It’s an interesting time for local hip-hop, says the promoter Mark “ShaH” Evans: Even as the city’s contentious relationship with the genre remains, some fresh faces are reshaping Madison’s hip-hop identity.
“When you start talking about the scene, it’s not the same old players,” said Evans, vice president of the Urban Community Arts Network, a hip-hop-centric arts nonprofit. “It’s a real changing of the guard.”
The new guard, a roster of young artists like Third Dimension, Rich Robbins and Ra’Shaun, is going to be well-represented on the red carpet at the Madison Hip-Hop Awards on Saturday evening — the annual affair that Evans and the rapper Dexter “Tefman” Patterson co-founded in 2010.
The event aims to cast a positive light on a genre that has had a tumultuous history in Madison. Hip hop has received blame from police, politicians, and venue owners for playing an alleged role in fights, gang activity and gun activity. Recently, an article in the Wisconsin State Journal on “gang activity” on the 600 block of University Avenue featured Alder Mike Verveer calling out a local club’s affiliation with hip-hop acts.
“It is fair to say that Liquid is the latest example of being, in a way, victimized by the genre of (hip-hop) music and being victims of their own success,” Verveer said.
Evans said that article is evidence that prejudices against hip-hop live on in Madison, despite UCAN’s efforts to remove that stigma. He noted that recent research by a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist found that hip-hop events were less likely to attract police than other kinds of shows in Madison, based on analysis of police call logs.
“You hope that some people do learn — that people say, ‘I didn’t realize there were more problems in relation to country than hip hop,’” he said. “But some people have their thoughts and beliefs.”
While stigmas endure, Evans said that the younger nominees in the mix for the 2017 awards are infused with an energy he appreciates. They lack a lot of the “bitterness” he ascribes to older artists who have experienced the ups and downs of Madison’s hip-hop scene.
“These young artists, they just want to work,” said Evans.
Some of those younger artists are among those in contention for artist of the year. Lucien Parker, a Minneapolis native who came to Madison through the UW-Madison’s First Wave hip-hop scholarship program, has opened for the likes of Waka Flocka Flame. Fellow First Waver Rich Robbins mixes smoky beats with deft and soulful lyricism.
Evans also called attention to nominees in other categories. Ted Park, up for video of the year, is among the few Madison rappers who have signed to a major label. He landed a deal with the French branch of Capitol Records after his single “Hello (Who is This)” took off online.
Chris Jewson, a student at Sun Prairie High School up for rookie of the year, is another standout, said Evans.
“Chris Jewson to me, is going to be a really big thing, a big deal. He’s only 16, and he’s got some monstrous bars,” said Evans.
In addition to its artistic nods to “artist of the year,” “rookie of the year” and “best album, the show will also recognize influencers in the hip hop community. Will Green, the co-founder of the eastside mentorship group Mentoring Positives, and Sashe Mishur of the East Madison Community Center will be honored for their work with aspiring emcees and hip-hop dancers. Ja’Mel Ware, the CEO of the entertainment group Intellectual Ratchett, will also receive recognition for his work to create a more diverse nightlife in Madison.
The show itself will feature performances by 3rd Dimension, DJ PAIN 1, Ra’Shaun, Ted Park and Kiloakaskitlz of BloodLine. Also featured.
The show has also moved to a new venue: After seven years at the Barrymore Theatre, the Majestic Theatre will host the event. The event starts at 7 p.m.