brooklyn resident once I finally made it up here, but it’s the same shit. I live in a a literally urban area, working in not-so-literal “urban” arts and entertainment. This has nothing to do with my race, religion or lack thereof, what I choose to wear, or who I choose to associate with. It’s numbers. Population. Fucking. Density.
Hip Hop (I emphasize this because it’s what I deal with, as opposed to R&B or other “urban” musics) originated in an urban area. I’ll give it that. But that’s about the extent of its legitimate association with the word. For the longest, thanks to some PR and marketing exploitation “help,” “urban” became a questionably PC synonym of “black.” Those of us who know better will still argue this was an inappropriate usage of the word even aside from its undertones of racism, since “urban” music of the last decade or so has been consumed by a shit ton of white people, overseen business-wise by a shit ton of white people, and even created by a shit ton of white people. Ironically even UrbanDictionary.com agrees with this, if you read the definitions of “urban” their users have submitted. And, additionally, even the most urban of urban areas, my own home of NYC, is still majority white according to census statistics. This in itself makes people feel a certain type of way toward the word (what makes the “urban music” label any different than that of “race music” from the earlier portion of the 1900′s, besides the fact that Hip Hop didn’t exist back then?), and for good reason.
The thing was that my friend isn’t black. More like Latino of the light skinned variety. And, of course, this happened in the middle of fucking New York City, which again, in case it isn’t clear, is an urban area, so this is kind of an urban, you know, New York CITY party. In a nutshell I was confused as to what the bouncer really meant when he said it. The point he was conveying was clear – he thought my friend wasn’t, or at least didn’t look good enough to be at that party. It wasn’t his jeans, sneakers, or hat, because I saw other people go in wearing jeans, sneakers, and hats. But that’s what urban means now? General inferiority, regardless of whether an urban setting is in the picture or not (it was, so looking “urban” should be normal in this scenario), and even with its previously implied race not a factor? Switch out the word “urban” with “inferior” in the contexts I know urban is used. Inferior music. Inferior style or inferior fashion. Inferior lifestyle. Ouch. Would it have been so hard for this guy to have said underdressed instead? Or just simply “no, I’m sorry he can’t come in with those shoes on.” Nope, he took it there.
I almost got back on the bridge to drive back and punch the guy in the face, but I decided to come home and write it out instead. Karma will come around to that guy at some point, I’m sure. Maybe someone will puke on his suit tonight. Not that I’m wishing that on him or anything. But it wasn’t just an insult to my friend’s lapse in fashion judgment, his utilization of the word was insulting to the career path I’ve chosen, my passions, and my goals. And to hear that come out of his mouth at the doors of a party closely connected to the “urban music” scene blew my mind. I know that this isn’t any new development or anything, but I was shocked to hear someone still using the word in such a context, and particularly in that setting. It’s time for “urban” to die as a classification. There’s nothing wrong with dressing a certain way, making a certain type of music, living in an area of a particular population density, being black, white, or any color inbetween including Butter Pecan Rican. It’s been inappropriately used for a while now, but it’s also downright rude when you see how people really use it.
So fuck you Mr. Bouncer. I do what I do, love what I love, and associate with the people I associate with, and I wouldn’t change a thing, no matter what your loosely enforced dress code is.