For the past few weeks I've had debates with friends about the climate of hip-hop in Baltimore. We even debated can we have a "climate of hip-hop" in such a small city that has had no major success in the genre. We discussed the two worlds in rap culture: the internet and the streets. Naturally, I (and most of my friends), absorb the majority of our music online. Most parties I go to have online RSVP's. Artists I know that meet on the internet and wanna perform in each other's cities, will scrape up cash and play a show for $50. That's my everyday world. But street rap doesn't work like that which is where the debate with friends began. One argued, "There are no street rappers in Baltimore. None worth listening to." But I countered that with reminding him that we see sucky rap online everyday , so it can't be a matter of the person not existing. I just knew it'd take some time to explore a local sub-genre that doesn't pop up in my day-to-day life.
Since making that vow to myself, I got my first chance check out some live, local street rap at Paparazzi Nightclub (I found out about it on the internet LOL). Shy Glizzy was listed as the headliner which was enough for me even though he left much to be desired at Trillectro (his music is still the shit). But the journey to actually see him play ended up being more eventful than I'd prepared for. The doors were listed to open at 9 p.m. but when I'd gotten there at 10 they still weren't open. I listened in on some people's conversations as I shivered and learned that there was a shit-load of openers who individually sold their own tickets for $20 (a usual practice in showcase-styled shows: People have to sell tickets to be able to perform and most likely they don't get paid because they're still getting "exposure"). So the door opened and after people started to get settled in, things got underway really fast. I looked in optimistically and got through the first act's set which weirdly went on for twenty minutes. But I obviously had no idea that this was customary, as every act that got on after him was an equal twenty minutes (sometimes excruciating). The third or fourth guy had some bangers. He basically flowed like Project Pat but was really skinny which is a great contrast and will probably always be enjoyable to me. That's probably how I could overlook that his most hype song's hook repeated "On Instagram straight flexin'!" about ten times. Things got really rough after him. The sound got increasingly worse after each artist had it tweaked to their liking (or maybe it was always bad and I looked past it). Somewhere around the seventh (YES, SEVENTH) opener, the mic's volume started to become unbearably loud. And as I stepped back, something hit me really hard.
I leaned on a wall and my eyes latched onto the weasel-y promoter (whose Napoleon Complex was irrefutable) as he paced back and forth with a crazed look. And while another opener screamed on the mic that was now hurting my ears and drowning out the track, it became evident to me that this show had nothing to do with music. My mind flashed back to hearing the people in line talk about the ticket costs then I cut back to what I was actually seeing on the stage. As long as promoters continue to pimp out guys who could actually develop from having a real scene just to pay for their big acts and take a couple grand home, things will be fucked. There was no careful selection of artists who could create a quality street rap show. There was no thought put into ensuring that the sound would be on point. There was no effort put into the atmosphere. And that's where street rap may sadly continue to be in Baltimore: with no encouragement to improve your craft and no driving-force behind creating a scene with a distinctive quality, just for the sake of being seen. By the time the show was on its twelfth and thirteenth act and it was 1:30 a.m., I said screw Shy Glizzy. I bounced.
It was an upsetting thing to experience. Internet rap in Baltimore, with its many issues, does have a group of people occasionally putting money (as primary motivation) on the back-burner to have regular events and showcase talent. Street rap does exist here, but I fear that it's placing the physical act of rapping on a stage (with not much else in mind) over the building-blocks it takes to create quality material. Promoters like the clown from last night sure won't help turn things around because it = $$$ for him.