When I first heard of this I assumed that it was a bad name for a gentleman’s club. When I found out that Booty Basement was the name of a monthly hip-hop hosted night here in Portland, I was excited to get out of the house and hear some good music. Since I’ve been here I haven’t really been social. Maybe a happy hour here or there or something called Family Dinner. I was fooled once by an event called First Fridays. I used to attend First Fridays in Nashville when I lived there for graduate school. While it’s not a bad event it’s definitely not what I’m used to in a First Fridays event.
Saturday night came and I was told that I should dress prepared to sweat and to get there early because the line would get really long. This made me more excited. When I used to go out with my friends WE PARTIED. We danced. We drank. We sweated. I hadn’t done that in a long time so I was looking forward to a night of fun. My girlfriend and I got into line around 9:30 and there were about 5 people in front of us. Three of them were white but I didn’t think too much about this.
Approximately 10 minutes later the line stretched about a half a block long and as I looked back at the line formed behind us I was hard-pressed to find a person of color. I was told that Booty Basement, while a hip hop night, is mostly attended by Anglo Saxons. This wasn’t surprising to me considering that they are the largest financial consumers of rap music. I’m not so narrow minded to believe that White Americans can’t or shouldn’t enjoy music that is mostly made by Black Americans but something about that night didn’t sit too well with me.
I know that the term appropriation has saturated our cultural lexicon but it’s the only word that seems appropriate. I got the feeling that most of the people there treated the night as a costume party; wearing what they thought was hip-hop gear only to don their pleated khakis and crocs come Monday morning. Everything about what I saw felt inauthentic. As someone who grew and spent the majority of their childhood and adolescence appreciating and absorbing all types of hip-hop and rap music I was lightweight offended. Perhaps I just happened across the wrong Booty Basement and there are other times where it might be an enjoyable experience for someone like me.
I wasn’t too much a fan of the ghostriding the whip/Oakland documentary followed by the home videos of twerking being played on the projector over the bar. It just didn’t seem right given the patrons. The Miley Cyrus twerking imitations irritated me and as the crowd sung along to song after song I was waiting for someone (a White American) to slip up and say nigga.
The icing on the proverbial cake of inappropriateness happened when I was trying to have a good time and dance a little. This White American man walked up to me and in what I can only describe as willful ignorance asked if “the names on my shirt were members of my band or something.” For reference the shirt I was wearing is pictured to the right. I was taken aback by his question but I quickly responded, “Actually these are the names of Black men throughout this country’s history who have been unjustly and unlawfully murdered by White men.” His response was “Oh. I’m so sorry” and he embarrassingly walked back to his group of friends. Throughout the night he kept stealing glances at me and I made sure he could see the names on my shirt clearly.
Needless to say I’m not hard pressed to attend another Booty Basement.