This has been a great year for AllHipHop, the site and the brand.
We've been to the White House numerous times. We've done some work in needy communities like Newark, NJ, Wilmington, DE, and Baltimore, MD. We've had several editorial highs, like revealing the alleged assailant of the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur. The site is about to relaunch, and we're still at the forefront of the Hip-Hop journalism/entertainment game. And, importantly, we are up for a BET Hip-Hop Award this year.
Listing all of our accomplishments is not to pat ourselves on the back, but more so to give a bit of perspective on the brand.
As a team, we traversed down to Atlanta to celebrate the Hip-Hop Awards with the city and partner with a local promoter to have a party with a select list of our industry friends at the midtown W Hotel inside the Whiskey Park bar. Both founders of AllHipHop.com have been patrons of the Atlanta franchise, and Greg Watkins was even staying at the downtown W (a different location) on this very weekend. But, that didn't matter as we attempted to get into our own party.
Frankly, there was an issue with Greg, the co-founder of the site. The dress code of the party was deemed "dapper," which itself is vague. But, when we saw people inside and around the venue dressing like "whatever," we didn't believe the code was being strictly enforced to begin with. But, right from the start, the excuses for not letting Greg into his own party flowed like chronic diarrhea. First, they said only patrons of the W were allowed in. After that, none of us were on a mystery list that we know were were on, because AllHipHop's Steve Raze made the list. The list was with the people at the Whiskey Bar; meanwhile, we were contending with Jared, the W's general manager.
The "reasons" continued. It was the clothing, then they didn't like Greg's thick beard, and the reasons for denial kept changing at every instance. But, he wasn't the only one. Several professional, industry people were denied entry based on some vague discretion. It didn't matter that AllHipHop was the reason many of these high profile people (and patrons) were even entering their "posh" venue.
The manager made it clear that entry was "at his discretion," yet he made no concessions, even though the promoter Ruffin had stated who Greg, myself, and Steve were. After a while, the whole thing became embarrassing. One of the higher ups told Greg to "walk away" as the scene got increasingly heated. A police officer concurred with a gleam in his eye, like "make a move so I can twist you up right here." Needless to say, we left the venue heated and disgusted that they would treat us like that, especially since were were co-organizers and hosts.
After it was all said and done, Steve Raze told me that "no reasonable explanation was given" for Greg's denied entry to the venue. I wasn't going to write this, but a friend, Ed Garnes, tagged me on the following message on Facebook:
ATL: beyond profiling... what happened at the W hotel this eve was equivalent to the Woolworth lunch counters of yesterday...peaceful people...and overzealous police...do not a welcoming committee make..gatekeepers made it clear: your kind ain't wanted here...
I couldn't let it go. Then the legendary Bun B, who is an MC and a college educator, tweeted the following:
I then knew this was worth it. Most of us have dealt with profiling and even more brutal forms of racism - even in this so-called post-racial Obama era, prejudice still exists. Sure, incidents like this start out as rather small things, but they fester and grow into monuments such as the questions surrounding the execution of Troy Davis. We were bringing business to the W and also the Whiskey Park bar, which is inside the building. We did nothing wrong, except we didn't look like what they wanted in their establishment. It didn't much matter that we stay at the W every year. It didn't matter that we brought out celebs like Wale (who was also denied entry) or power players in the music game. None of it mattered.
So, now the W doesn't matter to me. We'll never support the establishment again, and we encourage others to follow suit. AllHipHop has done events with Diddy, Russell Simmons, Jermaine Dupri, 50 Cent, and corporate clients that dwarf the W - without so much as an incident. Clearly, they didn't know all of this, and they may not care either way.
There are many, many other lodging establishments that will appreciate law-abiding, peaceful, business people, especially when they are bringing business, and peaceful, lawful people into the building. Maybe not a lot will change from this incident. People will continue to flock to the W when it's time for big ticket events like the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
But as for the W? Bravo. You got our money and some of our friends as patrons, but that won't be the case next year. We're not going to play games. We know people and those people know people. We're going to talk to them and see what our next steps are. Anybody who continues to patronize a company that doesn't respect them is a fool without principles.
And Jared, (the general manager of the W), shave your beard.