"That's when I started thinking/how many people hip hop's affected/How many dead folks/this art's resurrected/How many nations/this culture has connected/Who am I to judge ones' perspective?" --Common, "The 6th Sense"
Since it jumped on the music scene over 25 years ago, the hip-hop artform has evolved to become like the air we breathe; it's everywhere. From its humble beginnings as basement and park music--strictly a New York thing--the style traveled west and became G-Thang. The Dirty South soon joined in and today in the 2K1, hip hop is not only national, but global.
Here in the Triangle, you'll see hip-hop culture reflected in music, language and clothing styles. Still, the area could offer more exposure to both local and major live acts. There are some people in the Triangle, however, who are working to change that.
For example, 22-year old Raleigh native Shaw Hargett, who goes by the handle DJ Bumrush, is doing his part to make the Triangle a hip-hop oasis, backing it up by promoting local hip-hop shows and putting out his own CD. He also has a show at Duke University's radio station, WXDU (88.7 FM), every Tuesday from midnight to 3 a.m.
"The Triangle can be one of the places that major acts frequent. We just have to work to get it done," he says.
Hargett got into the music as a teen. "I basically started listening to hip hop when I was 15 or 16, which is kind of old I guess," he says. It was listening to Dr. Dre that inspired him to go back to the genre's roots.
"I had to find out what the music was about, so I had to go back to the beginning," he says. "I would go into a record store and drop like $50 on CDs."
But it was at Elon College that Hargett really embraced the music; he began spinning records at the school's radio station, WSOE. After a few years developing his turntable skills, he left school and took a job at Duke radio. He'd begun to make contacts with music industry people while at Elon, but it wasn't until after he started spinning records at Duke that Hargett began to actually use those contacts.
"I saw the Chapel Hill area as a hot spot for acts," he says. He started checking out live rap shows at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill and saw the potential of getting hip-hop performers there on a regular basis.
Not long after, Hargett began promoting shows at the Cradle. Just this month, both Tha Liks and KRS-One performed on the Cradle stage. He's also put together shows featuring local acts, and a freestyle contest is slated for later in the month.
"This area has a lot of talent, but they don't get the exposure that they need," Hargett says. "I want North Carolina to be known for more than just Petey Pablo. Not to dis him, but there's plenty of talent that needs to be seen."
As DJ Bumrush, Hargett released his first CD, Bumrush Presents: Up From The Underground, Volume I, last July. His second CD, Volume II, is scheduled for release this month. Both CDs are a compilation of freestyles and tight mixes that feature both local acts like Durham native Whutsiznaim and major artists like Eminem, Masta Ace, Xzibit and Inspecta Deck.
"The next CD [Vol. II] is really gonna be tight. I got a little experience under my belt so everything from the production to the CD cover will be better," he says.
Hargett recently took a job as a promoter for Land Speed Records, a label out of Boston. The ultimate goal, he says, is to get the area the national exposure it deserves. "I want us to have a little scene here that everyone knows about and where all the major acts come to perform."
Real hip hop is more about quality than quantity--over the airwaves, you hear more commercial rap than real hip hop. But at WNCU (90.7 FM), North Carolina Central University's radio station, Mike Wilson and Phillip Bell III meet up to give listeners a bona fide hip-hop experience. Wilson and Bell, known on the mic as DJs Mike Nice and Bro Rabb, put on their weekly hip-hop show, "Straight From the Crates," every Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. The show blends a varied mix of cutting-edge hip hop from across the country. And, unlike most commercial stations, the show gives the audience a chance to get a first listen to songs while they're still considered "underground."
"We play street, West Coast, underground, Dirty South, you name it," says the 25-year-old Bell. "Our motto is: We don't play hits; we make hits."
Wilson started the show as the lone DJ at NCCU five years ago and invited Bell, who he'd met while Bell was managing a Willie's Record Store in Durham, to check out the show. Bell started dropping by the station every Saturday, eventually becoming Wilson 's right hand man. The show is well-received by the area's hip-hop music listeners. "We try to keep the show innovative," Wilson says. "The public has input in what we play and can express their opinions on our show."
And hip hop--the artform and culture--has brought people together from different backgrounds, races and religions that otherwise probably wouldn't have anything in common. Just check out the diversity of the crowd the next time a live hip-hop show is in town and you'll see a connection. "Hip hop brings the races together," says Bell.
Take a look at the Triangle nightclub scene. Hip hop has even invaded the clubs that cater to a predominantely white audience.
The Office, an upscale club located in downtown Raleigh's warehouse district, is a perfect example. Owned by Todd Chriscoe, the venue has been in existence for just over a year. Originally, The Office had enlisted a house music format, but as the club's DJs began incorporating hip hop into their mixes, the mostly white, middle-class adult crowd took notice.
"We checked out clubs in a lot of cities around the country from Miami to New York, so we decided to start out playing house," Chriscoe said. "We play a lot of hip hop now because it brings the people out." Although most of the hip hop they play is old school, the patrons know they can still get their groove on listening to bomb beats and tight lyrical flows. And that makes a difference.
"Top 40 and house music are nice to listen to, but rap is a lot better to dance to when you're out at the club," says club-goer Kellie Grossman. Grossman, 26, a recent transplant from Florida, says that although she'd continue to visit The Office if the nightspot didn't play hip hop, she wouldn't do much dancing.
"I'd probably stand around with my friends," she said. "But when I hear a rap song that's great, I'm heading out to the dance floor with or without a partner. There's just something about rap music--the different types of beats--that makes you want to dance all night long.
"That's why I come out to the club: To relieve stress by dancing to good music."