Local rapper Trick Trick has led the 'No Fly Zone' for several years. (Detroit News archive photo)
The cancellation of Rick Ross’ performance at Chene Park last weekend has thrust the city and the hip-hop rules of a “No Fly Zone” into the national spotlight.
Until the June 21 incident, few outside the city’s hip-hop community knew about the so-called “No Fly Zone,” making Detroit an area where artists are not permitted to perform without including members of the local hip-hop scene.
Upset with how national artists have come into Detroit, made six-figure checks and left town, local rap artist Trick Trick has led the charge for several years.
The issue has taken center stage primarily because Miami rapper Ross is the most high-profile artist involved. But hip-hop observers and concert promoters said the “No Fly Zone” simply sends the wrong message for a city that’s already plagued by a negative perception of a municipal bankruptcy and the aftermath of the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption scandal.
“We shouldn’t even be having a discussion on who can come here or who cannot come here,” said David Rudolph, a spokesman for the Right Productions, which operates Chene Park.
“We all have issues about making sure Detroiters are getting a piece of the pie. We all should be having a seat at the table. But there’s a way to ask and demand that seat and you earn that. You don’t do that through an intimidating or corrosive nature. It doesn’t help the city. A lot of folks in this town are working hard to improve the image of Detroit and making it a welcoming place for all.”
Ross refused to take the stage at Chene Park last Saturday after he received threats and was confronted by a human blockade of more than 100 people. The blockage, which occurred outside of the Atwater Street venue, was orchestrated by Trick Trick, most commonly known for his 2005 song “Welcome 2 Detroit” with Eminem. The protest ended peacefully, but about 3,000 people left without seeing Ross, the headline act.
(Editor's note: The above video contains strong language not suitable for all audiences.)
Detroit native Trick Trick, born Christian Mathis, released a video statement Wednesday about the incident on YouTube.
“All I did was taught brothers how to stand for something and stand for it without being violent,” he said in the 11-minute video. “… Didn’t nobody get arrested, wasn’t no bloodshed, didn’t nothing happen wrong, other than some people got disappointed in not wanting to see who they wanted to see. And for that, ladies and gentlemen, I apologize. But me and that man’s business is me and that man’s business.”
He later apologized to those caught in the middle of the issue.
“... It was not directed at you, nor was it directed at the venue, nor was it directed at the radio station,” Trick Trick said. “Some things had to be done, they were done, everybody left healthy, and we got everybody’s attention.”
The issue, like many in Detroit, is about inclusion. Those artists who refuse to collaborate with Detroit hip-hop artists or contribute to the area financially in some way are not welcome to perform in the city.
Some perceive it as a Detroit “tax” for doing business in the rap game, but Trick Trick has said it’s about making sure Detroit sees some benefits of the national artists when they cross Eight Mile.
“What (expletive) do I look like telling somebody you got to pay me to come to my (expletive) town? Don’t you think I would been in prison if that’s what was going on?” Trick Trick said.
Khary Turner, a hip-hop journalist and author, said it about respect of local artists by promotional groups, local radio and mainstream media. He said the issue is more pronounced in Detroit since artists such as Trick Trick and Slum Village are well-known elsewhere but don’t get the same respect — and pay — at home.
There’s also “a lack of balance” on local airwaves of Detroit artists, Turner said.
“What Trick has done is he stepped to the front of that issue. He decided to speak up,” said Turner, who has written for the Source, XXL and Vibe magazines. “They see Ross come to town, make $100,000 and leave. Detroit artists perform (and) not get nearly as much to do a show. That’s where the line in the sand is drawn. It’s about the larger issue of local celebrity.”
Carl Hollier, known as DJ Invisible, said it’s not necessarily the best thing for Detroit, but added it’s about respect. It’s also about adhering to the hip-hop code of acknowledging the local star and letting them know you’re in their house.
“It’s more of a street respect thing. Trick wasn’t asking for any money,” said Hollier, who toured internationally with national recording artist Xzibit. “It’s an easy thing to avoid. When you go to Detroit, say hi to Trick. Invite him to the show. It’s a no-brainer. All you have to do is give the same respect you want when people come to your town. It’s an olive branch kind of thing.”
Concert promoters at the Garden Theater became aware of the No Fly Zone issue when West Coast artist YG headlined a show May 2. The promoters heard discussions of a protest on Twitter that threatened to shut down that show.
They took steps to reach out to Trick Trick’s camp to ensure the show moved forward, said Rudolph, who also serves as spokesman for the Garden Theater.
“This was the first time we heard about this, and we were definitely concerned to the point of reaching out to his camp to let them know that we were not looking for any type of interruption of any nature to our show,” Rudolph said.
But in the end, the only people who get hurt are those looking for entertainment to escape some of the city’s numerous issues, some say.
“At the end of the day, the citizens of Detroit lose out,” said Sulaiman Mausi, general manager of Chene Park. “It’s another black eye in Detroit for no reason. Chene Park is one of the best venues in the country. People love performing there. ... It’s never happened before. It won’t happen again.”
If there is something to take from Saturday’s protest, it is that Trick Trick is able to mobilize young people on the city streets, Turner said. Other community leaders recognize it, considering Trick Trick appeared in the 2013 “I believe in Detroit” ad campaign.
“The positive fallout is you’ve got a street-level leader who can organize something like this,” Turner, said. “If he can organize a No Fly Zone and make it real, then he can also organize a No Gun Zone and make it just as real. I’m thinking if there’s somebody in the city who has that kind of sway in the street, you need gather and have a conversation with him.”