LifestyleStacy M. Brown

The Astroworld Debate: Are Race and Hip-Hop Being Scapegoated?

A sudden stampede on the stage during Travis Scott’s recent Astroworld Festival has now led to nine deaths, multiple injuries and a slew of lawsuits. But the ill-fated event still has many asking who should be held responsible.

Meanwhile, rumors persist as to what happened with unanswered questions looming that pertain to the safety measures then in place for the 50,000 attendees and who should bear responsibility for the tragic sequence of events.

Scott remains in the direct line of fire with renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump announcing he has filed 93 lawsuits on behalf of more than 200 clients.

“Live Nation is the biggest concert promoter in the world and, yes, Travis Scott is on the lawsuit,” Crump declared at a news conference on Friday, November 12. “[The families of] people who lost their lives deserve answers and we’re not going to let anyone off the hook.”

Scott maintains he had no clue that things could go so wrong.

“Everybody in that venue, starting from the artist on down, has a responsibility for public safety,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña demanded.

James Crawford, the co-founder and CEO of the e-commerce platform DealDrop said regardless of security measures, Scott shoulders a big part of the blame.

“If the performing artist has succeeded in captivating the audience, it is not difficult for them to persuade certain elements of the crowd to do anything they want them to,” Crawford said. “Artists have the capability to induce an almost trance-like state in the audience and with proper manipulation, this can easily become a form of mind control. In these situations, the artist must accept responsibility for the effect on their followers.”

Authorities said the show continued for at least 40 minutes after injuries had first been reported. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters he met with Scott before the show and expressed concern about crowd control. However, Finner did not ask Scott to cancel the event.

“The ultimate authority to end a show is with production and the entertainer and that should be through communication with public safety officials,” Finner said. “We don’t hold the plug.”

The chief added that an individual involved in Astroworld’s production had been contacted and advised to stop the show.

However, a plan has surfaced that revealed the show’s executive producer and the festival’s director as the only individuals empowered to halt activities. Still, some assert those facts do not absolve Scott.

“Travis Scott has a conviction for reckless conduct after encouraging fans to rush the stage at another festival in 2015 and again at an indoor venue in 2017,” Crawford said. “There are no indications that he made any such suggestions at Astroworld but given previous incidents, the possibility of it happening should have been [anticipated].”

Some hip-hop artists demurred at the suggestion that Scott could have prevented the chaos and death that ensued at Astroworld.

“When you’re on stage performing and when you go back and look, Travis Scott has these earplugs in his ears because otherwise, you can’t hear the music from the set,” said SpitSlam Record Label Group hip-hop artist Memphis Jelks.

“So, he’s not hearing what people are yelling at him, so if they’re saying stop the show, he’s only hearing the music,” Jelks said. “He sees the crowd mosh pitting and that’s normal.”

Jelks asserted that the job of the artist isn’t to act as security.

“The artist is doing a job. He’s being paid a certain amount of money to perform for a crowd who paid to see him,” Jelks insisted.

“You have to have measures in place before a show starts. This is more so on the security, the venue and Live Nation, the corporation behind this.”

Hall of Fame hip-hop pioneer and Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, who founded SpitSlam Record Label Group, also defended Scott.

“How they blame Travis Scott for this is crazy. It’s sheer stupidity,” Chuck D said.

He recalled a 1987 Public Enemy concert in which the legendary group erroneously received blame for the death of two girls trampled in a stampede in Nashville.

“We were in a hotel,” he tweeted. “CNN blamed Public Enemy. We were banned for three years from there and some other arenas.”

After an investigation, officials absolved Public Enemy of any blame.

“The hardest thing in the USA is learning something from a Black person,” Chuck D declared. “Not only am I pulling a race card, it’s the size of a placard.”

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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