The Foundation, four years of celebrating women in hip hop
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Detroit hip hop artists are respected around the world as masters of their craft, but while much of the attention is given to the men holding the microphone, the women in the city have commanded the stage and set their own mark as leaders among a global community of artists.
On May 14, the women of hip hop in Detroit will headline the stage as 5e Gallery’s The Foundation celebrates its fourth anniversary at Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee St. The Foundation is a weekly hip hop event featuring open mic, guest emcees, deejays and poets, fashioned specifically to highlight the women artists in the city.
The evening will feature many of Detroit’s top artists, brought together by 5e Gallery’s Piper Carter. Features include Mae Day, Lola Valley, Invincible and the Outer Spaces tour, D.S. Sense, ‘NiqueLoveRhodes, Insite The Riot, Mahogany Jones, Atoms and Ease, B-girl Ma-Ma and DJ XO. Poet jessica Care moore will host.
The event is a fundraiser for 5e Gallery, which has been struggling to maintain its space on Michigan Avenue in Corktown. This institution has provided a safe space for artists to commune since 2008, and currently offers programs to educate youth about hip hop culture and the creation of digital music and media.
“I’m really honored to be hosting for The Foundation, there’s very few institutions in our city that support women artists,” says moore. “I’ve always said that Detroit has the best women emcees.”
A renowned artist, moore has been a force on the international poetry scene since the 1990s and is a great inspiration to most women poets and hip hop artists throughout the city. Her inclusion in the show promises to be a highlight of the night.
“I remember being a woman artist from this city, in a very male dominant hip hop scene, a very male dominant poetry scene, and pushing my voice, using the strength of my voice,” says moore. “I keep all of that, I put all of that bravado side of my writing and put in on the mic, and I’ve found a way to create my voice in a very male-dominated entertainment industry. It’s good that it’s happening, and I hope that everyone comes out.”
A regular host of The Foundation’s Tuesday night event, Mahogany Jones is a poet and musician who also happens to be a master emcee. Every week, she commands the rap cipher, making sure everyone gets their time to vocalize their message.
“The 5e Gallery itself we all know is surrounded around the five elements of hip hop, and really focusing on the element of knowledge of self and a love for the community,” says Jones.
Returning to the essence of this fifth element is key to making sure hip hop remains a productive force in Detroit, and to do that, women must take a leading role.
“Women as a whole,” says Jones, “we’re mothers, we’re girlfriends, we’re wives, we’re teachers, and so when we’re healthy, we are a part of making a healthy community.”
Hardcore Detroit’s Mary Mar, known as B-girl Ma-Ma, works to add knowledge to the community through the study of dance. She regularly performs alongside her male dance partners in the crew, but she understands that as a woman, her hip hop style offers a feminine grace that the men can’t duplicate.
“The girls could have that rawness too, but we could have that feminine quality that the boys can’t have,” says B-girl Ma-Ma. “It just makes our dancing style different from theirs.”
Invincible brings her current nationwide tour to the stage, featuring Brooklyn poetry group Climbing PoeTree and Cuban hip hop group Las Krudas. Invincible helped establish The Foundation as a weekly event with Piper Carter and Miz Korona in 2009, and she continues to be an internationally recognized activist and emcee.
“I think the Foundation has done a lot for the city, more so than just for women in hip hop,” says Invincible. “Generally, for the hip hop community, The Foundation has become one of the staple spaces, open mic events, that new artists and established artists can go and have a safe space to evolve their craft. I think that’s always a much needed thing in our city.”
Lola Valley will return their all-star lineup of musicians to the stage with a soulful funk and R&B sound. Led by the locally celebrated singer Monica Blaire, the band features Sarah Reznich on guitar, Aisha Ellis on drums, Angelica Moross on keys and Emily Rogers on bass, who recently won honors at the Detroit Music Awards as the city’s Outstanding Urban/Funk Musician.
“We just want to be able to continue to do that work of giving women a voice and a safe space to celebrate themselves,” says Jones.
Tickets for The Foundation’s fourth anniversary event are $10 and are on sale at www.neptix.com