Detroit Hip Hop Elevation
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The Detroit Hip Hop Elevation concert took place Jan. 17 at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation on Trumbull. The event, an evening of music, visual arts, vendors and the Detroit hip hop community, was aimed at bringing artists together to help bring hip hop music back to the city’s cultural forefront. It was presented by DJ Dez and DJ Butter.
Detroit hip hop has produced many international stars over the past 20 years, but despite this output and the deep pool of talent that remains, the city’s community has experienced a lack of artist development and support. During the event, the artists described the conditions that necessitated an “elevation.”
“Our talent is undeniable,” said Suga Rae, radio personality and advocate for Detroit hip hop artists. “It is ridiculous that we’re not on the level of all these other cities, because we have so many hidden jewels, so much other talent here. We have to leave the city to get noticed; it’s ridiculous.
“I don’t think we support each other enough,” she said. “You go to other cities, they’re backing their artists. If they’re throwing a concert, people come out and support. Here in Detroit, as soon as they find out it’s something local, they run for the hills and I don’t understand that.”
Nationally and internationally, Detroit artists receive praise for their creativity and authenticity. In the city, however, a flood of talent and lack of opportunity can stifle the creative energy. Most artists describe the divisions amongst each other as the most damaging problem.
“We definitely need more unity in Detroit,” said Ron D, an emcee and one of the city’s rising stars. “It’s good to see stuff like this and we’re still keeping hip hop alive, but we definitely need more unity.”
Valid, an emcee who has grown as an independent artist over the past several years says, “Competing outside of the (recording) booth, that’s the problem. Competition in the booth is great, but when it goes to like ‘he wasn’t at my release party, so I’m not gonna go to his, that’s BS.’ I’ll go to anybody’s whether they are at mine or not. It’s not about you; it’s for the home team. I understand we’re out here trying to eat, but if he eats, it increases my chances of eating, because all of our names are connected.”
Unfortunately for Detroit, some of the most recognizable names to ever create hip hop music passed away early in their lives. The deaths of Proof, J Dilla and Baatin left a hole in the hearts of many.
“We need to keep focusing on the now, and recognize who is out here now,” said DJ Butter, reflecting on the deaths of those artists, who were each international icons and helped give Detroit hip hop its identity.
OSI and IseQold of The Regiment have emerged in the past few years as voices for a new generation of hip hop, and they view the new energy in the music being made today as the ultimate catalyst for change.
“Too many things sound the exact same,” said IseQold. “It’s not very difficult to tell, if you listen to the radio in Detroit, which music was not made here and which music was made here. I think there is too much of an urban sound, but if we want to branch out, there’s going to have to be something that’s friendly to the ear of other demographics.”
By infusing new energy and ideas into the sound, Detroit has an opportunity to once again innovate hip hop for a global audience. Developing new genres of music has long been a part of the city’s music identity, so fans around the world continue to expect great artistry from today’s Motor City talent. Artists hope ideas will come together through events like Detroit Hip Hop Elevation.
“Elevate from a lack of creativity for the time that we’re living in,” said Thyme of 5 ELA, a pioneering group in Detroit hip hop. “I think that for the next 30 years, we should be innovating music again. We brought all forms of music to the country, to the world, to the universe, and it’s time for new stronger frequencies to come to the planet. And Detroit has been a place already ordained to do that.”