Now that’s what I’m talking about, Washington City Paper! I have read many bad articles creating inaccurate and, in my opinion, untrue images about D.C., culturally and musically. I’ve also sent you many obnoxious and hostile letters in the past venting my anger about how wrong those articles were. Whether you believe it or not, I was right those times. However, the article “Rhyme and Punishment” (1/23) is accurate and on point. You finally explained the truth about what is really going on in this town.
The piece offers good examples about the underappreciated rap scene in this city. And those examples are indicative of the music scene in general in D.C. Yes, our image and reputation are disappointing; but our reality and potential are amazing—and rival some of the best anywhere. The underground rap artists that you wrote about show how underrated D.C. is culturally. The piece also shows how generalizing and ignorant the “mainstream” L.A. and New York music-industry people are. Also, the article relates the fault of other big cities to the failure of the entertainment industry. The epitome, of course, is Justin Timberlake on the cover of Vibe. Poemcees, Priest Da Nomad, Unspoken Heard, Cy Young, even H.E.A.D. and everyone else from this area not getting national attention—all because some asshole New York and L.A. music snobs condition the rest of the country to believe these ridiculous things about D.C. You know: D.C. is only go-go, the government, crackhead mayors, and redneck politicians. I can hear them now: “Yo, that’s all there is to D.C. I’m telling ya….”
Don’t get me wrong: Like most people who have a rational sense of local pride in music black and white, we don’t worship go-go and Fugazi. (We are actually sick of both.) We just pay them their respect for telling the country to piss off and acknowledge where they are from. (Go-go bands can at least play real instruments.) There is a lot of talent, but wishy-washy crowds and conflicting genre stereotypes keep our rappers from getting recognition.
The truth is that a lot of factors play into the problem. The main one is not really any musically inclined resident of D.C.’s fault. We are still a predominantly black community. That has helped and hurt us greatly. We are really a reserve stash for New York’s, Philly’s, Chicago’s, and L.A.’s hiphop scenes. WKYS and WPGC have to have a preserved block for L.A.’s and New York’s rap acts—radio has to react to the mainstream demand.
But your article failed to bash and glorify one local institution that helped and then hurt the local hiphop scene: BET. Remember Rap City—an hour or an hour and a half of rap? MTV was doing only a half-hour of rap. Then BET for the most part left for New York, just like the Duke 75 or 80 years ago. My point is: A lot more could have happened if certain things had stayed put.
As far as radio goes, local people should get on radio’s ass—be particular about what they want to hear, make local stations follow up on local music. Home Jams is cool, but it doesn’t give enough consistent information. The attitude seems to be “We play a little local music, so shut up.”
Another factor, of course, is lack of promotion. As you said, it sparks interest but not enough unity and execution. The material is out there but not enough background about it. Can you imagine if they promoted the Wu the way D.C. bands get promoted? We shouldn’t blame it all on promoters, though—their jobs are tedious and hard. D.C. transplants are sometimes scared to give local music too much respect, whether it really is good or not, because one minute it’s going on—and the next it’s dead. The bars and record stores are not consistent enough, either—you walk into two different stores and people are just unaware: “Yeah, I’ve heard of Storm the Unpredictable, but who in the hell are the Poemcees?” If half of what you wrote was true about the success local rappers have in Europe, they should use their influence and throw it back into the United States.
Of course, City Paper, your obnoxious writers venting whiny filth about various problems in D.C. are part of it, too. Who is motivated to support local rap when John Cloud, Jason Cherkis, Tom Scocca, and the like are always writing crappy articles trashing everything under the sun about the city they live in? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot (or, better yet, the ass). All of the sudden: “Hey, don’t dis local rap, now.” If you are trying to be brutally honest because this town still needs a lot of work, that is OK. But tell me about something that turns you off in other big cities—I know there is a lot out there. Or, since you know it all anyway, at least come up with a positive solution.
For the most part, there is not enough aggression behind this rap scene. I know other people from bigger cities who agree that there is a lot going on here—“but if your own, so-called fans are too inconsistent to support it, why should I?” I don’t know, maybe we should bring back State of the Union or something. And stop being so cliquey, like a giant high school.
Last but not least, if that Whyte Out guy rocked 106th & Park, that well, that long, then the whole country saw him. The industry heads saw him. They knew he had skills that were top-notch. There are some successful rappers that can’t battle at all. The promoters should be livid, finding D.C. entertainment lawyers to sue, doing something. Then I will blame the “Evil Empire” of the L.A. and NYC entertainment juggernaut for not recognizing. The dues are being paid, and the industry is in too much denial to say it. Maybe they are scared to piss off their snotty music friends back home.
City Paper, thanks for your support. Glad you finally woke up.