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VOL 3. NO. 24 Monday, June 25 - Sunday, July 1, 2001
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What Do You Have Growing In Your Backyard?
Local Hip hop Artists & Producers Vie for Access And Support
By Avonie BROWN
Earlier this month, Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, was joined by a group of academics, artists and social and political leaders to discuss hip hop's impact on the music industry and youth culture as well as its social and political potential. As speaker after speaker outlined, hip hop has proven that it has longevity and it is a major money maker. Now the genre's key players have to recognize that their roles must evolve and become more socially responsible and help to better the community, many participants said.

Yes, hip hop artists have to recognize they have the capacity to influence and need to harness the power they wield. But, as Chuck D and others clearly pointed out, these artists cannot be expected to be the moral authority of the industry when the real power still rests with the media giants. The media industry also bears some responsibility as they have made billions from "pigeonholing African-American culture based on the narrow stereotypes of materialism and misogyny," voiced New York University professor Tricia Rose.

When Chuck D told a packed room that the corporate interest now attached to hip hop is stifling new artist development and grass-roots entrepreneurship, he struck a nerve much closer to home. You see while the hip hop summit in New York focused on the socio-cultural impact of the music, hip hop artists in the DC metropolitan area say they are unable to gain support for their music and access to local media outlets. Spurred on by these frustrations, and no doubt influenced by the New York event, BOSS Magazine is sponsoring a summit of independent artists and labels, radio programming and promotions staff, area retailers, and the media. "Beyond The Hype" takes place on Saturday, June 30, 2001 at the Ramada Inn (8500 Annapolis Road, New Carrollton, MD).

Krys Copeland,
Courtesy Photo

Krys Copeland, Publisher of BOSS Magazine (www.bossmagazine.com), and principal force behind the organization of the summit, said in an interview with Metro Connection that after being inundated in recent weeks with emails and phone calls from local artists sharing the same complaint, she was compelled to do something. "I really didn't think there was much of a problem since we cover local artists. But over and over again I kept hearing the same thing `local artists and independent labels get no local support for the music they produce,'" said Copeland. She pointed out that after talking with key players on both side of the issue, she realized that much of the problem is a result of misunderstandings and miscommunications.
"We wanted to provide this forum for local artists to sit down with the key players in the industry. This is an opportunity for them to not only know who these people are but to also learn about what they have to do to have their music heard. And it allows the decision-makers in the media to know the people who represent the area's talent pool and to hear their concerns," Copeland said.

Copeland has been sure to invite individuals that represent a broad spectrum of the issue. And she was also clear to point out that the submit will be a forum for constructive discussion, not idle, antagonistic or accusatory chatter. She insists that her organization is working hard to ensure that at the end of the day there will be productive resolutions in place reflecting the viewpoints of performers and independent labels on one side and radio, retail and media executives on the other. This is clearly outlined in the summit's statement of purpose:

  • Develop a plan of action for continued dialogue between participants on both sides of the issue
  • Significantly increase support of independent artists
  • Define a process to level the playing field
  • Establish a forum to monitor long-term progress

J.J. Jensen, the cofounder and CEO of Arlington, VA-based Trilogy Records (www.trilogyonwax.com), will be participating in one of the panels at the summit. In a well-reasoned email he outlined his organization's frustrations. "To be successful as an artist, you almost always get love at home before you can get love other places. With the exception of a few spins here and there, and an occasional live show, it is nearly impossible to get any exposure in Washington DC. DC artists are basically forced to take their music to other markets to make it as a musician. This is exactly what we are doing now. We have taken our music global before we have gotten love at home.

"It makes no sense that someone in California, Texas, or even Japan or Europe can hear Doujah Raze's "Hard Times" on the airwaves before that same person could hear the song in the town that Doujah has grown up in. I get comments all the time about how there has never been a major hip hop artist to come out of DC, and part of the problem is that there is a lack of support from the local stations ... Why not sandwich a Doujah Raze, a Team Demolition, an Angel Thugz, or a RYOT between a Jay-Z and a Missy (Elliott). Give the listeners some different flavors, something that they may be able to relate to."

Dhalsiem from ///Tornstructure and Double H'n Records (www.doublehn.com) concurs and encourages all to attend the summit with an open mind. "We have a CD out that's not a hit and not getting ANY local play probably like most cats in the area. So we all have something to learn and gain from this event ... It's a chance for cats (to come) together and build and get on the same page."

Alphonso "Skinny" Gallmon,
courtesy photo

Alphonso "Skinny" Gallmon, CEO of 48th/49th Records, Inc. (www.48th49threcords.com), has taken a much more aggressive approach to getting his message across. He too will be at the summit. To hear him talk you are left with no doubt about his support for local hip hop. Since this self-taught producer entered the rap game in 1998 with the release of the maxi-single "Angel Thugz," he has been consistent in his fight to get greater exposure for all local artists. In his campaign he has not been afraid to directly target small publications like Boss Magazine and large radio stations like WPGC and WKYS. He accuses them of disregarding local hip hop performers for an almost singular preoccupation with national names. The result he says is a monotonous musical regurgitation.
"DC rap has a hard way to go to get the props it truly deserves and I think its so because all around there is low expectation of young DC males. We are the thugs in their eyes that created the murder capital. They don't have a vision that we have creative talent and can produce quality. So they don't invest in us locally and we're all out here in survival mode," Skinny told Metro Connection. "On the other hand, the media giants know that they have to have DC on their itinerary when they are trying to sell something. They know they're gonna made mad money here. We have to look at this kinda one sided relationship though and as a community take a stand and instead of looking outside take a look at what is going on in your own backyard and show some love."

