Ever heard people say, “I should have been born during that time”? Yeah, it happens all the time, whether it’s the ’60s, ’70s or some crazy medieval period. Well, ever wanted to be from the time of hip hop’s beginnings? A time where it was fresh, and all about the music. A time when hip hop was about bringing everybody together. Guess what, you can be there and you don’t need a time machine and you don’t need to move to NYC. We have our own area that already has the heart and soul, all we have to do is believe in this area and believe in ourselves.
It has come to my attention that the Triangle’s hip-hop scene has enormous potential, but is lacking an understanding that it needs to blossom. Hopefully, by presenting enough information and opinions we can begin to figure out how we can all build and nourish our local hip-hop scene. How it was, how it is and how we want it to be. It becomes quite clear that we all need to stop the hate, and appreciate ourselves, our area and remember what hip hop was and what it meant to us in our first dealings with it here in the Triangle.
Go back to a time where the wear was Adidas suits, bombers with fur and Gazelle glasses.
DJ Sound Machine reflects on the scene in the early ’80s in Raleigh. “Mr. Freeze [Records] would bring down acts like Marley Marl, MC Shan and the Real Roxxanne to the Rink with DJ Craze and DJ Shorty Doo-Wop. We would go out to the Rink on a weekend night, the show would start around 11 or 12 and it would rock all night long, till like 5 or 6 a.m.” Soundmachine remenises to a time where, “Shit was wicked.”
Calvin Nelson aka DJ Craze remembers those same times as well: “Fun, Fun, Fun. Muther fuckers used to dance. No wallflowers! Dance was big! Everyone now is all thug life: Stand and be hard. It doesn’t even seem right to ask a girl to dance.”
James Heyward, owner of Madd Waxx Records and founder of the South East Music and Entertainment Summit (SEMES) recalls the scene. “From a fan perspective; it was a lot more open-minded,” says Heyward, who came to the area around ’90 to go to school. He has watched and helped the scene grow through out the years. “Everyone was still in the process of falling in love with the music. 1986 through ’90 was a honeymoon period.” And spoken like a true romantic, he states, “I miss it.”
Heyward sees the scene as fragmented. “People have made steps, but the market as a whole hasn’t made its identity.” Which is true. Our area is classified as a “secondary market” in promo lingo. And as far as local artists coming out of the area, A&Rs are largely concerned with hometown heroes. Heyward is aware of this: “I want everybody to obtain their goals, I want to see the market (here) obtain its identity; success and develop from with in. Madd Waxx–we’re really trying to cradle the independent regional artist.”
J.C.N., a local B-Boy, is younger than the gents above, but still has the same affection for the scene. “I came up in the N.C. warehouse and local party scene. Big parties, lots of slammin’ people, and music that had a pulse and breath of its own,” he says. J.C.N. can be seen dancing in many clubs, but while the audience is watching him, he is watching them. “Some things I’ve seen lately are clubs where people just come out to front an attitude and not really express themselves with honesty. If we’re going out and faking it, we’re not real.” His solution to the issue is for people to “get real, come from the heart, give yourself, put it on the line or give it up.”
Similar to J.C.N.’s diversity in music, Uzi, aka Uzoma Nwosu, doesn’t solely rock hip hop. He came to Carolina in ’89 and founded the New Science Experience Show at WXYC, which is still on today. He has put in a lot of hours as a local promoter, promoting raves, and most of the hip-hop shows (in the last decade) at the Cradle. Uzi’s job is clear, but tough: “I love music and in order to enjoy it and expose it–I have had to put on many hats and full fill many roles to make it work.” Uzi remembers when “this area had serious dry spell from ’92 to ’95/’96 … whether it was electronic or hip hop and the two groups didn’t mix.” This was an issue and still is as far as bringing folks together. Uzi has noticed in “the past six months or so that you see more indie hip hop and electronic acts make the journey through smaller markets like ours.”
The Cat’s Cradle has been home to many of these act as well as local showcases. The Cradle, in Uzi’s eyes, is “a perfect example of success. (Owner) Frank Heath has consistently pushed boundaries.” Heath has helped build the well-respected and recognized indie rock scene here. He is also is helping the hip-hop scene and has already seen a progression. “I think in the past year the (local) hip-hop artists are getting more professional, in my scope of seeing them,” Heath says.
BumRush, aka Shaw Hargett (local promoter) has witnessed the same progression. “The Cat’s Cradle had made a name for itself for hip-hop shows, in addition to the strong name it already had for rock shows,” he says. BumRush has put on many shows featuring local acts that have proven to help bring hip-hop fans together, and as far as the future of the scene here, he thinks “it can go as far as everyone can take it. You have artists that are getting regional and national coverage such as Little Brother, P. Batters, V.O.R., Ill Beings, Whutsiznaim, Thyrd Day, and of course Petey Pablo. Now everyone needs to help support everyone else.”
Recently I’ve heard that local artists are making records that diss Petey Pablo. That’s insane. I don’t see any Marcy Projects around here even though Petey Pablo is very much the Triangle’s Jigga. There really isn’t any need for all that, because there’s no time like the present to just come together and make the scene into whatever we want. So my view is it’s time we all get off the walls and stop being afraid to make something.