Editors Note: This was an article written over a year and a half ago. Some things and opinions have changed since. Other things will not be noted.
Milwaukee Hip Hop: An Introspective Look
Milwaukee has an incredible amount of talent in the hip-hop scene. From the North side to the Southside, east to west, you are bound to find an artist you can connect with. There’s trap, hardcore, lyrical and conscious, any subgenre you can think of and it exists here in Milwaukee. It exists in it’s own world.
With so much talent in the city it’s just a shame that most of it will go nowhere. Most of it will be buried under a pile of hate, fear and judgment. There are a few who escape the city and find things on the outside to be different. They find what they are after, be it fame, recognition or support. Too many times though, we as a music community are quick to label and judge those who leave and are doing better than us. In reality, how can we blame them?
I have worked with some of the biggest names in local hip-hop, in many aspects it has been the time of my life. On the other hand, I see the hate, feel the fear, hear the judgment and it sickens me. Everyone says they want unity, but very few fight for it. So, what exactly is unity when it comes to local hip-hop? In my mind it can be a number of things. It can be local hip hop artists working together, crossing over lines of genre, social standing, skill level to come up together. Putting each other over and putting the greatness of the city’s talent above the needs of themselves. It can be busting out of this clique mentality. You know it’s always the same dudes and same crews who frequenting the same spots, be it Uptowner, Mason Jar, Villard Inn, Nostalgia, etc. It can be to regress the belief that everyone is out for himself or herself, so why shouldn’t I be? It can be to cutback the oversaturation in the market. If there is five other hip-hop shows on the same night you want to book yours, why bother? GO BE A FAN. No one is benefiting from having each clique have his or her own show every Friday and Saturday. More cross promotion and more bills with different artists will lead to a bigger fan base. We don’t need to have five hip-hop shows and six open mics going on at the same damn time.
It’s the ego and expectations of some artists, which are also a problem. If you won’t perform local shows because you have been doing it for too many years, I think the problem lies within yourself and not the scene. That’s just plain selfish and stupid. If you have a fan base, where are the fans going to see you? Where are you going to sell your merch? Oh, you’re going to pay $500 to play a side stage at a shitty venue for a bunch of drunks who couldn’t care less about your music. Bogus.
What is with these artists locally who expect outrageous amounts of money to perform or collab when they are no better off than Joe Schmo over here? I’m sorry but if you are a local hip hop artist in the same boat as other local hip hop artists, what are you doing asking them for hundreds of dollars so you can “bless” a verse. Here’s a tip guys: KEEP YOUR MONEY! Put it into merch, promotion and marketing!!! You had better believe if you ask me for $150 to perform so you can bring out one actual fan and three other rappers to your show, I will think a lot less of you. I hate to say it, but it’s a lot of these older cats with these mentalities too. The ones who have been in the Milwaukee scene for 10+ years. Maybe their careers didn’t take off like they had expected them to or maybe that’s how it was when they were coming up, but it doesn’t have to be that way now.
Be professional. How can I stress that more? BE PROFESSIONAL!!! I have worked with all genres of music and artists of all kinds. Why is it when it comes to hip-hop y’all feel you don’t have to be professional? You yourself are a business. You are a walking, talking, praying to god, shitting on the toilet, fucking billboard for your music. If you say you are going to be somewhere at a certain time, BE THERE!!! I have had artists not show up for shows and meetings, I have had artists call ten minutes before a show and say they are not making it. I have had even more horror stories. Believe you me, you pull any of this and I will NEVER work with you again. I will never get you on a show; I will never connect you with anyone or any resources. DO NOT BURN BRIDGES!!! Everyone you meet is a possible fan, collaborator, mentor, or could have something to offer your career. Stay professional!
Work together! This is part of being unified, but network with each other! You are all essentially in the same boat. Networking is key. As in life it is in hip-hop, it’s all about whom you know. As stated above, everyone you meet is a potential fan, collaborator, mentor, or has something to offer your career. Cross promotion and working with new artists is a great way to gain a fan base. You aren’t doing that by sitting on Facebook and talking shit to each other.
Milwaukee has so much talent, but really it’s a sad affair. There are so many more things I could talk about, bit that’s it for this time. Milwaukee hip-hop needs to get its shit together if it really wants to become relevant. I have many hip-hop friends in other cities, they do a lot of the things I mentioned here and they are all coming up! If Milwaukee were such a dope place for hip-hop, you wouldn’t have every artist worth his marbles wanting to leave.
Until next time…
NOTE TO THE FANS: Go out and support the local scene. All these artists do what they love and cannot do any of it without you. Spend that $5 on a cover charge. Spend the $7 on a cd or a t-shirt. These artists are putting their own money into this shit and y’all are part of the problem. Support your favorite local artists or watch them disappear.