Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's Wrong With The Scene?
Part 1 of 5 by Bavu Blakes

(Tonight I'm turning the mic, as they say, over to Bavu Blakes, a sometime contributor of AustinSurreal and the guy who kicks me in my ass when I am slacking. You don't like it? Come see us at The Mohawk Thursday and we can discuss.)

What's Wrong With the Scene?!

[imagine this being part one of a five-part column. and gimme some hard feedback. thanks!]

On a Saturday night not long ago, I stopped by the Open Labs beat battle event at the Mohawk here in Austin, Texas, to perform a 20-minute promo set. I also went there because I assumed it would be a solid opportunity to market our November 13 Soulful Texas Hip Hop Live show at the same venue.

So I did the set, and it went fine. But during – and especially before and after – my performance, I noticed a funny energy in the crowd. There were many local artists, crews and cliques in attendance and, of course, dozens of beat makers and producers from all over the country. I sensed a lot of confusion in the air, and a lack of purpose you could almost taste. There were hundreds of people at the venue, yet it felt mostly empty. Maybe I'm crazy, but whatever it was, this energy was disheartening.

Later that night, I went by Ruta Maya to give some posters and flyers to Matt Sonzala of Austin Surreal, who is promoting this Soulful Texas Hip Hop Live show. And again, there was that weird energy in the crowd which included many local artists as well as some fans. It felt like night of the living dead in there!

Overall, it ended up being a depressing evening despite the fact that I went on a date with my wife in between the two events. I think I shed a couple of tears when I was praying and falling asleep that night. I've had plenty of less-than-inspiring nights on the town, but this was ridiculous. I was questioning my role and involvement in my local scene, and realized it's not just a local issue. It's everywhere, and I want to help change it.

When you face a problem, you can complain, ignore it or do something. And what I've described in these first five paragraphs led to me starting this column, where I'll speak from my own experiences and travels in an effort to help you help me help us... in every town. I've titled this series with a perennially tired question: What's Wrong With the Scene?!

In Every Town, USA, there's at least a thousand people trying to make it in the hip hop game. Some of them aspire to become independent rap gods like the Dude Devin or the Kweli Talib, while others dream of signing a big major record deal with somebody like Jay-Z or the late Shakir Stewart. Others just want to run their city, so they can allegedly put on for their city.

I, for one, would like to see Texas become a stronger producer and exporter of hip hop and soul talent compared to our more typical role of consumer and importer/buyer. Most rappers, promoters, dj's and folks who seriously love the music, culture, etc., have a common goal to put their city, state or region on the map. So what's stopping them, umm I mean, us? Answer: a lack of casual fans.

Well, if you want to build a following and/or scene for yourself or your whole city/state, the most important ingredient in your recipe is the casual music fan. Casual fans are not the hardcore heads and die-hard rap consumers willing to step out often just for the experience, or to see what the dj's play. Casual fans are not the guys who show up and act like rappers on the weekends. They aren't the hardcore critics who take everything way too seriously, either.

Casual fans are people who spend $20 to $100 or more to have a good live music experience on any given night, especially when an artist they love and respect passes through their city on tour. Casual fans are people who regularly buy CD's at the store, or from digital retailers like iTunes. Meanwhile, back on the local concert scene in Every Town, USA, the locals are constantly and unknowingly running these casual fans off! And out the door goes the chance to expand this typical local show environment aka the same 20 artists and their people standing around in a room.

I theorize that a casual fan has a great time at endless touring shows in venues like Stubb's, Austin Music Hall and Emo's in Austin. Then they stay home until the next Lil' Wayne, 3-6 Mafia, Z-Ro or Anthony Hamilton comes through town. But when these fans casually venture out to a local show, what do they experience?

We'll cover that in the next installment of What's Wrong With the Scene?!

Back to the lab,
Mr. Bavu Blakes

[ Email your comments, questions, feedback, criticism, etc., to Mr.Blakes@gmail.com with "What's Wrong With the Scene?!" in the subject line. ]


Anonymous said...


Though I just moved to Austin in January, I've been able to check out the Austin HipHop scene over the past few months and have noticed exactly what you're talking about.

I sensed the deathly air at Ruta Maya that night to the point where I had to leave. I peepd the Beat Battle online through OpenLab's website and was in the chatroom. People are so ignorant -- if it's not mainstream they are hesitant to support it, yet forget that everyone had to start off somewhere.

It's like in order for people to be down with something, TONS of hype needs to be created around it. Not saying that's wrong, but one can't create hype themselves. We all have to work together so show that the hype we create for Austin HipHop really is true and we have to back it up.

I think what will really help is if there was a constant HipHop event that showcases All Texas Hiphop and create some sort of movement to where it grows and becomes really strong. Because the once in a while events are great, but it has to be grander and more frequent to create the Movement of REAL HipHop in Texas.

Just my thoughts!

-- Edica

Unknown said...

While reading Mr. Blakes' blog entry, I almost felt as if I were actually right there with you on stage that night homie..The way you articulate your words & put sentences together proves once again that you are definately 1 of Texas' premier artists & eventually the whole world will catch on my dude. Much love from SparkDawg & Team Spark-A-Lot homie.

Unknown said...

The only thing wrong with the scene last night was that I wanted to hear more. Yall keep doing what you do and don't feel sorry for the people who are too hard headed to LISTEN and have some good times! Great show and good to meet you last night surreal.

Pushermania said...

THANKS SO MUCH JESSE! And everyone else!

Pikahsso allen Poe said...

dope Article Bavuski

Anonymous said...

ALways down to support yall local boys keep it held down

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what the casual fan experiences, they experience an audience full of rappers that worry about the look first and the music last. They experience a scene that wants you to bow down and pay respect before you ever have a chance to hear the music. It's a scene full of artists that are extremely hard to distinguish from one another. I've gone to some local ATX shows and the vibe is not "Lets have a good time and build" its more like, "Dont invade my space or we will have problems." This casual fan that you would like to have at your shows is busy hearing the same kind of music and dancing their asses of at a Girl Talk/Diplo/Ghostland Observatory show.

Pushermania said...

First half of the anonymous post is on point. But um, most people I know would never consider going to see Girl Talk. Diplo yes, Girl Talk probably not. And only Diplo in the right kind of scenario. But yes anonymous you are right, these local rappers do want respect before they even do anything. They live in fuckin'/ la la land and most of them do indeed need to be stopped. You are correct sir or ma'am.

But naw man, none of us are gonna go see no motherfucking Girl Talk, hell naw.