2008 marks the 4th year anniversary of the so called “Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival” It also marks the fourth year I’ve been snubbed by the folks at, “Brooklyn Bodega”
I was scheduled to do as show for the Puerto Rican day Parade in Bridgeport CT that weekend
(shout to Block Royal) so I could not have done a full set at the BHHF. However, I did want an opportunity to promote the 2@atime project I am a part of. Our aim is to provide computers to underprivilidged kids in my neighborhood and I thought the festival would be a great place to kick things off. Many people tried to convince the event organizer, Wes Jackson to give me the opportunity to do 2 songs and to say few words about the computer program but Wes refused every request.
From the door, I want to say that I respect his right to refuse my participation. No problem.
However, the reason he gave to people for brushing me off was bullshit. It seems the content of my music is not conducive to the kind of event Wes promotes.
Once again, I don’t want anyone thinking what about to say is sour grapes cause I got snubbed by some random event promoter. That shit happens, no big deal. But the real reason Wes didnt want me there is cause I called him out on his bullshit the first year he had the event in the Williamsburg Brooklyn, steps away from where I was raised. Long story short, I got pissed cause there weren’t any non white locals represented, on stage or in the audience. NO one that grew up in my projects, on the Southside or on Greenpoint knew about the event. It was clear from the beginning that we uncool Black and Latin people in the neighborhood were not welcome. On top of that, they claim the name, “Brooklyn Bodega” but there were no flyers or poster boards in or around any bodegas in the hood. I found out about the event cause a friend that loads trucks for one of the sponsors told one of my managers about it. As the date got closer I found out another friend of a friend from Boriquen Projects was hired to clean up after the event.
It’s ironic they didn’t want us there because a few of the older people that live in that neighborhood actually built the space where the festival was held and they’re grandkids helped clean up the thrash after people left festival. Some those older dudes from around the South Side believe that this deliberate slight happened cause I’m Latino. I can kind of see why they think that but I don’t believe the decision to snub me was based on race. I dont think Wes Jackson is a racist.
However, the snub does speak to something just as hurtful to me,
Cultural Snobbery and Classism.
I know first hand about Classism cause I live in Cooper Projects which is in the heart of Williamsburg Brooklyn. For those of you who don’t know, Williamsburg is located in North Brooklyn and is Mecca to the hipster. Tight Jeans, Dope Sneaker Stores, Hip Restaurants, Cool Lounges and a lot of young artist types from parts unknown with lots of money renting apartments that are way too expensive.
It’s a great place to hang out on any night of the week cause there is always something poppin on the North Side. Except if your one of the poor people in that lives in this area.
Before I became Joell Ortiz, “the rapper” I was just another Puerto Rican from the wrong side of the North side. I got the automatic locked doors at the local hipster sneaker store as I tried to enter, the 1hr wait for a table at an empty restaurant and I never got any of the jobs at local shops or construction sites I applied for. It was as if I was invisible while in certain sections of this neighborhood.
Things have changed for me since those days. I am still a Rican from the North side but today the same sneaker store owner that shitted on me a few years back goes out of his way to show me new kicks when I pass by and he always asks me to take pictures in the store. He recently made a nice donation to 2@atime so all is good.
Although, certain things may have changed for me around here, on the whole, gentrification is a motherfucker for my people in this neighborhood. For instance, the local supermarket that we used to shop at closed and in it’s place they opened a more expensive one that frowns on welfare mom’s with EBT cards. They still don’t take applications at any of the construction sites and when they do hire someone from the projects or one of the Puerto Rican’s for the South side it’s only as day workers with no insurance or job security. When a worker does get paid its usually in cash from out the foreman’s pocket. Hardly enough to keep a roof over your head around here.
If you happen to be one of the working poor in this area that doesn’t live in the projects it’s almost impossible to keep an apartment. Landlords are throwing people out that have been in this area for generations in order to make room for wealthy newcomers. If they can’t get you out legally certain slumlords will opt to burn you out of your home. I’m not bullshiting. There have been more suspect fires in this area than any other time in the history of NYC. That is no coincidence.
There have been a few hippie rallies on our behalf and leftist flyers proclaiming workers rights have been handed out at local bars but for the most part, I don’t believe it. When it comes to real estate and bread they aint trying to let us eat. While landlords evict seniors that can’t afford the outrageous rents some of these same rallying hipsters are busy trying to open they’re own school in the same building as our PS 84. The hope is that they’re kids will receive a better education then the one provided by the local public school that happens to be in the same building. I know it sounds nuts but I swear it’s true. Seperate but equal, in the same building! I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I thought that shit was illegal in this country.
Anyway, I think Brooklyn Bodega represents the same kind of hypocrisy. They claim to rep “real Hip Hop” but only allow a certain kind of performer to play for a certain audience. To me, That’s bullshit. Hip Hop was started by Blacks and Latinos that weren’t welcome to party in downtown clubs owned and run by racist snobs. Those pioneers created a scene of they’re own and passed it down to us. Its only been 20 something years and our culture already has bougie snobs trying to keep poor people out of something that was created by the poor.
I’ll bet a stack that if we crunch the numbers and make adjustments for time the founding fathers of Hip Hop would not be part of the Brooklyn Bodega’s target demographic.
I probably wont ever be invited to perform at that festival but fuck it. I don’t want anything to do with a classist organization that goes out there way to exclude an entire segmet of this culture. When I perform in my neighborhood I want ALL of my neighbors to enjoy the show.
As you can tell I have few issues with gentrification. However, there are some bright spots that would be unfair for me to ignore. I wanna take a a sec to acknowledge the good people at Monkey Town on North 3rd. They gave my boy from Cooper Projects a job recently. He walked in off the street and asked if they were hiring and they gave him a job on the spot. That’s very rare around here. I actually went in there on a date one night and the chef came out to tell me and the chick I was with all about the dishes we were having. He didn’t know who I was he was just being a gracious host to a guest.
I love that spot!
You can help me help the underprivilged kids in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick Brooklyn by clicking on Give at the top bar on my homepage.
Our goal with 2@atime is to get every disadvantaged kid in the four projects in the Williamsburg/Bushwick area computers. I want them to know about everything that is going on in, around and outside of this neighborhood. We gonna change our community 2 kids at a time.