Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards at First Avenue, 1/28/11

Sick performing "Purple and Gold"

Sick performing "Purple and Gold"

Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards with Maria Isa, I Self Devine, No Bird Sing and more

January 28, 2011

First Avenue Mainroom

The Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards is kind of an odd event. On Friday night, the First Avenue mainroom was full of hip-hop fans recognizing the Twin Cities' strong scene, and the crowd was one of the most diverse I've ever seen at a local rap event--it's a rare occurrence to have the critical darlings and the underexposed rap acts together with their supporters in one place. 

[jump] If you pay any attention to the rap that's happening around here, you're more than likely aware of staples like Rhymesayers or Doomtree, but the awards show made sure to represent less publicized local acts, like Long Doe Records, HardHead Productions and others. When else are you going to see No Bird Sing and 50 Tyson on the same bill? (50 Tyson has got some moves, too, I ain't gonna lie). However, the energy level was one of the lowest I've experienced. People tended to cheer only for their particular crews, but didn't show a lot of love to unfamiliar artists. Personally, this variety is one of the things I appreciate about the event. I love to see the scenes collide, but it seemed off-putting to some of the people in attendance, who by and large were not particularly hyped.

The performances were all pretty stellar, and everyone did their best to try to up the energy levels. Maria Isa and her band brought a top-notch performance as usual.  I Self Devine had a powerful stage presence and boomed through his classics.  Paris Bennett and Chrishan brought some funky R&B flavor, and the Anchormen spit hard raps with a very Minneapolis sensibility. 

Accompanied by lots of dancing girls (and one dude who stripped down to his boxers in sheer excitement), Sick brought out their tweek on Wiz Khalifa's hit "Black and Yellow" with "Purple and Gold," a salute to the Vikes which was really awesome but only reflected that the people on stage were more amped than those on the floor. Sick and the crew were tossing necklaces and Swisher Sweets out into the crowd; one guy even reached into his wallet and threw his cash in the air. Meanwhile, folks in the crowd were mostly folding their shoulders.  I certainly don't mean to imply that there was no energy coming from the audience, but it seemed like such a big deal event would muster more out of people. 

Hosts Franz Diego and Tee Moore brought the charisma needed to keep everything together, but the event was also slowed by the fact that not a lot of winners were present to receive their awards.  Winners Dessa (Best Female MC), Brother Ali (Best Male MC) and Toki Wright (Best Knowledge Spitter) all had prior engagements.  The producer crew Audio Perm were one of the few actually in attendance, and came away with both Best Producer and Best Album (the excellent instrumental beat-tape In Full Effect).  Taylor Madrigal, one-third of the all-beatmakers group, had "Audio Perm" shaved into the back of his head.

Last year's event got some negative attention due to a fight that broke out on stage between host Boima Freeman and an unidentified stage-crasher (footage wound up on World Star Hip-Hop, who eat up video about random acts of violence), and, yes, there was a minor scuffle in the crowd last night, but in general the event ran smoothly.  Special awards were given to Eyedea's mother on behalf of the late rapper ("I'm sure he's up there laughing right now because he knows I hate being on stage") and to the mother of Q the Blacksmith, who was also being posthumously honored (Qunicy Smith aka Q the Blacksmith died after being tased by Minneapolis police in December).  The presenters gave the number of the mayor's office and encouraged audience members to put pressure on the city to bring Blacksmith's killers to justice, using the event as an opportunity for real community organization. 

This sense of community is one of the reasons I've always appreciated the idea of the awards.  I do think the separation in the local rap scene is unfortunate and it's great just seeing all the people who support homemade hip-hop music in the same room.  But the fractured nature of the scene seems like it made it hard for people to get into the event as a whole.  This is not so much a problem with the awards themselves; this ever-growing event is actually part of the solution.  It's a grand statement of self-acknowledgment: The hip-hop scene draws attention to and supports itself. 

I have not been to previous years' events, but it does seem like these shows are getting bigger and better (the first Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards in 2007 took place on the U of M's St. Paul campus and has since grown to the Mainroom), and I had a lot of fun seeing all the groups.  Low energy levels is a problem I see at all sorts of shows, so this doesn't necessarily signify anything larger.  All in all, a really great show, a somewhat awkward awards ceremony, and an excellent opportunity to be among a diverse crowd of hip-hop supporters.

Personal Bias: I really love the local rap scene.  I also am guilty of doing the journalist "mostly pay attention to stuff you already know about" thing.

The Crowd: Seemed to be mostly divided by who they came support, but one of the most diverse I've seen. Somewhat listless.

Overheard In The Crowd: People were pretty surprised and excited about the Swishers.

Random Notebook Bump: I forgot how much alcohol was in Furious and subsequently lost my notebook. Oops.