Thursday, August 10, 2000

Birmingham Hip Hop Scene

One of the factors that limits the strength of the "hip hop" scene in our city is money. Many people are not willing to pay to be entertained by hip hop artists and many artists are tried of having "good exposure opportunities" with no monetary compensation. Another factor is much of "rap music" today is looked upon by "the powers that be" and many others as a 2nd class, 2nd rate form of music. I once performed at The Civil Rights Institute a cappella and was well received. After my performance I engaged in a conversation with two older gentlemen and was asked "what else did I do?" I told them that I was a rapper and the entire tone of the conversation changed. One of them told me, "I hate rap. They can throw it all in the ocean." He then proceeded to walk off. He had just told me how much he enjoyed my work but when he found out I was a "rapper", he instantly didn't like my music.

Yet another limiting factor is technology. Ironic because it would seem that with the explosion of social networking, it would be a unifying force, right? Well, it's so easily accessessable now, everybody is doing it. Rappers & Producers are a dime a dozen & everybody's got an agenda. It's hard and time consuming to murk through everybody that's got a CD out to find the stuff you might like. When artists had to make more of an investment in their art by purchasing studio time and what knot, fewer artists could get their product out and so, it was easier for the public to get familiar with the limited local talent that had product to offer.

Radio doesn't help either. There was a point in the not so distant past when the people at your local radio station pretty much played what they wanted to play. Now, it's more limited as to what DJ's can get on the air. Radios play what people know because that's what keeps people from changing to another station and finding a familiar tune.

Politics also is limiting the current Birmingham Hip Hop scene. Everything is political. "If you didn't come to my last show, then I'm not coming to your next show and vice versa. If you don't have me on your "top friends" on myspace, or write back under my status on facebook or chime in on what I'm doing on Twitter, you're pretty much dead to me." Many artists produce and promote their own shows, other artists come out to the shows to show "support". This "support" is really an unspoken "quid pro quo". Most artists, if they're being honest, are hoping that when it's their own show that's being promoted, if nothing else, all of the artists they've supported will come out and show up to support them. The truth is that "we" (the artists) should be able to bring enough people that we don't know out to a show so that it really doesn't matter either way if other artists come or not. This leads me to the last "limiting factor" I'll write about in this entry.

The people of Birmingham are not avid "hip hoppers". Just because their listening to 107.7 on Saturday mornings don't mean their coming out to see live hip hop music when it's available in the city. I'm not exactly sure why this is but I do know that it is. I've gone to show, after show, after show and see 20 or 30 people in a spot that should be filled with at least a hundred or more. And not just "ATL-auto-tuned-snap" type rap but real hip hop shows with Emmy Nominated Artists, a real scratching DJ, a Beat Boxer, Live instrumentation and back up singers for FREE! In Birmingham, it's very hard to get people to come out to enjoy this form of music live.

So, what's the Hip Hop scene in Birmingham like? It's alive but it does need watering. So, if you're reading this, do us all a favor and find out how you can help "water the good seeds" of hip hop when you can.
~Thed Weller

*by less privileged I don't necessarily mean poor or uneducated just people that can tell you how life for them ain't been no crystal stair.


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