Hip-hop artists often have trouble finding places to play in Madison, fighting a stigma that hip-hop shows invariably attract a violent element.
But Mark “ShaH” Evans, vice president of the Urban Community Arts Network and host of this year’s Madison Hip-Hop Awards, said the local hip-hop community has managed to turn that shut-out into an advantage. Unable to play in clubs, the network set up hip-hop shows in non-traditional spaces, including parks, community centers and outdoor shows on State Street.
Not only did those visible hip-hop shows prove that such shows could take place peacefully, but it exposed the artists and their music to a new fan base.
“It broadened our demographic a lot more,” Evans said. “That was a big part of opening it up.”
Evans said it also meant more artists getting involved and submitting their music to the 2013 Madison Hip-Hop Awards, which takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Barrymore Theatre.
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“We’ve had a lot of people step up to the plate,” Evans said. “We’ve had more submissions this year. Artists are really coming out of the woodwork.”
The awards will begin with a red-carpet entrance at 7 p.m. and interviews. Performers include the breakdance troupe East Madison Breakers, DJ Pain1, Jesse Lester and more. Tickets are $10 at the door, with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County.
In February, the Frequency announced it would stop booking hip-hop shows following a January incident in which a gun was discharged outside the Main Street club following a hip-hop show.
It's a pattern that's happened again and again on the Madison music scene, as club owners grow leery of booking local genre artists following isolated incidents. National hip-hop acts don't seem to have the same stigma — Kid Cudi played at the Alliant Energy Center in September, and Lupe Fiasco is playing at the Orpheum on Nov. 27.
Evans said his biggest hope for the event is that it raises money for the Boys and Girls Club, which has been an ardent supporter and partner with the Arts Network. But he also hopes that a successful show will help build a counter-narrative to the notion that hip-hop can’t be a force for peaceful, positive change in Madison.
“Hip-hop has a really bad reputation for no reason, and I think every time we have a successful event like this where you have two to three hundred people in attendance, local artists and local fans, it can really change the perception of how people view hip-hop.”