DETROIT: a history of firsts and lasts. .:. The End is the Beginning…

More from the Delta to Detroit…

July 6, 2010

National non-profit organization, the Hip Hop Congress (HHC), took its annual all-chapters conversation to the music mecca that is Detroit this year June 26-28 in order to join the broader movement happening this summer where other self-organizing “un-conferences” like the Allied Media Conference (AMC) and the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) were also converging upon Ground Zero of the fall of the American Industrial Era. Detroit was selected not just because the Hip Hop Congress mission is to “provide the Hip Hop Generation with the tools, resources and opportunities to make social, economic and political change on a local, national and international level” in a city that has been the poster child for “need” of late, but because real Hip Hop heads know exactly what the Motor City is to Hip Hop.

And who can blame them with the rapid fire raining out of the D over the past year or more? Doubt we need to even argue here about the lengths artists, producers, labels and journalists the world over will go to (and usually on the low) to find the Detroit basements where innumerable morsels of the next level in Hip Hop, and music in general, are fresh baked daily. So what does, or can, Detroit Hip Hop mean for the “new” Detroit? The Hip Hop Congress thinks Detroiters have several unique stories to tell about survival on many levels, both in the music industry and in the new economy in general.

Apparently a slew of who’s who thought so too as the University of Michigan’s Detroit Center saw speakers like Hip Hop State of Mind‘s Rosa Clemente and Detroit entertainment attorney Greg Reed speak on topics from civil disobedience, Hip Hop’s role in politics and the forthcoming publication of the unreleased final 3 chapters of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (and its accompanying Hip Hop soundtrack), among many other international socio-economic movements where Hip Hop is deeply entrenched.

(c) Khalid el-Hakim

HHC Conference Photos x Khalid el-Hakim

The ReadNex Poetry Squad from NYC presented a unique, interactive session on rhyme-writing used often in alternative education circles for at-risk youth, setting off several mental light bulbs. Meanwhile, an intensely engaging discussion about the similarities, links and new era building “isms” between New Orleans and Detroit ran overtime. The panel of Detroit and New Orleans artists, authors, activists and filmmakers including Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey and the J Dilla Foundation, Detroit mixing engineer Mike “Chav” Chavarria, New Orleans Delta to Detroit marcher and HHC leader Shamako Noble, Detroit rapper Mu (who’s father was recently murdered in an FBI raid), Left Turn and Floodlines New Orleans’ author Jordan Flaherty, among other Detroit artists and marketing pioneers, inspired the entire room to start highlighting links between Hip Hop culture and the community-building activism that we are finding is working to improve and protect otherwise dangerous and underprivileged neighborhoods at the “bottom” of American society. What came to light was sometimes surprising – quite the opposite of the popular media version of the connection between Hip Hop and the ‘Hood.

We’re not going to pretend, however, that the climax of the weekend was not a live show. What happened at the legendary Detroit Hip Hop venue, St. Andrew’s Hall, Saturday night was nothing short of historical. Beyond renegade Hip Hop’s man of the hour, Jay Electronica making his debut Detroit performance in the city where all but one of this elusive tracks have been recorded and/or mastered (another influential Detroit – New Orleans connection), it may have very well been the first and last time we would witness nearly the entirety if Detroit’s Hip Hop royalty on one stage in one night.

Photos x Kevin Randolph and Adrienne Williams

The night was full of its ups and downs. Jay Electronica finally met Ma Dukes for the first time and announced that he, and most likely Erykah Badu and others, would return to Detroit soon to perform for free to help raise funds for the J Dilla Foundation. Mainly ups, but the rumors circulating that this might be Slum Village‘s last show together, at least in Detroit outside of some already-scheduled “Villa Manifesto” tour dates, alongside questions raised about why DJ DEZ wasn’t DJing for SV that night, though he was there at the show, without a doubt put a dampering twist on an otherwise simply epic show. Illa J’s cameo with SV seemed to confirm other rumors of T3’s intentions to replace Elzhi with Illa J after “Villa Manifesto,” if not sooner.

Photos x Khalid el-Hakim

This, coupled with the profound conversations underway during the day about Detroit Hip Hop artists like Slum Village and what they mean for Detroit’s story on a global scale, was both confusing and disheartening for many to say the least, especially for young fans seeing them live for the first time. Nonetheless, floss-less raw talent sweated out the spot on E. Congress St. where heads sacrificed air conditioning for 4 hours of classic beats and lyrical heat without intermission, courtesy of Shameless Plug Entertainment, Hip Hop Congress and Fusicology. Jay Elec even ran out of breath come “Exhibit C” time after his classic crowd-diving, leaving the people to finish verses in unison. 6 Mile. 7 Mile. Hartwell. Gratiot. Just wow.

Photos x Piper Carter

Hosted by Detroit’s First Lady of Hip Hop, Miz Korona with DJ House Shoes on the 1’s and 2’s, this bill’s roster included the self-made One Be Lo, who introduced his new live, all-female band DoubleLO7 (do NOT sleep on these baddazz ladies!) and (Detroit) Renaissance State of Mindsuperstars Ro Spit & Monica Blaire, as well as a re-introduction to long-lost Detroit Hip Hop Shop originals, 5 ELA aka 5 Elementz (Big Proof’s original group – the “other” foundational Detroit Hip Hop collective). Guilty Simpson threatened any aspiring, or successful, rapper’s skill with his seemingly effortless flow. His and Slum’s sets, full of guests from Illa J to Black Milk, had the house shoulder-to-shoulder, all eyes forward, singing along like they were at bootcamp. Ma Dukes’ blessing of the stage made you darn sure Dilla’s spirit was going to fly out from backstage, while moments of praise for the fallen trinity of Dilla, Proof and Baatin sent the crowd into an uproar.

Photos x Carleton Gholz

We will be sore if any of the Slum rumors prove to be true, but at least those that were at St. Andrew’s on this epic Detroit summer night can say we experienced one last session of the roots of Detroit Hip Hop. And Jay Electronica can say he got the co-sign any real Hip Hop artist can hope for – the Detroit nod. Grace the St. Andrew’s stage with a Detroit cadre like this, and keep up? You know you got that swing.

*Big shouts to 6 Minutes TV for capturing the entire night on video.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V |  *Fusicology Exclusive!*

*Special thanks to Kevin Randolph, Khalid el-Hakim, Piper Carter and Carleton Gholz for the timeless photos.

+ Real Detroit Weekly‘s cover story + exclusive interview with Jay Electronica and Mike Chav


— By Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology.com

> Follow her on Twitter @JMoneyRed

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