It is 2016.... How are we where we are in today's ever increasing violent and hate filled streets? Why haven't we used our lessons from the past to create a better future for all? I am still lost at this to be honest. I began this company with its mission to preserve, curate and showcase the true essence of hip hop culture in a positive manner, in order to help our world and its people understand their power. Hip Hop culture is simply a vessel to reach these masses. The power of the hip hop culture and its artforms has transformed millions of lives over many decades. It is a culture that has spread throughout the world like no other. People from all over the world do graffiti, breakdance, DJ, and spit lyrics over beats while sharing their life struggles in their arts and daily lives. So, how did the hip hop culture of the United States become so other than that....one that now highlights sex, drugs, violence and money? I, along with many others, feel that the mainstream and big corporations who have no idea really what "hip hop" is or means to those of us who grew up, were part or created the threads of the culture. I do believe the corporations, mostly ran by an elite group who really has no idea about struggle or injustice, have set out to "whitewash" the culture and turn it into one for their own greed. What do I mean by this you might be asking yourself?.... The lyrics, style and robotic nature of the emcees and lyrics being heard in mainstream radio leaves the consumer and audience with a very limited look at the culture. Today, our youth who heavily embrace the culture, especially as today it is all around them from radio to advertisements to popular television shows, need us more than ever. They need to realize there is more to the culture than what they have been spoon fed as of late... they need to see they are being socialized to think and act in a very unhealthy manner which is NOT hip hop. Yes, hip hop has had its moments in history and even today that contribute to the violence, misogyny and ignorance that is definitely part of life, yet it is not all that it seems....
They need to see the violence and over the top lifestyle that they idolize and attempt to live it out in their daily lives is just part of the game they system hopes they follow. Meanwhile, as the urban youth continue to kill one another the Police are organizing to continue to keep the urban and black youth looked upon as their enemy and not one they should protect. We have seen this now in the countless senseless murders done by the police, by the policing of our youth in the public school system creating a school to jail growing epidemic in our urban communities. The systematic use of those incarcerated as our nation's modern day slavery where they have jailed more men and women of color than whites in the last 2 decades. The police do not seem to have a preference to what person they see as their enemy but ultimately we all are... from a white man who was rushing his wife to the hospital who was giving birth to their daughter and was arrested and jailed instead of escorted to the hospital, to a squad of police men in Va Beach opening fire on a car with an infant in it, killing his mother and her boyfriend who were parked in a lot posing no threat and minding their business, to prisoners with medical conditions being ignored to the point that they are left to die in the most inhumane way. We need to continue to utilize every method possible to reach our youth and educate them and empower them to realize what they need to know, how to behave in certain situations (codeswitching ultimately), and how to use their talent to make a difference in a positive manner..taking back their power.
I began this blog post in July after the multiple shootings of unarmed black men in multiple communities in our country, but I complete it after yet another week of shootings by police on unarmed men in more than 5 cities across the USA in less than 72 hours, 2 bombings in NYC and NJ, and multiple shootings at peace event in DC resulting in 2 deaths of amazing community members, and also I end this after being robbed at gunpoint outside my home by a group of young boys (not older than 14), who pulled a gun and assaulted me with it in the face as they stole my purse and belongings. I want those who read this to realize WE must continue to find positive outlets for our youth and artists that know hip hop and want it to thrive for the sake of the culture and our communtities!
I definitely feel there is a need to highlight the companies and venues that support the hip hop scene and culture. We sincerely appreciate those in the communities we work in that see how we are seeking to showcase the true culture and are there to support the mission. In Washington DC, there are not many venues willing to host but some great locations are Tropicalia, off the historical U St NW corridor in Washington DC, and The Wind Up Space in Baltimore MD. There are a few pop up spaces such as The Museum DC, a new store and museum highlighting the hip hop culture & art forms, and the The Gateway Pavilion in DC. Each space communicates, promotes and works with the promoters and talent in a positive manner. In addition, they assure each event is top notch quality, with a positive vibe to it.
We have found that many venues outside the DMV area seem to work with the promoter and event planner as a partner rather than trying to profit off of them. Venues in NYC and Baltimore MD are more willing to give back deposits if bar guarantees are met. In addition, the fees are much less than what are seen in the Washington DC area.
Do you know of any other great venues? Add them here in comments section...
