City News

Nearly a decade of hip-hop controversy fuels new music task force in Madison

The Frequency, a music venue in downtown Madison, suspended hip-hop performances at its venue twice in three years.

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto- Cardinal File Photo

After at least eight years of perceived inequity for hip-hop artists in the Madison music scene, city officials are looking to address the problem formally.

The Task Force on Equity in Music and Entertainment, composed of local government officials, citizens and business owners, outlined plans to tackle an issue spanning back to at least 2009 at their first-ever meeting Monday night.

An ordinance establishing the task force, proposed in June and passed by city council shortly after, says it will make recommendations to Mayor Paul Soglin and local lawmakers that will improve upon Madison’s reputation “as a music and entertainment hub that offers an enjoyable and welcoming environment.”

Ald. Mike Verveer of District 4, who co-sponsored a resolution establishing the task force, told the Daily Cardinal it was created because of a culmination of incidents related to hip-hop that have happened over the years.

“Most recently, the controversy on music availability in campus bars,” Verveer said -- in April, the Cardinal found several downtown bars filter hip-hop from their TouchTunes players.

Other incidents highlighting inequity in the Madison music scene have been going on since at least 2009, according to task force member and urban Community Arts Network President Karen Reece.

Trends of unequal treatment of hip-hop and other kinds of entertainment have been happening in Madison for much longer, Reece said. But when the Brink Lounge “indefinitely postponed” hip-hop booking in 2009, it was a “distinct starting point for consistent activity,” she said.

At least one business owner previously involved in hip-hop related backlash is part of the task force. Owner of The Frequency, a downtown music venue, Darwin Sampson said his interest in the task force lies behind his “very direct” experience with what the Madison hip-hop scene is going through.

Last year, The Frequency temporarily suspended hip-hop performances for the second time since 2013 in response to a fight at one of its concerts. Following heated responses from the community, Sampson rescinded the ban about a week later.

The task force will especially focus on the downtown area, the ordinance says, and communities that are home to populations of college students, young professionals and residents who “are active in urban arts that can be adapted to our downtown.”

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