B96's Peter Parker on MPLS Hip-Hop
Minneapolis' Franz Diego (myspace) shared this rant with us from Peter Parker: a radio host on local station B96 in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.
Parker goes in on Twin Cities emcees for being too lazy and arrogant to really get their careers off the ground. He also goes in on the locals for not coming out and supporting their local brand of Hip-Hip -- apparently it's so bad that it's hard to get folks to show even at the free shows.
I feel Parker's frustration. But let's be clear on the situation in a place like Minneapolis. Being born in the Twin Cities gives folks a natural insecurity. Not too long ago, everyone and they ma looked for ways to claim another city. Whether the story was that they were born in Chicago and only moved to Minneapolis when they were 5 years old, or if the story was that their parents and all their family was from Detroit or Gary, the fact is that folks weren't proud to be from Minneapolis. Especially black folks. Especially poor black folks. Let's be honest, black folks didn't get much respect when out-of-town if they told folks they were from Minneapolis. Most people can't even picture black folks living there. Most folks in DC can't even properly pronounce Minneapolis. White folks like Peter Parker need to understand that.
Therefore, when these kids (my peers) grow up, they don't really BELIEVE that they can have a great music scene. They know that the odds are stacked against any local act tryna make it big being from the Twin Cities, because so few have done it. Nelly put St. Louis on the map with a southern-midwestern Country Grammar gimmick. He was willing to coon a bit to get that exposure. In doing so he created a legacy. Made young people proud to claim their music. But in Minneapolis there's still no popular legacy outside of Prince and Rhymesayers. And I LOVE both, let's be clear, but a black man in touch with his feminine side old enough to be my father (Prince) and a 30-year-old white boy (Slug/Atmosphere/Rhymesayers) doesn't really instill a sense of enthusiastic pride in a young black boy like myself. So, folks are always looking at upcoming musicians with a skeptical eye. And you're not going to enthusiastically support anyone that you're looking at with a skeptical eye.
What Minnesota, and other small markets like it, has to do is come to grips with the insecurity of itself. Of course there are local acts holding things down. But those acts tend to attract their fanbase of maybe a few thousand folks who buy their records and a percentage of that fanbase comes to their shows. But then those folks just become groupies and the fanbase stagnates, because no new people are being turned on. And whether or not those diehard earlybird fans are actually groupies doesn't really matter, the fact that it looks like that from the outside is all that matters. Because it's the PERCEPTION that prevents new fans from feeling welcome to, or comfortable at, some of the shows. And if you don't feel like part of the family, you might listen to the track on Myspace, but you're not gonna come to a show.
Then there's these "scene makers", employed by corporate marketers as undercover agents in the community. Many people, like me, just don't trust a artificially constructed scene. I don't care how much free beer you're giving away. You're not going to convince me that the culture is genuine with events sponsored by Toyota. Sorry. We need some organic culture.
And, as my homie Cyance (who grew up in Minneapolis, went to college in Atlanta, and moved back to Minneapolis), tells me, Minneapolis is one of the few backwards towns where promoters wanna charge artists trying to come up with a $1000 minimum to open up for national acts who are coming to town. What kind of retarded politics are those? And how does that help the culture grow? Instead it sounds like there are certain gatekeepers exploiting, manipulating and controlling anyone with talent trying to get exposure.
My homie goes on to say: "Minneapolis is a laughing stock for it.. there is a recipe for starting things the right way and that's rebuild and be honest because, let's face it, we have a small market that's over-saturated with wackness, and a lot of cats need some career counseling and don't need to be emceeing or making beats, BUT there are plenty of other positions they could learn to play and be good and useful at", but alas, everybody wanna be the star of the show.
That organic culture can be improved on. The talent is there. But the essential problem gotta be handled from two ends of the rope: yeah the fans need to step up and support, but the local kings of Hip-Hop need to step down off the pedestals made for them by their groupies and reach out to the larger population in the area. Work with folks making music different from your own. Otherwise you gonna continue to have emcees from the hood competing with emcees from Dinkytown (college area by the University Of Minnesota).
Giving props where they are due, let me be sure to say that Muja Messiah (liberator 7.2 coverstory) and I Self Devine (myspace) have been trying to be true bridges. The young emcees need to follow in their footsteps.
Amidst all of this craziness, one thing Minnesota has going, is that B96 was purchased by local business owners in 2007 (source). So unlike other urban areas around the country, Minnesota's top contemporary station is NOT owned by corporate radio giants Radio One or Clear Channel.