Since starting this venture and working to seek spaces that support the true hip hop culture in the Washington DC area, I have found that not a lot of venues are open and willing to host such events. Many times, the initial reaction is they do not want violence or drugs in their establishment. I then proceed to explain the intent of our artist Collective and at times convince them to host our event. Then there are the venues always open to hosting but for ridiculous fees to the promoter and organizer, where in other cities we are finding much better deals and acceptance of the shows and events we are seeking to bring to their venue. I have witnessed and experienced the horrors of these venues and lack of sound and staffing when coming to their side of the agreement. The first venue I would like to speak of is The Science Club: They provided the venue free of charge for our Holiday party with a bar minimum that should have been met. The sound needs were lacking and therefore we were to bring our own mixers and mics, as well as DJ set up. This caused a lot of issues. In addition, they did not provide a sound person to assist with set up and ensuring proper sound. As you see -- Free isn't always the best way.
The second venue I would like to speak on is The Velvet Lounge. This venue has a minimum depending on the night of the week along with a bar minimum. They also take 40% of the door. Therefore, unless you have a major headliner, don't expect to make any money at this venue. I recommend it for those seeking exposure only.
The sound man and door man were provided but with minimal effort shown. In addition, prior to the show it was almost impossible to get in touch with venue personnel to discuss sound needs and event specifics. I had to go to the venue 8 times and email them multiple times even after agreeing to host our show there.
Another venue to discuss was the historical LIV nightclub, that recently closed, off of U ST NW. I went to this venue as a historic landmark to host our Truth Music Tour with No Malice, formerly of the award winning hip hop group, The Clipse. This was a snow make up date for the show, so a second venue we sought out. The price they charged was extreme. Then the contracts were riddled with misprints and typos, causing a delay in contract signing. Then when after weeks of negotiating, I went to sign the contract I am told we must end early due to the fact a go-go band would be taking over the evening from 11:30pm until close of the venue, causing all our guests to have to exit at the end of our show. You can assume this caused a bit of issue, but I worked with our timeline and schedule to accommodate this rude request 2 weeks before the show. At this time, I had no other option. The show had to go on. As we approached the show date, the venue did no promotion on their social media or websites, and did not even hang our posters outside the venue for display. The day of the show I am told that now the go-go band would not be performing. Yes, I said that correct-- The DAY of THE SHOW! And I was also asked for a private sound check by No Malice. The venue accommodated an earlier load in for No Malice's sound needs and rehearsal; however, a sound man did not show up until 6:30pm, and our sound needs were not addressed until after 7pm. This caused a delay of opening the doors. In addition, we had a VIP bar and area with one bartender. This was fine except for the simple fact this bartender showed up intoxicated at the event, and tried to serve my staff who were under age alcohol, and also challenge my direction about the open bar procedure, as well as I found him freaking one of our guests. It was a total display of unprofessionalism. He was asked to leave and I was told he was suspended from his job for a week. However, as I left the venue to check on something outside this bartender was allowed to stay present by the door and harass me as I entered - telling me I made him get suspended. For the fees, charged by a venue beyond $1000 and to not have sound attended to and to provided the worst staff, I can now see just why this venue closed its doors for good!
Our most recent experience was with Touche Supper Club. This is a new restaurant/ event venue off the H ST NE corridor. There isn't much parking and the police presence seem to be a bit extreme. However, the space and layout of the venue is very nice and can be transformed for a variety of events. The fee for the venue is extremely high as well. We also were not given any VIP area or the like for our artists who would be performing. Our VIP area was a charge with a minimum. The venue made it seemed as if they sold out their VIP areas, but what we found the night of the event (even after attempting to help promote & sell VIP Ticket packages) that the venue didn't enforce the VIP areas and so that bottle service and push of alcohol was minimal. However, there was no bar guaranteed made, so that didn't hurt our side of things. However, we were guaranteed water and non-alcoholic drinks, yet each time I approached one of the female bartenders she kept trying to charge me for my drinks. I had to continually go to the manager to get my drinks and to have our VIP area attended to, while she sat and did nothing all night. Besides the horrible service, we also did not have a sound man, though we paid an additional fee for sound to be taken care of. The mics had issues and when I went to the sound man, who is actually an owner, he kept blaming our artists. Yet, when Large Professor got on the stage and told him how to fix the monitors, the sound was tremendous. At one point, we even had our own sound man in the sound booth working it when the owner seemingly disappeared to do something else. I have attempted to follow up with the venue to retrieve my personal belongings and speak to them about the event and no one has responded.
At this rate, I believe the best way to do shows is simple showcases and becoming part of festivals in the DC area, while seeking venues outside DC for larger shows. Venues in Baltimore, NYC, Philly and Va Beach to name a few have openly said yes to our shows with minimal fees, making it possible for the company to make money and pay its artists.
This blog will focus on the ins and outs of the music biz. What venues are great to work with and which you should avoid. Also, included will be pointers and other commentary on the music industry as an insider and one who works with independent artists and their careers.
I am an author, anthropologist, community organizer, educator, speaker, event planner and producer, artist manager and more... I am here to cultivate the hip hop culture in its true essence creating positive experiences for our communities.