Is It Racist To Ban Rap Music?

Stock photo of DJ spinning turntables
(stock image via Depositphotos)

Progress Bar, a gay bar in Chicago, is getting some ‘racism side-eye’ after a leaked email from management instructed its DJs to ban rap music from their playlists.

The message, which was shared on Twitter, read:

We are changing up our format. Our goal is to promote a positive, happy, energetic, upbeat and most importantly… a FUN vibe. Think DJ AM for 2019 — a super open format POP/DANCE focused atmosphere. We have implemented a NO RAP rule effective immediately.

This is not a suggestion!! If you play RAP you will not be asked back.

Anything vulgar, aggressive or considered mumble rap (including certain Cardi B tracks and newer Nicki Minaj) is off limits. If you are unsure if a song qualifies, assume it does and choose something else. Think KISSFM/B96 opposed to WGCI.

If someone is pressuring you for a song just let them know it’s the new rule. There will be added security there to help with this transition and one specifically posted next to the DJ booth.

Email alleged to be from the management of Progress Bar in Chicago
(image via Twitter)

So, not only is rap banned from Progress Bar (it’s in ALL CAPS for emphasis), but the email makes it clear that rap will result in DJs not being asked back.

Plus, there’s going to be “added security” next to the DJ booth? Because management expects some trouble or violence over a rap ban?

Pretty strenuous messaging, it seems.

Progress Bar quickly issued a denial on their Facebook page (using more ALL CAPS) insisting that “EVERYONE IS WELCOME HERE!!!”

The bar also stressed there “are NO racial intentions here,” and the owners merely want to “tweak” their sound.

As many have seen today, an email was leaked in regards to the direction we want to take the sound of ProgressBar. Progress ownership wants to make it VERY clear that EVERYONE IS WELCOME HERE!!! We value our customers and respect EVERYONE. We are not the 1st bar to look into changing their sound, and we will not be the last. We are looking to try something new. We don’t know if it will work or not, but we want the opportunity to progress!

ProgressBar is about moving forward and continuing to evolve. Without the diversity and support of the LBGTQ community, we cannot do so. We hope that you will stand by us while we tweak things here and there. But understand, above all, there are NO racial intentions here. We love every person who walks through these doors and appreciate each and everyone of you. We have no ill intentions here. That can not be stressed enough. The sound isn’t going to be that much different, we are just tweaking what’s already here. We are still going to play hiphop, please don’t read too much into this.

The post has garnered over 1.7k comments at this writing.

The question seems to be: is banning rap racist?

On one hand, the management references in its email as an ‘approved’ vibe example the Chicago radio station KISSFM, whose ‘top songs’ list features Ava Max, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, Jonas Bros, Panic! At the Disco, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. All of those are pretty mainstream pop artists, and mostly white.

On the other hand, if you Google radio station WGCI, the first thing you see are photos of black artists:

(screen capture)

Progress Bar’s owners say the change has nothing to do with race.

Scrolling through the bar’s Facebook feed, it’s clear they hire several black DJs, so that really doesn’t feed the ‘racist’ theory.

And maybe the reaction to rap music hasn’t been very positive among the bar’s regulars?

Reading through comments on the inter-webs today, this writer came across some folks who shared:

• “Some people just don’t like rap music!”

• “Hip-hop depresses me, and rap makes me want to kill myself. It has nothing to do with racism. It’s just that rap sounds very angry most of the time.”

• “What if they wanted to switch to all country music?”

• “Rap is not a race and rap is one of the genres where it’s still ok to be heavily homophobic without consequences. Sorry, but I don’t find any fault with this bar.”


EDITOR’S UPDATE: We received a statement from the bar’s PR firm, sharing this: 

From Justin Romme, Owner of Progress Bar:

Progress Bar will reopen tonight (Friday May 30th), and there will not be a ban on rap or any other music genres.

I know it will take much more than this to regain the trust of the LGBTQ+ community. It will require an ongoing commitment and actions. I have reached out to trusted organizations and leaders in the Chicago LGBTQ+ community and will work with them in the coming days on steps we need to take. We also want to hear feedback from our patrons, neighbors and everyone in the LGBTQ+ community on how to build a more inclusive bar, and we will provide updates on these efforts.

What do you you think, readers? Is it ‘racist’ to ban rap music? Or do the owners of Progress Bar know their clientele’s taste in music?

Let us know in the comments section.

What do you think?