Originally published at ledosage.wordpress.com
"Well, I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it." That is the almost reflexive response to hearing something offensive in polite society. It comes with a slight tightening of the mouth and maybe a sigh. "Well, I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it" was my initial reaction to this headline last April, which lead into an article about the brilliant mural outside of The Musket Room, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Nolita.
The headline, which featured a label above it called "Culture Quotient," for me carried a distinct note of unwelcome. As if hip-hop and good food are at odds. As if black culture and fine dining are naturally at odds. What are *you* doing here? It seemed to say. How funny. You like the fine dining.
According to the article, Matt Lambert, executive chef and co-owner of The Musket Room, came up with the idea of beautifying the corrugated sheet metal gate with a piece of art. Painted by graffiti artist Fumero, the mural, with its jewel-toned, stained glass palate, depicts the Notorious B.I.G at the height of his prose and swagger. Its design commemorates the 18th anniversary of the rapper's death on March 9, 1997.
It's a cool idea. The article does a nice job of piquing my interest in Fumero and The Musket Room. One of these days (after I do my Johnny Kemp dance, let's be real) I hope to visit the restaurant for dinner. But that headline, tho...
But I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it.
Still, the feeling sucks and part of me protested: I like delicious food and I'm black! I'm black and I think wine is delicious! I've even got a pin! I belong here too, seeeeeeeeee?
Another other part of me was thoroughly vexed. Why do I feel the need to defend Biggie's presence? Or mine, for that matter. Why did the magazine's editorial staff see fit to question it?
I'm positive that when I do visit The Musket Room, I'll sample Chef Matt Lambert's delicious food and I'll find a delicious wine that compliments it perfectly, and no one will be daft enough to question the culture that Biggie and I call home to my face in the manner that headline did. After all, the point of the article was the beautiful art that draws people in and draws them together, which is kind of the point in this crazy business called Hospitality.