Bayou City

Fitzgerald's Stung by Controversy After Producer Calls for Boycott

Jack Gorman
Fitzgerald’s, perhaps Houston’s most historic music venue still in regular operation, is facing a firestorm of criticism after a racially charged email exchange between the club and a respected Houston rap producer and promoter began going viral early Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after noon, TrakkSounds, whose new single featuring Scarface, Starlito and Kam Franklin, “Once Upon a Time,” premiered today on XXL, posted a message featuring screenshots of an email exchange between his given name, Garrett Brown, and Fitzgerald’s. The email from the club, regarding a possible booking by TrakkSounds’ duo Starlito & Don Trip, reads:

“I’m gonna pass on this. Not a big fan of the ‘nigger,bitch,pussy,whore,gonnafuckingshootyou” [sic] music or the fans that wear their pants under their ass with their underwear showing, drink and smoke pot in the parking lot, then scream, ‘you racist bitch’ when I ask that they take their lit joint outside. 300 fans that buy little, tip little and create big disharmony – no thanks.’”

Brown’s answer says:

“Wow...sounds like quite the stereotype but if that’s how you feel then all power to you. A simple no would have worked as well but it sounds like you have some aggression build up [sic] about something else. Have a good week and god bless you.

Sara Fitzgerald, the venue’s owner, claims she was quoting from Starlito & Don Trip’s song “Caesar & Brutus” in the club's message.

“I listened to the song, and every other word was the [lyrics] I put in quotes,” she said. “And I said to him something to the effect that I don’t want to do that type of music. You know, sometimes I don’t know what I’m getting. Sometimes I book a show and I’m not too sure what comes. We’ve had rap acts, and we had [comedian] Hannibal Buress this past weekend and he used the n-word, you know, in his comedy act.

"It seemed appropriate there," says Fitzgerald, who resumed day-to-day operations of the venue about a year ago after leasing it out for several years, a period that was not without controversy itself. "But this gratuitous violence and one cuss word after another just seems to be the hallmark of that music, but after a while it gets quite boring, and the people that like that are just hard to deal with, frankly.”

Still, Fitzgerald defended her club, which she bought in 1977, against the outpouring of vitriol.

“Why is my reputation on the line? It was their lyrics,” she insists. “It was their lyrics. That’s what I’m scratching my head about.”

“I've been doing shows and hip hop music for 7 years now,” TrakkSounds told the Houston Press via email. “I have been to many hip-hop shows there and never once had a problem of any sort. Never seen such blatant stereotyping or a ridiculous response from a ‘professional.’

"Crazy really,” he added. “I'm still in schock [sic]."

He was hardly alone; word spread quickly around Houston’s scene and beyond. DJ Mr. Rogers reposted Trakksounds’ message almost immediately. Kam Franklin, lead singer of the Suffers, called on other artists to “be aware of this racist bullshit.” Buress, who has more than 727,000 Twitter followers, posted a message that said, “Yeesh. Just worked at this spot on Friday. Never again though.”

Two local indie promoters, The Secret Group and Austin-based Margin Walker’s Houston branch, vowed to pull any future shows from the venue. Warehouse Live offered its services to any of TrakkSounds’ future productions, saying, “We don’t play like that.” Fitzgerald's set its own Twitter account to "private" a few hours after the situation began; earlier, it had replied to TrakkSounds' original message with a tweet that began, "boycott away...we do not host misogynistic music that worships rape culture and harbors hatred."

Even wrestler Booker T, the former WWE star and founder of Houston's Reality of Wrestling — who has said he's thinking about running for Houston mayor — weighed in:

A similar free-for-all played out on Facebook, and three hours later, the fallout did not seem to be letting up. Even Fitzgerald herself called it a “PR nightmare.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” she says. “I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been scratching my head over for a long time, because I like to think that we’re open to all kinds of music, but [that kind is]’s embarrassing.”

Despite the situation, Fitzgerald strenuously denied any charges of racism.

“And maybe I’m just old [and] I’m not getting it,” she says. “But for them to say I don’t like black music...I mean, I’ve probably had more black music in Fitzgerald’s than any white club in town. I like music, and I like black music. I just don’t know how to deal with this type of music.”

Brandon Caldwell helped report this article.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray