The Lethal Mix of Woke Rap and Live Nation

When leftist causes and massive concerts intersect - and turn deadly.

On December 6, 1969, Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones looked out over the massive crowd at California’s Altamont Speedway and saw the concert security staff, the Hell’s Angels, beating up an audience member. The Angels, who were paid in beer rather than cash to act as security that day, had apprehended a man named Meredith Hunter, 27, who attempted to approach the stage. When Hunter attempted to approach the stage again, this time with a revolver, he was beaten by the Angels and then stabbed to death by Angel Alan Passaro. The melee, which was captured on film, caused a nervous Jagger to announce, “People, people, let’s be cool!”

The murder of Hunter would come to be known as Rock’n Roll’s Darkest Day, officially marking the end of the 1960’s peace and love era which had its peak expression only months before at Woodstock.

The 1969 tragedy at Altamont has arguably been superseded in darkness by the troubling developments at Live Nation Entertainment – which bills itself as “the world’s leading live entertainment company.” The company’s recent production of the Astroworld Festival in Houston on November 2 saw 13 people killed and 300 injured when a crowd surge during the concert caused concertgoers to trample one another. Live Nation has a history of safety violations over the past decade. The massive concert enterprise also seems to thrive best in large Democrat-controlled cities where the urban landscape cultivates its own style of rough and tumble audiences and artists (Christian conservative rappers like Bryson Gray need not apply), especially artists who not so long ago specialized in ‘F—k Trump’ lyrics.

Consider my own city of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s annual 2-day Labor Day concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sponsored by Live Nation, has been drawing thousands of people since its inception 8 seasons ago. Called "Made in America" (MIA), when the festival began it was briefly criticized for being “too white” and not diverse enough. Since the first concert, organizers have gone to extreme lengths to “diversify.” Rap and hip hop became an essential part of the Parkway concerts but it was (and is) the rap and hip hop of the woke variety that is promoted by CNN. Live Nation’s contention that the MIA festival also includes pop and electronic music was a slight exaggeration. While this latter category of music is given cursory acknowledgment on stage, the bulk of MIA concerts (curated by Jay-Z) feature such artists as Meek Mill, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Lil Baby and a host of other rappers.

Proceeds for Philadelphia’s 2021 MIA festival went to the ACLU with other proceeds going to The Reform Alliance -- a left progressive organization intent on eliminating “oppressive” probation, parole and bail issues. While some of the Alliance’s concerns might need looking into, the bulk of the organization’s focus is aligned with the progressive policies of Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. 

The goal of The Reform Alliance is the replacement of America’s justice system “with a restorative system that is fair, accountable and invested in rehabilitation, support and wellbeing.” All of this sounds quite benign but it is also very vague. Under the surface, there’s the suggestion that these grand “restorative systems” are still being worked out, with the finished plan ending up anywhere -- perhaps on the most extreme end -- of the Radical Left Speedometer.

As of this writing, The Reform Alliance has certainly failed in one of its main goals: to “make communities safer and stronger.” Keep in mind that MIA organizers boasted that they were able to collect thousands of signatures in support of the Alliance during the 2021 festival.

There was a time when the ACLU did some good things, but that "do good" era is certainly over. The ACLU in 2021 mirrors Marxist/Communist models with a social agenda reflecting the beliefs and convictions of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and champions positions and causes that are clearly antithetical to what’s come to be known as the American Way. One aim of the ACLU seems to be the total remake of American society -- as explained quite powerfully in Mark Levin’s book, American Marxism.  

Live Nation’s MIA concerts transform Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway into a street version of Astroworld with overflow crowds that often spill out into the surrounding neighborhoods. At one MIA concert several years ago, neighbors in the Art Museum area complained of drunk and drugged-out MIA attendees urinating or vomiting on their cars and property. Mayor Jim Kenney, who loves these outdoor city extravaganzas because (among other reasons) of the money they bring to the city, turns a deaf ear to the residents of high-rise condos along the Parkway who have complained about the mayhem and noise created by MIA.

Many Parkway residents leave the city every Labor Day weekend as Live Nation moves into town. The city bends over backwards to accommodate MIA, rearranging or canceling bus routes, restricting parking and blocking off streets. It’s a case of Live Nation and MIA holding the city hostage for two days.    

The tragedy at Astroworld highlights the lethal mix of dark woke rap with Live Nation’s insatiable hunger for bigger and better concerts. It was Astroworld’s star performer, Travis Scott, after all, who announced at one of his concerts in 2015 for fans to jump the security barricades.

“There’s not enough security to stop them all from hopping the fence,” he said. For that stunt, Scott, aka Jacques Bermon Webster, was sentenced to 1 year of court supervision after pleading guilty to reckless conduct charges. The rapper also made headlines that same year for kicking a cameraman off his stage.

At the ill-fated 2021 Houston concert, Politifact reported that Scott preformed for 37 minutes “as a mass causality unfolded.” In 1969, Mick Jagger, claiming he never knew the fatal stabbing of Meredith Hunter was taking place, kept on singing “Under My Thumb.” Scott’s Astroworld concert, or a trip to its theatrical stage name, Utopia Mountain, cost fans $350 a ticket (resellers got $993.00 per ticket). At this year’s Astroworld event, fans rushed the security barricades, knocking them over in a mad rush. Some saw this as evidence that Scott’s concert was "Satanic," but that was later lampooned in the press as absurd.  

Scott has offered his condolences to the loved ones of the people who died. “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” he’s on record as saying. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.” Scott then offered to cover the victims’ funeral expenses. Live Nation stated that it was "heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has its eyes set on the 2022 MIA Parkway concert when residents of the Parkway and the Museum area will either leave town or weather the two-day musical lockdown. You can be sure that the ACLU and The Reform Alliance will be there with their petitions and sign-in sheets, bringing in the masses -- while from behind the microphone audiences will hear the latest woke rap sounds of "F—k Trump" or whoever else happens to be on the Left’s current enemies list.

Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based journalist/columnist and the 2005 recipient of the AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism.  He is the author of fifteen books, including Literary Philadelphia and From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia. Death at Dawn: The Murder of Kimberly Ernest will be published in 2022.

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