Lately, hip-hop heavyweight Nas has been proclaiming the untimely death of mainstream hip-hop. What if hip-hop doesn’t live in the mainstream anymore? Hip-hop’s existence in Tampa is unquestionable, but it is often hard to find. Local hip-hop is rarely heard on either of the area’s two major rap stations, 95.7 The Beat and Wild 98.7, but it is heard on WMNF 88.5 community radio. WMNF features two hip-hop radio shows, Hip-Hop Flavors and The Saturday Night Shutdown.
Local Web site tampahiphop.com hosts Tampahiphop.com Thursdays at the Ybor club, Empire. The site is home to an abundance of information on Tampa’s hip-hop scene. The opening page features new music from various hip-hop artists representing the local arena. The Web site also hosts local artist and DJ profiles with biographies, music and links to their personal Web sites. Details about upcoming shows of both established and local artists are featured as well.
Along with the hip-hop oriented media outlets, Tampa is home to plenty of local talent in the genre. From artists such as Young Fella and his infectious club banger “I’ll Pay For It” to a more socially conscious sound, there is a wealth of ability.
One of the most recognizable artists is Aych (pronounced “H”). Originally from Delaware, he can now be found in Tampa hosting WMNF’s Da Cypher and performing. He opened for major artists Rick Ross, Juelz Santana, Chamillionaire and Ludacris at their 2006 performances at USF.
Acafool is one of the few artists to make it onto Tampa mainstream radio with his local hit “Hata Blockas.” Acafool, born Kervens Smith, is a USF graduate. His new single “I Look Good” can be heard on 98.7 and he is quickly gaining support from other stations across Florida. According to his profile on tampahiphop.com, his single “Hell No!” is gaining heavy rotation at the South Florida station 99 Jamz. For more information on him and his music, visit acafool.com.
Though his presence is not as ubiquitous, rapper Surreal is representing Tampa as well. His album with DJ Balance, Future Classic, is No. 3 on the College Music Journal’s charts.
If Tampa isn’t short on talent or venues, then why is hip-hop disappearing?One of the major issues is the underwhelming support from the local hip-hop stations. Many local artists and DJs see support as the key to any crossover success.
DJ Lazy, host of WMNF’s Hip-Hop Flavors, thinks the only thing Tampa hip-hop needs is a push from bigger stations. According to him, this push will lead to a chain reaction, and one or two artists will break through and reach back. USF senior and hip-hop producer Devin Kennedy feels similarly.
“It is imperative that radio gives support to local artistry for the simple fact that mainstream artists come down and could potentially ask questions regarding local artists and the production that they hear,” he said.
Another major problem is the lack of promotion. The residents of Tampa don’t know about the various performances because they are simply not talked about. The radio stations are not talking about what’s going on locally and club promoters aren’t promoting as vigorously as they could for major performances in Tampa.
Finally, there is the ever-present problem of what type of hip-hop is played. Mainstream hip-hop is suffering from the fact that its socially conscious artists are often placed on the backburner, and Tampa is no exception. The hip-hop that gets played on the major stations more than likely fits into one category: club music. Local support for club artists such as Strizzo, Young Fella and Tampa Tony is a lot more prevalent than that for more socially conscious artists such as Surreal or Laws.
Tampa’s hip-hop scene is alive, but it isn’t thriving – yet. DJ Lazy and others remain optimistic for the future, but based on the lack of support and promotion, Tampa’s hip-hop is not going to come to us – we have to go to it.
Hip-Hop Flavors can be heard Tuesday nights from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. with hosts DJ Lazy, Kramtronix and B.C. The Saturday Night Shutdown can be heard Saturday nights from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. and it is hosted by Tony Montana and the Shut ‘Em Down Squad.Those interested in hearing live local talent and freestyle battles can attend Da Cypher, held at Ybor City’s Full Moon Saloon on Wednesday nights from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. For more information, visit Da Cypher at myspace.com/dacypher101.