I am Hip Hop [Freestyle Mondays photoset]
I have lately begun different rituals and gotten myself on to a schedule. Every Monday night, I grab $0.10 chicken wings & a beer of the week at Croxley Ales on Ave B between 2nd & 3rd street. Then I head over to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for their 9:00pm open mic. Its such a supportive audience of fellow artists that understand what it is to be “emerging” in your craft. Performers are given 5 mins to do whatever they’d like on stage. Sometimes I stay until the end, sometimes I leave early. But no matter what I make it over to be with my love, hip hop; over at 116 McDougal Street a hip hop lover like myself can get all her needs met & then some at their weekly open mic event Freestyle Mondays.
It is here that a year ago my true exploratory education in Hip Hop began and my belief of what hip hop was redefined. My belief was also renewed. For a while there have been rumors flying that hip hop is dead, I’d say quite to the contrary; It is very much alive and well. Thriving as much as (if not more than) it has since its birth way back when. I realize that the reason most people would believe it is dying or dead is simply because it is no longer in the mainstream. As with all things that have been assimilated by corporate america, popular culture has left it a shell of it’s former self. Luckily Freestyle Mondays is still running after 10 years and is stronger then ever, attracting musicians & MC’s from all over the globe.
Looking around the room, you’d think you’re in the wrong place. There so many hipsters, tourist, foreigners, and other people that don’t fit the mass produced typical “hip hop” look. But once the band starts playing, Mariella & Ill Spokin begin their intro and call to order the MCs to line up, you know you’re in the right place. From replicated old school beats to improvised rhythms, the energy is distinct. You are home, you are in hip hop’s beating heart.
No need to be intimidated by the tremendous amounts of talent in the room, they are as accepting and supportive as they are vicious on the mic. All it takes to get on the mic is to stand on line. No judgements, no pretense, just guts and patience. As a person who has bombed repeatedly, trust you will still get a hand clap for the effort expended. Its not as hard as it looks and the more you do it, the more you become addicted, or rather dedicated to the mic. You realize you have something to say and like a good lover, it is there to give you whatever you need. And just like that, you discover, you are hip-hop. You discover that the corporate infused, overstimulated, hypersexualized, misogynistic, pants sagging, gold everywhere, popular image is NOT hip hop. Hip hop goes deeper. Its about community, love for self and each other.. Lastly, there are 5 (or 7 depending who you talk to) elements of hip-hop that cannot, will never be contained or put on a shelf. They can not be replicated by outsiders because they require the intrinsic breaths of our souls. Hip hop will never die, but we may take a vacation every now and again.