Friday, May 8, 2009

Forum Friday - The definition of DMV Hip Hop

I chose the name because I'm posting this to start the dialogue about some things I've wondered about for a couple months now. I'm not too sure if I'm going to make Forum Friday a weekly thing but it'll work for now.

Now to the point of this post...

I have a lot of friends and associates in the area who aren't native to the region and I always make an effort to expose them to what's going on in DMV HIp Hop because I think the scene is worth checking out now. I've had several constructive and insightful discussions with a few of them about the definition of DMV Hip Hop based on the following questions:

What is DC's stamp/brand on hip hop? A visual and audible reflection of our experiences relative to the DMV area. That means past, present, from the hoods to the burbs, sneaker kids in skinny jeans to Madness/Shooters/Solbiato wearing dudes finished off with New Balances and Nike Boots. From our colloquial phrases and rhetoric to GoGo to omnipresent drum hits in damn near every beat I've heard from a local producer.

What do the artists here want it to look like? See above

Where is it going? For some it has already reached the ears of many inside and outside the area. For others, their music will fall continue to fall on deaf ears everywhere.

Are the artists themselves united? Within their own circles - yes

This is one post that I'd like everyone who reads this to comment on whether you're an artist of any genre, fan, media outlet, producer, etc. I have yet to hear a conversation by people from the area that answers these questions. Now that we finally seem to be progress in Hip Hop we need to stop rehashing the age old question, "Why DC ain't on yet?"


Cam said...

Sonya's on point with the analysis. I'll be adding my stamp with a faster tempo to things. Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh Sonya!

Greg said...

What is DC's stamp/brand on hip hop?

Musically as it stands right now Go-Go. Wale and Tabbi Bonney seem to be the immediate future brand, I chalk that up to Hip Hop's current love affair with the "Hipster" scene/culture. They both seem to be of that ilk, I could be totally wrong though. Being the age I am I thought the only way to break through was with the more obvious gangster styled Rap. Wale and Tabbi may be the foot in the door we need. The only problem with that is we could get lost in the shuffle of the "Hipster" movement and become St. Louis (Lunatics, Nelly, etc.).

Fashion wise the way things are going the local fashion labels are not what Tabbi and Wale wear so they are not getting the exposure they need to impact the culture. Our style seems to be what everyone else is wearing so stylistically we may make no impact on the Fashion of Hip Hop.

Linguistically once again we are the influenced not the influencer, do the "Kids" still use "Son"? or have they moved on. We may only add one word the Hip Hop Lexicon, Bama, yeah I said it. Unfortunately we are not the Bay Area where the vast majority of recent Hip-Hop verbiage has originated (Oh, I want to thank Cash Money for Bling-Bling, NOT!!!. Matt Laure should not be using, Bling-Bling.)

The one way we can impact the culture is through production of music. I think that is where the one opening exist, Baltimore bubble up a few years ago with its Club Music influence production byway of the artist Young Leek (DefJam), apologies if I misspelled the kids name. DC had a run years ago with the Go-Go influenced late 80's early 90's Kid n' Play/ Salt & Pepa hits. Check that...
Not influenced, outright theft of our sound is more appropriate. I use to think Go-Go's sound was our shot but I have since lost faith in that idea. Even the heavily Go-Go influenced sound of Amerie producer Rich Harrison has not broke through and share his sound. His one shot at breaking through with a song by an artist of consequence was a track (Doin' it The Most, I believe) he did with Usher, apparently during the "Confession" recording session. Unfortunately the song was relegated to the Bonus disc on the Rhythm City Volume One: Caught Up DVD. Not the Confession re-issue, where four new songs were added.

So with Tabbi Bonney and Wale leading the musical charge adopting the fashion/look of the "Hipster" scene, leaving the Local Fashion label behind our room to impact style in the Hip Hop culture is currently very limited. While Tabbi has used the word Bama in his music (haven't heard enough Wale to comment about his use of the word), it will take time to see how many other DMV artist use it before I can write off its ability to impact the Hip Hop lexicon. Also the rapid pace with which the language changes most words don't stick around long anyway, linguistically we still have a shot at impacting the culture. Our one shot at impacting the Hip Hop Culture hinges on Wale's pending Major Label debut. If he is given the ability to feature local producers on the release We have a shot, if one of those tracks breaks nationally that person may reach back and pull other along. creating a lane for DMV producers to get on and by extension DMV artist.

What do the artists here want it to look like?
That's tough. What is the artist ability to create music that captures the Essencse of the DMV, does this have to account for the transient nature of our population or do they try to emulate what exist ti "Get On". What is a producers ability to create a sound that is unique to this area. The one person (Rich Harrion) to take the our unique sound (Go-Go) and create something distinct has had little success. Can the Local Fashion Labels create a look that is unique to this area. Do the Artist and Local Fashion Label share aligned goal of growing beyond regional boundaries.

Where is it going?
It seems to be going in progressively widening circles unfortunately when those circle will reach beyond the regions borders is uncertain. Wale certainly has the potential to really stretch the next ring of the circle but if you see my answer to the first question you know what the pitfalls are to his success or failure. Those whose music falls on deaf ears will fall back retool or go away. Shout out to Darwin!!

Are the artists themselves united?
You said it best but i'll say it again in one word. No. What will it take to Unite us, an Iron fisted Dictator like Saddam Hussein. His ability to unify warring parties in a common hatred of the US (until we freed them before we pissed them off again and reunited them in the hatred of the US) is remarkable. Why not bring a little bit of that to the DMV? Ok bad idea, plus they hung Saddam so he is not available. Is it possible to unite such a large geographical region on common terms knowing that some will rise and others fall. Shout out to Darwin again!!! Everyone feels they are the fittest DJ's play favorites radio does too so the artist are left to fight for their own. Plus right now there are competing "Scenes". R&B v Neo Soul or whatever they are calling it today. Backpackers v Street, (I am probably misusing the term Backpacker but I don't want to use Hipster wrong so I will stick with Backpacker) Backpackers might have an edge with Wale and Tabbi Bonney. I am not taking sides its just how I see it, today. I used the term Local Radio earlier let me change that to Corporate Radio or The marketing arm of the labels. The Corporate Radio in this area is not friendly to the Local music scene. I have heard them trash the less polished artist instead of help them. I have heard from local artist that Corporate Radio plays favorites and that blocks out the truly talented. Sonya you blogged about the demise of Tower Records and Virgin Records Store, that is the other problem the end of the Mom and Pop record store. We are somewhat blessed by the presence of the some smaller retail shops that support local artist but somehow it is not apart of a larger whole that pushes the local scene forward.

So what does all that mean for the DMV? I do not know. How do you define the DMV Hip-Hop scene based on those question you asked? The same way I would before you asked those questions. The DMV Hip Hop scene is just what its name is, separate things joined together that aren't any better together than separately. Individual letters that make up other words but is not a word together. You said we need to stop rehashing the same question of Why DC is not on yet. I think that if we don't continue to ask that question the progress we have made will only stall. The question of why we are not on, has been directed at the industry and not on our ability to build a scene which will nurture artist that will not leave for New York, Atlanta or Hollywood when they are ready. We need to build an infrastructure that will keep the people here and put ourselves on. We need our Master P, Baby & Slim and Suge Knight. Will those people from here with industry experience return to build that infrastructure? That is the real question we need to ask.