What Ever Happened To The Scene?
Who Can You Pick Out In This Pic?
First let me say that what you are about to read is not a “Why Hip Hop Is Dead” blog. This is not a mathematical or theoretical breakdown of how the digital era has changed “the game”. This is more of a “what the fuck happened to the scene” commentary.
I came from an era filled with promise and unbelievable talent. My peers were The Arsonists, Tonedeff, Pumpkinhead, Punchline & Wordsworth, Jean Grae, Subconcious, C Rayz Walz, The Juggaknots, Immortal Technique, Poison Pen etc. We all came up through open mics and battles. If there was an event that was poppin, we’d all be there, and we’d all stay til the end and rhyme in a cipher til the sun came up. If there was a hot show, you could bet that at least 3 of us were performing. Almost none of us had records out, but we were still headlining. Shows were always packed, crowds were always live and it was nothing to have Mos Def hop on stage on some improv shit.
Whether it was SOB’s, Wetlands, Tramps, or the Nuyurican Cafe, there were fans and rappers alike in the audience. Knitting Factory or Baby Jupiter, there were B-boys breakdancing to what the DJ was spinning before the show. An All That Open Mic, Braggin Rites MC Battle or Rocksteady Concert, the line was always down the block. I know this because I used to battle heads to take their place in line. When cats like Pumpkinhead or The Juggaknots put out a record, heads would run to Fat Beats to cop the wax, and give Percee P daps on the way upstairs.
When you came back down chances were you’d see Wordsworth and AL Skillz gettin a cipher started.
Every Wednesday night 88hiphop was the place to be. For us it was right down on Broadway & Houston, for the rest of the world it was on the internet. This was live online hiphop before youtube. I met Big L and Nas there. I got stuck in that slow ass elevator with Big Pun. I saw Eminem get served by Karate Joe in a battle there. I had ciphers with Poison Pen and Thirstin Howl III right before I was to battle Breez Evahflowin. Jadkiss and Sheek watched us battle through the glass that night and Evil Dee was the DJ. And just incase you missed it, or didn’t have a computer with broadband connection, Wiseguy and Gaston were there filming it, trust me, if it happened in NYC, they got it on tape.
It seemed like everyone else in the world was watching US to find out what to do and how to do it.
Where do you think the backpacker movement started? Shit, its because when the scene got started half of us was still in school. Ask Talib, he went to NYU, who do you think started those ciphers in Washington Sq. Park with Da Bush Babees. Winning a local $100 battle like Braggin Rites somehow put you on the map nationwide. Eddie Ill and DL had the mixTAPE game on lock far as underground goes. See, back then a mixtape didn’t mean ‘fake album”, it meant a cassette tape with a mixture of different artists, that an actual DJ compiled. See, back then, shit was real dope. If yall were around back then, I promise you’d get goose bumps as soon as you walk into a place that was remotely hiphop. I mean look at the talent that this scene produced.
Fast Forward 10 Years:
Everybody has a record out, but nobody buys them.
Battle? Maybe if you put $10k on the table.
Shows are empty or 75% full of rappers, yet none of them want to cipher.
There’s only 1 or 2 Open Mics worth checking for, but nobody goes to those things anymore.
There’s a fake Percee P on every corner trying to sell you his “mixtape”.
There’s no graffiti anywhere.
I don’t want to be seen as a bitter rapper, but you can’t deny that shits changed and not for the better. Listen, say what you want, call me an old man who misses the glory days, but don’t front like you don’t miss them too!
What happened to my scene? Where did it all crumble. Some people say after 9/11 shit fell apart. It really broke a lot of people’s spirit. There used to be a perfectly clear view of the towers from Fat Beats, after it all went down it was never the same going back there. Some say the mixtape game fucked it up, and rappers started poppin up out of nowhere without having to go through the ranks to earn respect. Maybe we were so caught up in establishing ourselves as artists that we forgot to pass the torch to the younger cats and show them how to keep it up. If you ask me, the way we used to smash the rookies in battles its no wonder they stopped entering.
More than I wish I knew what happened, I wish I knew how to fix it.
I am sick going to shows where the people in the crowd act like they don’t want to be there. I respect people who stay home way more than the people who actually came out and paid money to stand with their arms folded while MC’s try to entertain. Last time I rocked at SOB’s with Pen and Sean Price, Ruck gave the crowd just what they deserved. It was about 75 heads (only 75 people at a Sean Price show at SOBs??) and they was standing there all quiet with the ice grill on while he’s tryna get them amped, so he stops, let the beat play and just stared back at them for 3 songs straight.
When did the scene come to this? Where did this apathetic attitude towards hiphop come from? This is supposed to be the most influential culture in the world. So where the fuck is the culture? It aint even cool to dress like a hip hop head. I know fashion changes, but half the shit these cats wear is just gay, which is fine if you’re gay, but if you aren’t gay why are you wearing tight pants that won’t allow you to reproduce?
What Can You Do?
Bottom line is this…
Hip hop aint dead…
But complaining is.
If you love hiphop, get off your myspace/facebook or whatever and do your part to keep it alive, because people are watching closely now more than ever. Participate in more ways than just trying to rap. Go to a show that’s poppin around your way, even if you never heard of the MC before, you never know what jewels you’ll find. Trust me there are other MC’s who perform besides Slug and (insert WU member).
When you go to these shows, have fun. Take off your cool and have fun, put a hand in the air, cheer for a well performed song, say “ooooh” if you hear a punchline. If you rap, start a fucking cipher for crying out loud. Get your skills up, practice practice practice. Don’t only rhyme when you on stage. If you truly love to rap, you’ll spit whenever u can. For all you B-Boys/B-Girls… we know you love to dance, but don’t forget about the MC’s that make the music you dance to…break when the DJ spins, watch the show when the MC performs. For my writers, bring back the trains.
I’m talking to you, NYC. I been around the world and nobody does it like we can. We set the example, so why can’t we follow it?
Poison Pen, PackFM, C Rayz Walz @ Rap Coalition 1998
Wordsworth and Percee P @ Fat Beats NYC
PackFM vs Pumpkinhead @ 88HipHop 1998
Wiseguy & Gaston in Wetlands cipher
- This has been a Public Service Announcement by PackFM