Buffalo hip-hop struggles to hit mainstream
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Short, one of the many rappers who hail from Buffalo, has been writing verses since he was 14 years old. Now 24, he’s getting ready to release his second EP entitled O.U.R.
He explained that the backronym represents Queen City’s struggle.
“[People] don’t think there’s something that could come out of Buffalo that’s significant,” Short said. “That’s the thing I said about Buffalo – the underdog. ‘Only Underdogs are Remembered’…we’re the underdogs, we know that we’re the underdogs. We’re the Bills, we’re the Sabres, we’re everything.”
The aforementioned sports teams are known for their supportive fan base, unlike the Buffalo rap music scene.
Many people involved in the local hip-hop community believe that it has more than enough talented artists. However, there has yet to be a hip-hop artist to successfully break into the mainstream. Followers have attributed a variety of factors as to why.
Derrick Jackson, Buffalo rapper’s G5GI’s manager, theorized that the lack of prominence in the hip-hop scene stems from the famed Wu-Tang Clan concerts back in the ’90s. G5GI explained that rappers Method Man and Redman would crowd surf while passing out marijuana during their performances. This recklessness led the mayor of Buffalo to ban the outfit, according to Jackson.
Even though the ban has been retracted, Jackson explained that the perceived stigma left by those concerts hasn’t changed. He describes the stereotype as “ratched” – a term that describes undesirable urban traits.
“A lot of venue owners steer away from hip-hop and hip-hop acts because of the stigma behind it…fighting, stabbing, shooting, stuff like that,” said Valentino Shine, a member of promotions group After Dark Entertainment. “And all the shows that I’ve booked thus far haven’t had any of that.”
Shine has hosted numerous hip-hop concerts at venues such as Broadway Joe’s. He explained that these concerts usually draw in a diverse crowd, instead of the stereotypical thuggish audience.
Physical altercations are a rarity in hip-hop shows. A particularly tragic case of such violence was correlated with the death of Javon Jackson in 2009. The recent UB graduate was walking from a party near Main Street when he was gunned downed because of a prior scuffle.
The fact that hip-hop was being played at the party furthered the negative stereotype.
“Venue owners became even more standoff-ish because they unfairly associated the incident with the hip-hop/urban demographic,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, you have ignorance that blinds people. Combine that ignorance with fear and that’s what you get. Obviously, I have strong views on everything surrounding the events that occurred that night. But the more I speak on it – my heart goes out to his mother and his family.”
DJ Noodles is the closest thing Buffalo has to a mainstream talent. The DJ was renowned in Buffalo for his work in various clubs and Wild 101, a defunct radio station. His name blew up after he moved to Florida for further opportunities. He has worked with known artists like Pitbull and currently DJ’s at WiLD 94.1, a famed radio station in the Tampa Bay area.
DJ Noodles doesn’t regret having to move south to gain success. In fact, he believes the lack of a definitive scene in Buffalo is actually what makes the city what it is.
“If that scene was in Buffalo, then Buffalo wouldn’t be the same type of city,” DJ Noodles said. “It wouldn’t be the type of city that tailgates the way it tailgates on Sundays…in other cities you don’t see other people going out and help people push their cars when they’re stuck[when]we, as a city, went through in all those snowstorms.”
However, many involved with the local hip-hop scene believe that it may be able to gain national attention if the circumstances are right.
Many of the talents within Buffalo aspire to be mainstream names, but a few understand that establishing their name in the Queen City is essential in doing so.
Lucky Seven, an Amherst native and member of hip-hop collective Howhood University, noted that one of the reasons Buffalo artists don’t make nationwide success is the lack of unity amongst artists and their fan bases.
“The [fans] don’t care to hear anybody else,” Lucky Seven said. “The fans need to love and respect Buffalo artists first before we get loved by other people.”
Dennis Ferry, a talent buyer at After Dark Entertainment, has seen the side effects of this sort of loyalty. He observed that a different crowd would come out to concerts as After Dark booked different artists.
It’s a trend he hopes to change.
“If you’re only supporting your friends that are in the game, it’s not really going to build a big community of music fans here,” Ferry said. “I rather really see people go out, try new things, and listen to an artist they’ve never heard before, than go out, see their man perform, and then leave.”
Some artists have been able to draw a cult following despite the lack of home support. G5GI was able to book shows at New Orleans and recently performed at SUNY Fredonia, while rapper 7’4” (named after his height) claimed that he even had fans overseas.
However, 7’4” was still adamant about the need for unity between Buffalo fans and artists. It’s necessary for him to fulfill his aspirations of becoming a legend in hip-hop.
“What I try to explain to people is that you got to come together,” 7’4” said. “When you mentionNew York, they think about New York City. This is the forgotten city. You’ve got to build a force that can’t be ignored. You’ve got to come together and really push each other; but everybody’s ego is just too high here.”
DJ Noodles noted that the scene was divided when he was still involved seven years ago. He still keeps track of what’s going on while he’s in Florida, and he said the scene was getting better because of the efforts of some promoters and artists.