What Happened To The Tunnel Banger?

Without saying too much about my age, I’ll admit that during my very first trip to New York City I visited its infamous The Tunnel nightclub. Coming from Los Angeles I was used to a particular look of the club scene, but The Tunnel turned out to be the complete antithesis of that. Whereas parties on the Left Coast really cracked off around 11pm and finished by two in the morning, The Tunnel (and, as I would soon learn, virtually every nightclub in New York) would still remain strong by 3:00am. Perhaps due to that lateness factor, people were especially freaky and damn near everybody got daggered in there.

Good times.

Anyways, the most intriguing aspect of The Tunnel was that even the most gutter of street songs were as well-received as chart-topping hits. In fact it was at The Tunnel that I first got turned on to what is now my favorite Jay-Z song of all time, “So Ghetto.” Seriously, where else have you seen “So Ghetto” being played in a spot with more women in form-fitting outfits than there are guys rocking backpacks? Although it ultimately turned out to be my only trip to The Tunnel (I blame Shyne shooting a woman in her face instead of punching her in it like any normal domestic disputer for ruining it for me), to this day I consider it one of my personal favorite moments in hip hop.

Sadly things like The Tunnel do not exist anymore, where underground mavens would share the spotlight with top-40 darlings, where fans of Big Pun’s “You Ain’t A Killer” would mingle with fans of Big Pun’s “Still Not A Player” in the same venue. Instead, if I want to hear those two songs I’d have to either spin them myself, or attend two separate events. In the demise of the “Tunnel sound,” however, the strip club sound rose and took its place. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with it, but with the changing of the guard it seems that hip hop lost a relatively important identity that it still struggles to find to this day.

I’m well aware that the era of The Tunnel and it’s trademark sound has gone the way of the rolled up FUBU pants leg, and I haven’t given up on the current music of today providing decent iPod fodder. I could definitely do without the violent aspect of The Tunnel either, where hip hop’s black eye got blacker with every black eye given out to unfortunate Tunnel patrons. Plus, hearing a DJ Premier-produced song in a strip club is like me going to lunch at a strip club; it’s never going to happen. But if you ever see a woman p-popping on a handstand to “So Ghetto,” point me in the direction of that nudie bar please.

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  • Sha

    Dude! I have to say this….

    I have been thoroughly unimpressed with your blogs. I expected to be educated, or challenged mentally, or even to laugh. But your blogs seem really self-involved and lazy.

    I can’t knock your perspective. Your view is yours. But show us some heat. Make us want to read. Nuff said.

  • d-bo

    I totally agree with that shit.

    Fuck the first guy who replied to this because he is obviously a douche.

    Touching on the connection between mainstream and underground hip hop is an important topic in my opinion. I don’t really go to clubs anymore, because the music that gets played is too commercial. Commercial shit follows you around everywhere you go. Fuck that.

    I would go to clubs if they mixed it up between some more underground shit and some commercial shit because if you only play hard shit, you can guarantee that no bitches will show up. I agree with the sentiment.

  • Moving Sideways

    MJQ in Atlanta is a very eclectic club, it is a bit hipster, but still a lot of fun.

    • El Tico Loco

      I was gonna say that, you gotta catch it on a friday tho, I don’t like the fact that they charge extra if you plan on smokin and security be on it too.

  • Pot Holes In My Lawn

    They still make tunnel “like” bangers… the problem is they don’t get played. artists have to beg/play djs to play them and bloggers d*ck ride artists and don’t post much of a variety.

    there is so much music being made these days that I find it perplexing that only certain artists get played/blogged…

    back in the tunnel days DJs were more openminded and progressive. now they are just clones.

  • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

    Yeah the Tunnel was the spot. The homie Vin Diesel used to bounce there.

    But you missed the Palladium, Union Square, Skate USA, Speed, HARLEM WORLD, Bentley’s, Club Zanzibar, CBGB’s, The Paradise Garage, The Octagon, The Bank…I can keep going.

    And I named DANCE clubs, not just Hip Hop hot spots, because the Hip Hop crowd was in those other spots too.

    The NYC club scene fell off when Rudy G re-zoned all of the cabaret areas, combined with the violence (which raised insurance), and the X craze, when they were trying to lock Gatien up, who owned a lot of the big clubs anyway.

  • http://www.emcdl.com EmCDL

    This is actually a good blog and brought up some valid points; there just isn’t any clubs that do the ‘hybrid’ of playing both underground/independent music and mainstream anymore, which is sad. I always thought that one of the main reasons of going to the club is to hear both of those type of sounds, requesting to the DJ what you want played, hearing your song come on during the mix, etc. Sadly its all about money nowadays given the strength of this recession….and like d-bo said, chicks wont even show up if that underground ish is playing, because they wanna only hear the music they hear on the radio.

    But if you search hard enough, there are places that still play both those types of music, there just few and far between. Since I’ve been living in Cali there are two places so far that I’ve found that still play those types of hybrids, but have older folks in there as well (and younger folks who still appreciate the best of both worlds).

  • SansBeach

    I been speaking about similar topics with my friends for years in regards to music changing.
    You can make great street and underground records but if there is no venue for them it does not matter.

    They played deep album cuts in the tunnel not just singles. I can not think of 1 place that that would play Hov BIG Curren$y Khalifa Outkast Snoop and the Clipse and then have some or most of the songs come from the heart of album.

    Its just not gonna happen

  • Jerod

    Somebody should get up off their ass and open one of these clubs up then. Fuck; if that even needs to be pointed out. Make it a place people want to go to, because it’s thEE place to go to. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION PEOPLE! Stop thinking big cities. Eh, big cities are eh. Get out of the damn metropolis though. Sheesh.

    • http://jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

      Insurance rates are a motherfucker for any club catering to the Hip-Hop crowd, just like the concert venues. And if you chose to go the “Blind Pig” route (no insurance/license) your club will never look better than “seedy” and po-po will shut you down if you don’t pay astronomical protection fees. Believe me, I’ve looked into it, had a chance to invest in a club, learned how the game worked and said “fuck that”.

      I just don’t have enough money to play that game, and there’s a million other people out there just like me.

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    the songs are out there BUT its not venue. its just not whats in right now. i mean people are age don’t go out. the last place i heard great hip hop was a great spot in the A. it was a lounge/resturant. The music was great. the music was incredible.

    besides that.

    b. these lil kids having their run and making them music. i hate to say it but a lot of old hip hop fans sound like grumpy old men. let the music be.

    real hip hop or “tunnel bangers” need a market that can sustain the occassional club goer vs these young kids who do that Thurs-Mond club thing that we all did at some point.

  • Jerod

    Man. I’m twenty-one years old… and I sound like a grumpy old man. FOR GOOD REASON!

    How many people here get the majority of their hip-hop news and video’s from WSHH, XXL, and Datpiff?

    I just sent an e-mail to WSHH asking them to stop posting videos about people wilding out in the hood, lebron james, pit bulls, strippers falling down, indian women with big butts… I’m sure they won’t though… that’s 75% of their content. 1 in 5 videos is actually worth watching.

    I just don’t understand. Why do we support the worst of the worst?

  • EF Cuttin

    Yo Mek, U need 2 get 2 New Orleans fam… Every Saturday I spin Tunnel Bangers at The Hookah,one of the dopest nightspots in the city (as seen in Curren$y’s King Kong video)…