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.