The gangster mentality in house music – and why Detroit’s Carl Craig is the perfect example of this protectionist mindset

Carl Craig is upset. He’s not saying that in entirely straightforward terms, but that’s the message. The likes of Michael James, Annabel Ross, Ellie Flynn and others – not to mention myself – have been digging for months now, and it’s obviously getting under the skin of his friend.

Nothing else explains the current torrent of messages he’s pushing on social media that say “Real Detroiters don’t back down”. One includes the slightly disturbing caption that “people who ain’t from Detroit need to stay out of Detroit business” – as if he’s some kind of tinpot dictator.

I can only speak for myself here, but I’m afraid that your petulant, self-indulgent little tantrum isn’t going to work on me, Mr Craig. Following your absurd theory that people who aren’t from Detroit shouldn’t get involved in “Detroit business”, no one outside city limits should ever listen to any of your records.

For supposedly such an intelligent man, he fails to see how unbelievably stupid and self-defeating his argument really is. If his argument was applied across the board, he wouldn’t have been able to make a living out of music.

So, why is Craig resorting to these kinds of laughable arguments? Well, the answer is quite simple. It’s in house music’s DNA, even if no one is ever prepared to admit it – it’s the gangster mentality. It’s a combination of loyalty and tribalism, and Craig is deep into it.

To the likes of him, the likes of me writing about his friend Derrick May is the equivalent of finding out someone has been bullying one of your kids. Detroit to him is family – if you attack one of them, you attack all of them, in his mind.

This argument is occasionally understandable, if not somewhat misguided. In May’s case, however, his loyalty is nothing short of stupid. If Craig discovered that someone who wasn’t his friend had been accused of all these things, you can be absolutely assured that he wouldn’t be backing him in the way you speak up for someone who’s got into a little bit of trouble.

Well, I’m not remotely sorry if this bothers you, Mr Craig, but I won’t be stopping my investigations into Derrick May. It’s showing me the Detroit music scene in a new light. And an extremely unflattering one at that.

Frankly, the fact you’re reacting the way you are immediately tells me that there’s more going on. But I’m personally more curious about why the likes of Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson still haven’t said anything…

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