Hip-hop flip-flop

How the final hip-hop show at the Boardwalk managed not to be canceled

From now on, the Boardwalk is sticking to rock and country—say goodbye to hip-hop.

From now on, the Boardwalk is sticking to rock and country—say goodbye to hip-hop.

Photo courtesy of the Boardwalk

Friday marked the last hip-hop show at the Boardwalk in Orangevale for the foreseeable future—and it very nearly didn’t happen.

The performers: Awells, the15th and Aaron Taylor, booked the show a few months ago to debut their new albums. It was the15th’s first live performance in the Sacramento area, and everything was going swell until a June 22 shooting outside the venue left two people injured. Mark Earl, the longtime owner of the Boardwalk, made a snap decision that night.

“We canceled all the hip-hop shows,” Earl said. “The crowds were difficult to work with … once guns came out, it wasn’t worth it.”

Former Ace of Spades owners Bret Bair and Eric Rushing—who are also behind Goldfield Trading Post and Holy Diver—ran booking operations for the Boardwalk until 2016, when Earl took the reins again.

Ian Mackey, the manager for the15th, says the show was downplayed. It wasn’t on the marquee, it was removed from the website—it was a ghost show.

Earl tried to cancel the performance, but a conversation with artist Awells changed his mind. Earl kept the event off the website because it’s not the type he wants to promote, which he described as more of an R&B show than a hip-hop one.

For the15th, it’s a bizarre introduction to the music scene, being “literally the last hip-hop act ever” at the Boardwalk.

“I’m approaching it as if it’s any other show, but with a special attention to detail,” the15th said. “I want this to be memorable. I want to show the owners there’s a new wave of kids coming through.”

The co-owner of the Blue Lamp, Gabriell Garcia, has always kept doors open for hip-hop artists. She feels that the blame for violence at shows doesn’t fall on one specific genre.

“I think you can have problems with any kind of music,” Garcia said. “A problem is that people don’t know who they’re working with, as far as promoters or the artists.”

Taylor, an EDM artist who often DJs for Awells, feels shutting out a huge portion of the Sacramento music scene doesn’t solve the problem.

“It depends on who you’re bringing in, honestly,” Taylor said. “There are artists like Wells, where nothing gets super rowdy or crazy. There’s never been a fight break out or anything.”

That’s still frustrating for local hip-hop educator and artist Paul Willis, who finds that all too often, incidences of violence get unfairly linked to the musician.

“Likely, those artists had nothing to do with it,” Willis said, “but that’s all they’re going to talk about.”

Earl listed off hip-hop artists he’d had no problems with—E40, Baby Bash, Andre Nickatina—but he says he doesn’t have the time to sort through problematic artists.

“I have nothing against the type of music,” Earl said, “but the crowd, you can’t anticipate what they may or may not do.”

According to Willis, people often don’t distinguish between rap and hip-hop—it’s all lumped into one group and judged the same, despite huge differences. He also said Sacramento hip-hop artists have to work incredibly hard, often investing their personal money and facing discrimination at the same time.

“Walking into places, they say, ‘Oh, no, we only want acoustic open-mics. We only want a certain type of demographic,'” Willis said. “We need more spaces to be open and available to hip-hop.”

“What can artists do?” he asked. “Where else are we supposed to go when places like that shut down?