Hip-Hop Fridays: Clubs Cutting Hip-Hop Acts - ACLU Officials Criticize Trend They Say Is A Result Of Pressure From Police by K.C. Howard
The loud hip-hop at Moose's Beach House on Wednesday nights used to go until 2:30 a.m., but early last month the owner decided the funk needed to stop at 1 a.m.
About nine months after Clark County Sheriff Bill Young sent a letter to the Gaming Control Board in an attempt to "influence the gaming industry to not book gangsta rap acts here in Las Vegas," certain local clubs and even some Strip venues are eliminating or diluting their hip-hop programs.
"The pattern should be deeply concerning to everyone who cares about the principles of free speech," said Gary Peck, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada executive director.
He and several hip-hop advocates fear that Las Vegas police are pressuring clubs not to play the music, or in the case of Moose's, on Maryland Parkway across from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to cut back.
After several incidents in which police were called to the club, authorities told club operators that if they continued to play hip-hop after 2 a.m. and had another violent outbreak, action would be taken against the club, said Gastinel White, whose alias is Disc Jockey N.I.N.O. He works the Wednesday night event at the club.
"If we play any more hip-hop and have any more altercations, they're going to snatch our liquor license," White said. "So that's where my boss is at, and he said, 'OK, I'm not going to even go to 2 o'clock, I'm just going to say 1 o'clock to ensure they don't take my liquor license.'"
It's common for Las Vegas police to testify at Clark County Liquor and Gaming Licensing Board hearings about the suitability of a licensee, but no liquor licenses have been revoked this year or in 2005, according to county officials.
The owner of Moose's, Joe Gormley, said Las Vegas police came by his club on several occasions this year. In January, they warned him about violence occurring at another establishment -- The Beach -- and advised him to take precautions.
Moose's bartender Paul Meyers said the club then beefed up its dress code and limited the number of customers allowed into the club.
After a fight in March at his bar on a hip-hop night, police stopped by again. Gormley said he then decided to turn off the hip-hop at 1 a.m. to play more mellow music.
He also stopped advertising the hip-hop night on KVEG-FM, 97.5 because the ads were bringing in the wrong crowd.
He said he needs to have a good relationship with the Las Vegas police and that he did not feel police discriminated against his club or threatened his business. But he said he felt compelled to take their advice to take more precautions because of the fights at his club.
"We have been known to have a couple of fights at our bar and I find when a certain age group is drinking heavily, music influences their behavior," Gormley said. "Switching off the hip-hop at 1 o'clock when everyone is just starting to go over the edge and into a heavily drunk stage, it's a good idea, and since I've done that, I've had no problems."
Las Vegas police said they did not attempt to censor the club or influence the playlist, but were in fact doing their job. Officers would be remiss if they were aware of circumstances that could lead to similar violence at other locations and did not advise business owners how to prevent those crimes from occurring, said Las Vegas Sgt. Chris Jones.
"We've had a number of shootings, near riots, large group fights, robberies and sexual assaults at The Beach, so much so that the club began using overtime officers on a regular basis," Jones said.
"We have an obligation to advise citizens and area businesses of potential issues that could jeopardize their safety," Jones said.
During the summer, a series of local shootings left four gangsta rappers dead in two months. There have been a series of shootings at nightspots like the Emergency Room and Club 702. And on Feb. 1, Las Vegas police Sgt. Henry Prendes was shot and killed by aspiring rapper Amir Crump, who also died in the shootout with police.
But the ACLU described tactics by police as a form of censorship that is unconstitutional.
"It's not the job of police to play formal or informal censor," said ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein.
If police told a club what kind of music should be played, that's inappropriate, he said.
Young declined a request for an interview, saying through a spokeswoman that he has spoken about hip-hop enough and would like to return his attention to other critical law enforcement issues.
The Beach, located near the Las Vegas Convention Center, eliminated its hip-hop Tuesdays at the end of January because the event was 4 years old and it was time for a change, said Jeremiah Wilke, marketing and promotions director for the club. Las Vegas police had nothing to do with that decision, he said.
The club still plays hip-hop, but mixes it in with other Top 40 hits, he said.
Shortly before The Beach's Tuesday night hip-hop event came to an end, the club experienced a small melee on Jan. 22. The crowd packed into The Beach erupted angrily when the power went out and a hip-hop artist, Young Jeezy, couldn't perform, said Monica Brocos, 24.
"I was mad I didn't get my money back," she said.
Wilke said the crowd was excited and angry, but customers calmly collected coats and left the club, which later issued refunds. He also said the club hired off-duty officers to ensure safety.
On Wednesday at midnight, Brocos was arriving at Moose's with her friends.
Sasha Miller, 26, characterized as "stupid" the decision to limit hip-hop at clubs because of violent behavior.
"I go to other clubs and see fights there, too," she said, referring to posh clubs on the Strip and local bars.
"So what, they're going to stop playing (country) music at the Frontier?" she said.
Miller said she has noticed fewer hip-hop events across town during the past year, citing closure of events at the Luxor, which once had Thursday and Saturday hip-hop nights at RA.
The club since has switched to a more mixed musical lineup on those nights.
"The musical lineup at RA is a very diverse and hip mixture of a variety of music genres," said Tom Recine, vice president of food and beverage at Luxor in a written statement. "Our DJs spin the latest in everything from hip-hop to rock depending on the club's promotional night."
Club goers at Moose's on Wednesday who spoke to the Review-Journal said they felt safe and liked that drinks were only a dollar.
Von Haus, 25, said troubled youths need such a club and said they might be committing crimes instead of gyrating on the dance floor.
"This place here is a place you can, you know, speak to people," Haus shouted over the music.
At 11:30 p.m. Malu Mauga, 26, and her friends were waiting for more people to arrive at the club before they infiltrated the dance floor. She recalled last week that a friend had gotten into a fight at Moose's. No one was injured and she said the violence was the result of a certain group of people who came into the bar looking for trouble.
White had another theory for the outbreaks, "How can you not expect a fight to happen when you're shoving dollar drinks down their throats?"
He said he thought Young's letter to influence casinos not to book gangsta rap acts was a political ruse meant to help re-elect him this fall.
"If he actually gets hip-hop shut down, where artists like Snoop Dogg get canceled, that's a big notch in his belt," White said.
Snoop Dogg was expected to perform at a private party held by Molson Coors Brewing Co. on March 8 at the Rio. But he was replaced at the last minute by the harmonica-based jam band Blues Traveler.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Rio's parent company, Harrah's Entertainment, asked Coors to cancel Snoop Dogg because of pressure from local law enforcement.
A spokesman for Harrah's denied that was the case and said Snoop was under contract with Coors, which was paying for the entertainment. A Coors spokeswoman said the company had "no interest" in commenting for this story.
Snoop Dogg has gained a nonthreatening commercial image pimping rides for Chrysler and phones for Nokia but has a felony record and was acquitted on murder charges.
Some of his lyrics thematically embrace thug life, including such songs as "Gangsta Moves," "Gangsta Walk" and "Gangsta Ride."
This article appears in The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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Friday, April 7, 2006