Update: Z-Trip offers a more extensive account of the night-
On Saturday, June 6th, DJ Z-Trip performed at the Power & Light District in Kansas City, followed by DJ Jazzy Jeff, then MSTRKRFT. That evening, Jeff's set was unexpectedly cut short by the venue. While speculation continues as to the reasoning behind this action, Z-Trip was present at the time of the debated incident.
While soundchecking, Z-Trip was asked by certain venue employees to "not play any rap music." As one of the founders of the mash-up movement, hip-hop is heavily prevalent in Z's repertoire. He proceeded with his set as planned, playing ODB and Pharoahe Monch.
Z-Trip watched Jazzy Jeff go on immediately following, joined by his MC, Skillz, playing a set full of Top 40 Hip-hop which included Jay-Z, Rihanna, Neyo, and TI. Mid set, Z-Trip, while standing on stage, witnessed Jeff's tour manager relay the complaints the venue had about the music he was playing. "I was really surprised the venue were upset by Jeff's set. This is Jazzy Jeff we're talking about, the guy who won the first Rap Grammy," offers Z-Trip.
"The entire venue watched Jeff leave the stage early. Once back stage, he was informed that lewd conduct by Skillz was the reason for his set being cut short. Soon after, a different reason was offered: Jeff was pushing the mix too far for their $50k audio system to handle.
"They had a team of sound engineers in front of the stage who controlled the master volume of the whole venue," says Z-Trip. "No matter how loud a DJ plays, the person in front of the stage controls the show. So how can you blame it on sound levels - especially since this was the third explanation given."
Update: DJ Z-Trip -- who performed before Jazzy Jeff in KC -- was told not to play hip-hop. His manager tell us: "ZTRIP was told not to play rap at soundcheck. he did anyway. his set was b4 Jeff. no issues."
There's been a lot of fury riled up in the past 24 hours since Jazzy Jeff posted on his Twitter: "HOW DID THEY KICK ME OFF STAGE IN KANSAS CITY FOR PLAYIN HIP HOP...I'M A 25YR LEGEND...THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT."
The event, part of the national Bacardi B-Live tour, took place at The Kansas City Power & Light District, a public-private entertainment venture supported in part by tax dollars, with a history of racial controversy, including dress code issues. It makes you wonder what the heck is going on in KC.
Jeff later talked to the Kansas City Star to give a more thorough version of the story, claiming: "My road manager walked up to me and said they were having problems with the music I was playing. I played three more songs and he comes back. I knew something was wrong. They said I had to kick [touring rapper] Skillz off the stage, change the format of the music I was playing or quit. They said if I continued playing they had 30 cops ready to come escort me offstage. So I stopped."
The venue, of course, tells a completely different story, claiming the show was shut off due to sound levels and Jeff's management refusing to turn it down.
As anyone who has ever worked at a club can tell you, things get pretty confusing when stuff like this goes down in a loud venue where folks have been drinking. A game of telephone can easily commence between the management of a venue, the management of the artist and the final message that gets to the DJ. So it's probably safe to assume the truth falls somewhere in the middle. But regardless of what precisely occurred on this particular night, this story is a good reminder of the sort of conflicts that still arise between private sector business interest, public funding, the arts, race and a whole slew of other factors. We must remain diligent without becoming hysterical.