Even though he has been critical of the industry, Skinny is not sitting back waiting for mainstream support. Recently he sent out circulars inviting other local artists to join 48th/49th Records in co-producing a compilation CD. The joint venture would mean pooling resources for production and promotions. "Its basic economics that's been done in LA and other areas. Lack of resources - cash money, is a problem for all underground artists out here. The cost of producing the music and promoting it can be serious, so the idea of creating a kind of collective and sharing the cost will help everybody. And the cross-promotions will definitely allow us to increase our fanbase," he said.

Skinny has also put the word out that he is looking for music for the soundtrack of his upcoming independent film "Urban Survival." While this may appear to be a stretch for the record producer, Skinny said that this is a return to his first love. Music he said fell into his lap. "I wasn't trying to do music I was trying to get into the movie thing back in 1996," he said. Then, having completed the script for "Urban Survival" he shopped it around to HBO, ShowTime and other independent companies. He found no takers but he received a lot of interest from local artists who wanted to produce music for the soundtrack. Although the film was on hold, he said he ended up having three or four songs to work with, "so I switched up and started doing research on music ownership, copyrighting and production, packaging and promotional materials," Skinny shared.

In the few short years since then, Skinny has turned this new passion into a crusade. Where others are silent, he insists on being heard. As one of the local artists who will be participating on the panel at the summit, he will have centerstage to help affect some productive dialogue. "All we need to do is represent in a professional way and we'll achieve our objective's," he said. His preliminary outline of objective are:

  1. To get a certain amount of playing time for our music not once a week, but at least an hour everyday from the normal top 40
  2. To get regional and national media coverage and interviews from the event
  3. To get major retail acceptance from outlets like Sam Goody, Willies, CD Warehouse and others.
He has invited others to share with him their own perspective of the issue in advance of this summit so that he can present a united and focused case for local hip hop. He insists that this is only the beginning and he is willing to explore all angles to get others to recognize the creative value we have in our own backyard.
Panel A: 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
  • Presentation Is Everything: Closed Door Session With The Media
  • Goal: To dissect the major components of an effective press kit, discuss its role in image development, and offer hands-on solutions for getting coverage in local and mainstream media.
Panel B: 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
  • Copping A Deal: Closed Door Session With Key Record Label Executives
  • Goal: Face-to-face meeting with some of the top A&R, legal, and promotions executives in the Mid-Atlantic. Discuss, explore and evaluate proven strategies to land a deal: what's hot, what's not!
Panel C: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Playing The Retail Game: Getting Your Product On The Shelves
  • Goal: To explore the "realities" of distribution, identify proven methods for getting your product on the shelves, and develop a game plan to increase retail support of local artists and independent labels.
Panel D: 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
  • The "Real Deal" On Airplay: Closed Door Session With Program Directors, Music Directors, On-Air Jocks, and Other Radio Executives
  • Goal: To take an honest look at the "other side" of the radio business. Participants will explore the merits of supporting local artists, discuss the economics of the radio business, and debate the realities of "pay for play" arrangements.
Listening Party: 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
  • Independent's Avenue: A Preview of New Music From Local Artists and Record Labels
  • Purpose: Poolside Listening Party with one of the area's hottest deejays spinning the latest hits, as well as new music by local artists and independent record labels. Promotional bags will be distributed, while local artists promote/display/sell their merchandise and a light buffet is served. Perfect atmosphere for some serious networking!
Meeting: 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
  • Power Moves: Women In The Music and Entertainment Industry
  • Goal: Invitation-only roundtable meeting will be held in a private hospitality suite on the hotel's top floor. Designed to promote greater cooperation, interaction, and networking among women in this area's music and entertainment industry. To develop a forum for women to share information, collaborate on projects, and provide constructive feedback on common issues.
Panel E: 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
  • Ryde Or Die: Marketing and Promotion In The New Millennium
  • Goal: To develop new strategies and techniques for promoting independent projects. To assess the impact of traditional marketing methods, debate the pitfalls of street promotions, and discuss new mediums for independent marketing in the new millennium.
Industry Roundtable: 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Beyond The Hype: A Provocative Debate On The Lack of Radio, Retail and Media Support For Local Artists and Independent Record Labels
  • Goal: Panelists on both sides of the issue will debate the lack of radio, retail, and media support for local artists and independent labels in the Washington Metropolitan area. Both sides will seek to share insight, information, and experiences involving this controversial subject. Meeting will be taped for subsequent airing on WNVT.
    To comment on this or any other article written by Avonie Brown email avonie@metroconnection.info.

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