Written by WISDOM
5 Seasons is a hotbed for local Baltimore-based talent, especially from a hip hop perspective. Sunday night was no different as artists from the metropolitan area made their presence felt at the venue located at 830 Guilford Avenue. Billed as “The Hip Hop Show”, this hip hop extravaganza allowed local artists to showcase their skills and network at the same time. Hosted by the glamorous Mz Undastood from Da Beat 1650-AM, “The Hip Hop Show” was another cog in the machine for hip hop unity in the Baltimore-Washington region. DJ TNT provided the turntable wizardry for the evening, keeping the positive hip hop vibes flowing.
Even though the venue was not full to capacity for most of the night, there was definitely an air of excitement and anticipation from the somewhat sparse crowd. DJ TNT played underground hip hop staples throughout the evening, ranging from Jay-Z, Biggie, Wu-Tang Clan, and other notables. Inside 5 Seasons, many local artists and luminaries were present to show support for “The Hip Hop Show”. Consumer Voice Entertainment Group CEO Lew Williams came to lend support for the hip hop cause, along with emcees Ahmed The Last Born Child, E.N.V.I.E., Slay, and others. It was definitely a good sight to see the love and support flowing within the venue. Because 5 Seasons has a relaxed vibe with its décor, it appeared that most inside were at ease before the event started, either enjoying the television monitors throughout, relaxing on the sofas with drinks, or just networking and politicking with one another.
Just before the performances began, I had the opportunity to sit down and conduct a brief interview with one of the performers Yahkeem. Yahkeem definitely stood out with his Twitter self-promotion t-shirt denoting “@Yahkeem”. Yahkeem was a down-to-earth artist, willing to discuss his influences, upbringing, and vision for his music overall (there will be an article on the interview forthcoming). He showed during our brief conversation that he is poised to showcase his artistic passion for all to witness.
Mz. Undastood graced the microphone with her presence, alerting all in attendance that the show was to begin. First on the bill for the evening was Dunny, an East Baltimore-based artist. He displayed grit throughout his performance, delivering a slow-paced banger first. This song gave way to another joint that captured the attention of the crowd. Dunny let the crowd know that his final song, “Feel The Pain”, was an inspirational cut, and brought a rhyme accomplice by the name TX on stage with him. They both displayed a double-time flow, with TX standing out with his command on the microphone. Once Dunny finished his set, Mz. Undastood gave him an opportunity to talk about his music. Dunny announced that Grind Time is a new album coming out, and also discussed how Baltimore hip hop has influenced him.
Next on stage was Kaspa, a relatively new emcee on the horizon who has been recently featured in The Source Magazine. It was quite evident that this white emcee represented hip hop to the fullest, starting off with “Where I’m From”, a neighborhood anthem for his beloved O’Donnell Heights community. This song prepped the crowd for more from Kaspa, who blessed the crowd with two more songs to round out his set. Kaspa displayed versatility with his flow, while maintaining his grittiness throughout his spirited performance. After his performance, he told the crowd about production from local hip hop head Skarr Akbar, who produced the three performed cuts for the evening. Kaspa also promoted his newest release, The Past, The Present, The Future. Once prompted by Mz. Undastood, Kaspa made sure to advise everyone in attendance that he could be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or website at www.reverbnation.com/kaspa443.
Yahkeem, a street rhymer that has called New York, New Orleans, as well as Baltimore home, hit the stage next. Yahkeem wasted no time with his rough, rugged delivery, touching on tales of urban living with his first song. This song segued into the next profane cut about females, definitely striking a chord in the mostly male audience. His third selection was a song fueled by hating individuals, and the cut was met with some positive results. Overall, Yahkeem stayed true to his reality-based roots, spitting lyrics with conviction. After his performance, he told the audience during the artist introduction phase with Mz. Undastood about a collaboration with Nephew, another artist slated to perform later in the evening. Yahkeem urged the crowd to follow him on Twitter via @Yahkeem.
Mz. Undastood then took the time to not only shout out Da Beat 1650-AM and her program “Konsider Dis”, which has been a huge support for DMV-based hip hop artists, but to educate current and potential artists. She urged the artists that they are missing a huge opportunity by not submitting their music to the station and program, to the tune of $5500.00 per quarter for royalties when registered with BMI (Broadcast Music, Incorporated). BMI is an entity that collects license fees for songwriters and artists in order to compensate them with royalties. It was definitely insightful for those in attendance to hear an actual radio personality break down the dynamics of royalties from a business standpoint; that is something needed in today’s independent music community. Along with DJ TNT, Mz. Undastood is using “Konsider Dis” as a way to lend a voice to the underground, independent hip hop community.
