Monday, March 30, 2009

Hip Hop, DMV, DC, who ya wit?

I've been talking about doing this post for a few days and I wanted to wait until after the EMAs to post this. I'd like to thank Mo Betta for playing a part in my inspiration to do this post.

Entering the Hip Hop side of DC's (I'll use DC as an all inclusive term because I haven't infiltrated Baltimore or Virginia yet but it's coming) independent music scene head first as of recent, I have been blessed and relieved to know there's a plethora of talent in this area. For years, I have been plagued with the reality of wack rappers hailing from DC. Buying umpteen CDs for $5 from guys hawking me as I'm passing buy, sales pitch ready and not taking no for an answer. I'll be honest, I bought many of their CDs so they would get out of my face. I've been a Hip Hop fan practically my entire life so I have a pretty good idea of how a good/bad rapper sounds. On a more positive note, since my interest in having a career in the entertainment industry was peaked at the age of 12 (Thanks Diddy), one of my goals was to be one of the first to put a rapper from the DC area on the map (clearly I've been beaten to the punch). For years I wondered, 'Why not us, why not us?' always coming up with possibilities but never a means to a new musical beginning. With Go-Go being the area's biggest claim to fame as of the late twentieth century, along with Punk for a brief time, Jazz and R&B preceeding and continuing to a smaller extent, I realized DC's lack of Hip Hop-centricity played a huge role in our absence from Hip Hop.

Fast forward to the present, we have Mr. Folarin and Mr. Bonney as the faces of DC Hip Hop. Many have strong opinions about that but this piece isn't about them and those who disagree with their style and image. With both of those gentlemen in the positions they're in, we've made a little progress. Still many more in the area are working to break through the glass ceiling. I hear and read some local rappers saying "We need to stick together in order for us to truly get on the map" or something to that effect (know that I can't remember words very well). Contrary to that mantra, there's a huge lack of unity amongst a good majority of the rappers here.

Some of you may have seen my sound off on Twitter a few nights ago. For those that didn't see it, I'll update you - I attended the Queen of The DMV event last Wednesday and knew something was up from the gate. Performers paying to get in, "Make sure to get on the sign up sheet" - hold this an open mic? Yep, I was misled by the advertising (and I posted that flyer on the blog, too). I thought the line up had been pre-screened and preset. Nope, well probably pre-screened. Anyway, with the exception of a few, a SMALL few, my attention wasn't kept at all. One woman sounded as if she were having a basic poetic conversation with a beat playing in the background. I attempted to listen to each one of these ladies fairly but could no longer tolerate. A large majority of these women have been bamboozled, hoodwinked and led astray. They need to fire they're friends because either they're too afraid of giving constructive criticism (which would prevent me from doing posts such as this) or they don't know what a good rapper is supposed to sound like. Upset that I sat through another event outside of my usual DC Hip Hop realm to hear more rappers who lived up to the DC "No Talent Havin' Rappers" stereotype, I stayed for 90 minutes and bounced. I learned of the winner of the event, Madam Madon, the next day and listened to her - she's okay. I know everyone can't be lyrical but at least have a little wordplay in your rhyme. It was at that point I knew the cancerous political influence of DC had infected the burgeoning DC Hip Hop scene and that I was not attending the DMV EMAs (the list was rigged and if you think otherwise you're lunchin'). It was also at that point I knew 100% my "Theory of Three" was correct.

I initially was going to talk about the different groups of female emcees in the area but since those groups involve males, I'm going to mention each one as its own entity. Here's the breakdown of my theory of three:

DC rappers whose sound reflects DC tradition period (This was the path many of the women at the Queen of The DMV event have chosen to take)

DC rappers whose sound is influenced by DC tradition but displays progression beyond their reality

DC rappers whose sound is influenced by DC tradition but displays progression beyond their reality and reflects Afro-centricity and a heightened level of social awareness and consciousness

Now I will say that all of the rappers as a whole I've heard who fall into one of these categories aren't necessarily better than those who fall into another and vice versa. I think it's important for all artists within a genre to see what else is going on in their locale. I follow the rappers in the second and third categories more than the first because, generally speaking, the bars are risen higher and people are grabbing hold. I will also say, however that many of the rappers I've heard in category one miss the bar entirely too often. You're not getting your shine and CREDIBLE publicity for a reason. Take accountability for your skill set as a performing artist because you only get one shot. People are looking at DC now, so that one shot counts more than ever.

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