Our tagline in Austin is “Live Music Capital of the World,” but when you hear that phrase I can bet you either think about country music, South By Southwest (SXSW), or people playing with their guitars on 6th street. Pretty much anything but hip hop. As an non-native, I have begun to look into what the city’s culture was like before the tech companies and hundreds of new residents moved in and began gentrifying the place over the past three years.
Story | Sara Loretta
So I started doing my research and came across a show called Hip Hop Humpdays, a weekly showcase of local rappers and MCs that was hosted on 6th street in the early 2000s. Unfortunately because of the segregation still felt in the city, Austin rappers primarily stayed on the east side (east of highway 35), away from all of the bars and the famous sixth street where most live music takes place through today. Not only was the genre incognito to media coverage, but artists were forced to pave their own way.
However, when Dallas, Texas artists Bavu Blakes and Sheldon Crooms put together the idea for H3 (Hip Hop Humpday), they finally found a bar that would support the local hip hop scene: The Mercury (today it’s known as The Parrish, a popular live music venue for punk bands).
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Local rapper Terrany “Tee-Double” Johnson remembers joining H3, “Bavu (Blakes) came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. See the thing is, I had been rapping in Austin so long I was already kind of popular… I think that was to bring the whole Austin aspect to it because people looked at it as ‘these were some Dallas dudes’ [running H3].”
Because branding was so crucial for the show’s success, Blakes, Tee-Double, and the others began to display signs after concerts to usher crowds from local venue Stubb’s BBQ to sixth street for the H3 showcases on Wednesday nights.
Eventually, H3 would grow so large that the local rappers performing were becoming superstars. But that feeling didn’t stick, instead when Hip Hop Humpdays ended, so did the support for locality. Although we are known for being the “Live Music Capital,” this city is very biased towards country/folk and there is barely room for other genres to flourish, unless there is an artist who is ‘keeping the city weird’ (another motto we hold close to our hearts).
The City of Austin, while celebrating tech and expansion, has never fully celebrated the natives of Central Texas for an extended period of time. Talking with Tee-Double really put the separation of the city by I-35 into perspective for me. Many kids here are only seeing the success without the challenges of making it into the music industry.
Tee-Double has stayed in the industry as a mentor and proof that there can be longevity after a hit record. Part of Terrany’s focus is to make sure local kids really understand all aspects of the industry so they can be successful and not taken advantage of. From this vision, he began Urban Artist Alliance: a platform to be the voice for the urban scene that has yet to be covered by local media.
We are seeing a major influx in YouTube artists and Soundcloud hits, but easily overlook the prospects coming out of the Eastside of our hometowns. The moral of the story: look for shows around your city and support the no-names, because you never know who will gain that following and “make a name” for themselves. As Charlamagne mentions in Black Privilege, when you enter a room, shake everyone’s hand because you never know where someone will be in ten years.