The energy level increased once the next artist, Papi The General, and his small entourage hit the 5 Seasons stage. Dressed in military fatigues and boots, you could sense that Papi indeed was “The General” on stage, with his commanding presence. From a visual standpoint, Papi The General and entourage captivated the crowd with the American flag waving onstage. The first cut performed by the artist showed his allegiance to his military mindset, a good analogy with the war in the streets. His second song, “Amazing”, showcased Sharlee Rose, a dope female vocalist. Sharlee Rose captivated the audience with her vocal abilities on both the second and third selections for Papi The General, even coming into the crowd to sing some flirtatious lyrics to a surprised emcee, E.N.V.I.E. Once the electrified performance was over, Papi The General shared his heartfelt story about being homeless, and his experience in the military for six years. This moment showed just what hip hop can offer, a way to creatively express whatever ills an individual may have experienced in life. You can reach Papi The General at http://www.papithegeneral.com/.
Jay McGraw, artist and CEO for M.A.M. Records, allowed his presence be felt as soon as he touched the microphone. He asked for a brief moment of silence for K Swift and other fallen soldiers, before launching into “Grand Opening”, from his Grand Opening mixtape. The second song performed by McGraw was assisted by Dubbs Lane, a very dope lyricist who showcased his skills and persona while on the microphone. Jay McGraw also allowed another associate to shine, P-Shellz, who contributed a brief freestyle to the 5 Seasons contingent. McGraw showed that he is not only an artist, but a businessman and humanitarian, by detailing his 2nd annual food drive where food baskets will be passed out the day before Thanksgiving to needy families. Jay McGraw let the audience know that he could be reached via website at www.reverbnation.com/jaymcgraw or www.facebook.com/therealjaymcgraw. Dubbs Lane also let the crowd know that he was a force to be reckoned with, and advised those in attendance to hit him up at http://dubbslane.bandcamp.com/ to catch his Everybody Hates Chris…But Loves Dubbs album. He’s definitely an artist to be on everyone’s hip hop radar. Singleton Newman even came on stage to promote New Hope Management. As CEO for New Hope Management, she helps with management and talent booking throughout the DMV region and beyond.
During a brief intermission, DJ TNT continued to hit the crowd with underground hip hop music, taking the crowd back to an era where beats and rhymes were key. Once the crowd was fed another helping of good ol’ hip hop, the artist of the moment hit the stage. Nephew was on hand to celebrate, promote and preview his new mixtape Emotions Run Deep. Upon hitting the stage, it was evident through the crowd response that 5 Seasons was ready for the Nephew experience. Nephew was joined on his first joint by a female emcee, and they commenced to let the crowd know that "money be the topic here, paper be the souvenir". 'Phew then hit the audience with a more uptempo cut, being joined by DJ TNT. Quite a few in 5 Seasons knew word for word every joint presented by Nephew, letting him know that Emotions Run Deep had support in the streets. He then kicked an impromptu freestyle before going into his verse on "Doing Me". After some interaction with the 5 Seasons audience and DJ TNT, the "Clap Back" beat from Ja Rule dropped, allowing the artist of the moment to spit some heat. He wasn't through though; pleading with DJ TNT, "BMF" was next on the agenda, with 'Phew adding his own flair to the Rick Ross banger for the summer of 2010. It appeared that Nephew could have performed for the rest of the night, but the gems he had in store for the crowd would have to wait. He did let everyone in the venue to follow his music on www.reverbnation.com/bmorenephew. Following Nephew on stage was an emcee ready to show and prove on the open mic tip, but after he was finished, DJ TNT shut down the rest of the freestyle festivities, at least for the evening.
The party wasn't over at 5 Seasons after "The Hip Hop Show" performances, as DJ TNT supplied the music to rock the spot for the remainder of the evening. All in all, it was another successful evening for underground, independent hip hop in the region. More and more, I'm seeing the unity that has been lacking with the Baltimore hip hop community, and it was indeed a good thing. Much props are in order for 5 Seasons supplying the venue, Mz. Undastood for doing an excellent job hosting and keeping the show flowing, and DJ TNT for providing the musical backdrop on the turntables. Credit is definitely in order as well for each of the artists performing, because it's not going to take just one emcee to "put Baltimore on his or her back", so to speak. It's going to be a collective effort from these and many more artists in order for those outside the Baltimore and DMV periphery to recognize real. Let's hope for more positive events like this to spread throughout the region.