There's a reason for that, too, because the scene has a shitload of stereotypes to contend with stereotypes that repeatedly undermine efforts to promote live local hip-hop. At any given time, maybe three area venues are willing to host local rap shows, usually once a week, and never for more than a few months.
MCs, DJs, B-boys and their fans are desperate to enjoy the music in public, to get recognition for the art they create and to enjoy the sheer fun that comes with it but the public at large still seems afraid. Sure, there are some problem kids who have committed acts of violence at hip-hop shows (such as the shootings at Rum Runners this past year). But it doesn't help that the local media invariably respond to these events by playing off society's fear of black people, sending out a dour, stiff reporter who stands at the crime scene and spits out the words rap music like bile.
Readers of the Pitch, however, know better. We like beats; rhymes; DJs who mix, chop and scratch records; MCs who rattle off smooth, smart, aggressive lyrics with sharp, booming voices; and B-boys who rock a few steps, pop and lock, then tornado around the dance floor. And we've been to plenty of shows both local open-mikes (such as the Peanut's Sunday night showcases) and national tour stops in Lawrence where we've felt completely safe sitting back and taking in the show.
Not being insiders, though, we use the Internet to keep tabs on the local beat, and for years, LawrenceHipHop.com was our source.
Miles Bonny, the DJ half of SoundsGood (the other half is MC Joe Good), founded the site in 2002 as a student at the University of Kansas. Transplanted from New Jersey, he wanted to use the Web to create an informational, discussion-based community for local fans and artists.
"The Internet became an exciting thing because you didn't have to convince anyone of anything," he says. "You could just put it up there and let people take it however they wanted."
Bonny is one of the most humble and uncynical cats you're likely to meet on the hip-hop scene, here or anywhere else. He loves the music actively, and he's a damn good DJ. Hang around him long enough, and you'll start to agree that music really is the most worthwhile endeavor in life.
But now his virtual baby, LawrenceHipHop.com, is no more.
It got hacked a few months ago, and the swine who did it erased all the forums and posts, destroying years of local music history. Because the two computer nerds Bonny had relied on to create the site had moved away and started new lives, he had no way of restoring it to its former glory which had been waning in recent years anyway, he says.
This brings up another problem promoters face: fans who bob their heads to the music but do nothing for the cause (except complain about others' inactivity).
Bonny says he tried numerous times to recruit people to take more active roles in maintaining LawrenceHipHop.com. From the beginning, it was a project that he wanted to kick-start and then turn over to more computer-savvy hip-hop fans. But no one rose to the challenge, and now the site that coined the term Lawrence Hip-Hop is kaput.
The good news is that the torch has been passed. I watched Bonny hand it over to another site, one that's not exactly new but still in its infancy: HipHopKC.com.
During the course of our interview, Bonny realized that it might be a good idea to redirect Lawrencehiphop.com seekers to the burgeoning KC site. He called his former collaborator, Andrew Giessel (now attending Harvard), and asked him to update the old URL to redirect surfers to the new site.
And this "new," homies o' mine, is good shit from a very unlikely source.
Necia Gamby, mother to Joe Good and his beatmaking brother Jaz, is the founder of HipHopKC.com, and she has created a new avenue for local hip-hop promotion, one that is all about affirmation and education.
She's a mom hell, she's the mom of some of the most active musicians in town so she knows how hip-hop can intimidate parents. On her site, she has compiled a library of music criticism (click on "Site Picks" in the left sidebar) that allows outsiders to read blurbs for hip-hop history books and then click on links to buy the books from Amazon.com.
Just talking to Ms. Gamby is a revelation. Here is a woman who, rather than being leery, is deeply grateful to what she calls "her tribe" (her sons and their friends) for bringing this music into her life. On her site, any artist with the motivation to do it can set up a free Web page (or "one-sheet") to advertise nationwide; and nonobtrusive ads flash in the corner, directing comers to resources such as her own family's studio, 64111 Clinic, and Chapman Studios.
The main obstacle to HipHopKC's success, of course, is that many young people don't have Internet access, especially kids with scads of talent but few financial resources. Also, a Web site can't save a scene.
But those who can support the scene here should spread the word anyway.
Bonny, Gamby, Sike Style, Reach and other active purveyors of the rich and positive Midwest hip-hop we've got going on here can't do all the work themselves. As of this writing, HipHopKC.com has only about 150 registered members, and hardly any of the artists listed have taken the time to get with Gamby and set up their one-sheets.
Time waits for no lazy-ass motherfucker, people.