By: Aaron EvansÂ Â Â Â
Last month, while introducing my new series in NUG, I chose to title the piece by posing a question rather than making a statement, â€œWhat is Hip Hop?â€ Being that hip hop is a melting pot of multiple forms of self-expression, it seemed logical to approach the culture from the perspective of a child â€“ with wonder, awe, and inspiration. True, I personally have been a participant in many incarnations within the art form over the last 16 years, but I wanted readers to find their own angle to fall in love with hip hop, rather than just sharing why I love hip hop. See that’s the thing; hip h op is not really so much a spectator sport. Almost everyone at any show you go to will have some angle in which they have touched the culture. Whether b-boy/girl, emcee, graff writer, DJ, promoter, beat boxer, etc., hip hop shines its brightest when all of these pieces congeal together. Â This phenomenon can be quite a rarity, but fortunately for myself and those in attendance last Tuesday at Kid Riz’s Graffiti Denim Pt. 2 at Bar Basic, something magic was in the air.
After getting lifted with a bowl of Gangster O.G. from Cali’s Best Meds, I arrived fashionably late and instantly knew that the night was going to be special. The room was a buzz with smiling faces, the donation box was overflowing with toys, and the unmistakable infectious sound of boom bap was being blasted from the DJ booth by the night’s waxsmiths, Charlie Rock, Pokkey, Mane One and Jaba. Best part is, all that was just a backdrop for the nightâ€™s true stars â€“ the graffiti artist. Kid Riz is a very well-known, very well respected, old school SD head who reps for many of the city’s top crews, including the Armory Massive. The array of SoCal talent he assembled was stunning. The theme of Graffiti on Denim was a perfect trifecta, out of the box, nostalgic, and refreshing. New school graffiti juxtaposed against the flavor of hip hop’s â€˜80s origins. Someone hand me a shovel, I can dig it.
For those readers scratching their heads wondering whatâ€™s so hip hop about street artisans scribbling undecipherable tags on jean jackets, we have to go backâ€¦way back. In fact, we have to go all the way back to NYC again and hip hop’s roots. In the early â€˜80s, nothing was more fashionable than having a fresh piece of gear adorned with the imagination of one of the metropolisâ€™ all city arousal â€œKingsâ€. Walking down the street with a new burner (a slang term for a piece of graffiti art) on your back would make you the baddest cat on the block. These one of a kind creations can be attributed as the starting point that paved the way for clothing brands such as Ecko, Tribal, and the countless other hip hop brands that have become a mainstay in worldwide design culture. In fact, Mark Ecko got his start in the clothing market making D.I.Y. jackets, much like the ones on display last Tuesday. I asked Demo Roc, another veteran SD writer, about the art form’s origins and he had this to say, â€œI’m not too sure about the origins of the graff jean jacket, but I think it probably started in the late â€˜70s. It was probably adopted from the punk scene; many early graffiti peeps where punk heads. Hip hop heads just took writing on walls to the next level.â€
With the city’s finest, including Dyse One, Sake, Izze WST, Pres, Pose 2, Romali, Kleen House, Hasl, Brisk, Irie, Zane, Noiz, Kuya, Daze One, Evolve, Surge, Rockferd, Abbazaba and Sean Dietrich’s fabulous works displayed on both walls of the venue and on the backs of many of the patrons, this author couldn’t help but leave the night just a bit green with envy. I’m almost ashamed I don’t have one of these amazing throwbacks in my wardrobe, and this is a problem I’ve decided must be remedied ASAP. Keeping it 100, who wants to rock some mass-produced production line bullshit when there’s so much talent right here in San Diego. Next time you want something new and fresh, don’t spend $150 on some designer line, look up one of those names above or drop me an email and we’ll get you laced up with something unique and totally your own style.
Other highlights of the evening included a king of the Cypher B-boy Battle where contestants engage ferociously for 30 minutes in an open format where each breaker had to simply step up in the circle and own it. No time slots, no set back and forth formula, just throwing down like it was done on cardboard boxes back in the day and judged primarily by the crowdâ€™s roar. Of the 4 elements of hip hop, I would say that breaking is definitely one of this city’s strong points, and everyone involved came correct. When the dust settled, Saso of the â€œRock So Freshâ€ crew took the victory, and everyone seemingly concurred that he was the champion of the evening.
Shortly after, Brother Nature and Beehive both rocked short but powerful sets that brought the final element to that table to complete this hip hop feast. I have to highlight Beehive beat-boxing into a straw from the bar, which is something I had never seen before. The sound was really unique, and though it was a bit tough to hear through the mic, those close to him could hear how the hollow tube really added another dimension to the overall sonic sound. I was truly impressed with the originality of this demonstration; after 16 years in the culture, that doesn’t happen oh too often, so respect and props are certainly due.
If you’ve never been to a hip hop show here in San Diego, or if you’ve just stepped away from the culture for a bit, now’s the time to get back involved. There’s an aura of renewal quickly rising around town with true professionals like Kid Riz guiding upcoming talent like Brother Nature. The scene’s shine is guaranteed to only get brighter. Make sure to add Kid Riz on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kidriz, or stop by www.dojosoundz.blogspot.com to stay in the loop about his many eclectic events. That man goes hard I tell you, and every show he puts on draws a chill, diverse crowd. Don’t miss out on the movement; it’s not going to sit stagnant for anyone. Keep your style wild San Diego. Signing off.
For more information on the author/photographer, please visit: www.aaronevansimagination.com