Knowing a lot of people support something you have a passion for is an incredible feeling, and it's one that many in the local hip-hop scene aren't familiar with. The support simply hasn't been there in the past, which has been discouraging for many great emcees who have come and gone from the Lowcountry. But I believe the hip-hop that's currently getting an underground buzz in the city is great enough to be at the forefront of Charleston's music scene. So why hasn't it progressed to a greater level?
First, the kind of rappers who make up the majority of the Southern hip-hop scene are often the commercial (Future, Young Thug, etc.) ones or the ones who talk about the same stereotypical subjects that popular gangster rappers talk about. They follow the trends that are going on in mainstream rap. In turn, audiences grow to expect that same kind of music when they attend local rap shows. But there are rappers in this city who can talk about real topics in an artistic way. I believe those artists would be able to gain fans outside of the typical rap community if only people outside the typical rap community could hear about them.
Although, I will add that so far in 2016, things are looking up. This weekend, the Pour House will host a hip-hop show organized by Luis Skye, who sought out different sounds from artists with different backgrounds in an effort to unite various corners of the South Carolina hip-hop community. Palmetto Brewing welcomed a hip-hop showcase and open mic recently organized by Speakerbox, and Kairo Myth brought an electro-hip-hop showcase to the Tattooed Moose downtown back in June. That's an awesome start.
But what else can we do to get the Chucktown hip-hop sound off the ground? We need more:
This city has a thriving music culture when it comes to other genres, which is why the varying scenes need to work harder to support one another. Our cultural diversity mixed with the influx of tourists and out-of-town students sets us up with what we need to make this city a musical force to be reckoned with in every area, from hip-hop to hardcore to indie rock. More collaborations like what we saw at least year's Hi Harmony show at the Charleston Music Hall will only make our community stronger and grow the fanbase across every genre.
Unity, fewer cliques
I've noticed a debilitating trend: A lot of artists tend to stick to their own small groups — not to say that they have a problem with other circles so much as they simply don't take the time to reach out to each other. And that's hurting us. Look around, reach out, collaborate, and share bills with hip-hop artists outside your immediate circle.
Venues to host hip-hop shows
Many of us are familiar with going to certain venues around town to catch certain kinds of shows — and you end up having certain crowds that congregate around specific places. If we could get some venues around town that don't normally host hip-hop shows to start doing so, it would be an excellent source of exposure for local artists and a great opportunity to unite different pockets of the community. Follow the examples of the Pour House, Tattooed Moose, and Palmetto Brewing.
Real and continual support for the scene
If you're an artist, share other local artists' music with your followers, including your personal friends in other cities. Everyone: Show up and support local musicians. Buy their music, merch, and help spread the love. Let venues know you want more diversity, and show up when they give that to you.
Emcees with something meaningful to say
Artists: Don't write about the same old subjects. I've been to too many hip-hop shows where the artists talk about the same things, like money, drugs, women, and violence. Think about the greatest emcees of all time. Weren't they able to talk about a wide range of topics? The South needs fewer Young Thugs and more Andre 3000s.
We need more folks who are bridging the gaps and leading the charge, guys like Black Dave, the local DJ who founded Charleston Hype, a great source for what's happening with local artists. Or Donovan Lotus, with his Southern Scorpion promotion company. Or Teante Simmons and Cody Dixon of hip-hop/jazz duo Speakerbox, who brought a hip-hop showcase to Palmetto Brewing for the very first time. But they can't all do it alone.
Can we do this, Charleston? Together, I think we can.
Wayne Hampleton is an emcee (BASS GHOST), a guitarist, vlogger, and advocate of the Charleston music scene. As a metal music fan of the death, djent, and progressive varieties, Hampleton also formerly co-hosted 98 Rock's The Ruckus Radio Show along with Jackie Summers and later launched metal and punk radio station Ruckus Radio. BASS GHOST has plans to release a debut album Free the Youth later this summer.