Hip Hop 101 Comes Back to Life
First Family | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam
For three years, Star Status Entertainment’s Monday night event at the 5 Seasons, Hip Hop 101, was the most important and dependable weekly hip-hop showcase in Baltimore. But back in February, host Sonny Brown held one last event, “The Death of Hip Hop 101,” citing a run of low attendance that had made it financially unfeasible. But the recent death of Mr. Wilson, Hip Hop 101′s founder, helped bring it back to life. Brown spoke to us at the time about plans to revive the event in a few months. So we were surprised to hear last week that it would be returning this past Monday, without Brown’s involvement. And so the new Hip Hop 101 began, masterminded by Mr. Wilson’s friend and Star Status labelmate, Vision.
With Hip Hop 101 mainstay DJ Jabril back manning the decks for the night, Vision got help from another popular local DJ to co-host, DJ Vicious V. With a relaxed, familiar air, Vicious V cracked jokes on Vision and referred to their dynamic as a “Laurel and Hardy” act. It may just take some time for Hip Hop 101 to regain the small but steady clientele it once had, and the first week was even more sparsely attended than it had been toward the end of its previous incarnation. As usual, most of those in the room were either performers or part of an entourage. And with only four acts on the bill, there were fewer of them than there would’ve been back in the day, when Hip Hop 101 would sometimes shoehorn more than a dozen brief sets into one night.
Vision, a prolific MC who releases mixtapes on a seemingly monthly basis, set off the night’s performances with a brief set by one of his rap alter egos, Dirty Earl, as well as a lengthy, heartfelt monologue about the late Mr. Wilson, for which he brought Wilson’s widow up on stage. Little Clayway, one of local hip-hop’s longest running veterans, hit the stage with some of the same tracks from his upcoming album, A New Beginning, that he previewed last month at Teop’s release party. But there was one new one, the smokers’ anthem “Cigarellos,” that went over as a big hit at 5 Seasons.
Another act we caught at Sonar last month that turned up on Monday was 1st Family, a crew that has so many members that we never seem to see the same lineup perform under this banner twice. This time, the member that caught our eye was a stunning female MC in a short, short skirt who spit aggressive rhymes about “big motherfuckin’ techs.” One of the billed acts, Comp, was a no-show, which was surprising given how frequently he performs. So in his stead, a Park Heights MC with the unfortunate name Young Sac stepped in to perform a few songs from his inaccurately titled recent mixtape Da Best Flatout!!
With the performances winding down, Vicious V closed out the night with a freestyle session and asked Jabril to throw on the most rapped-on beat of the year, Lil Wayne’s “A Milli.” With a mischievous glint in his eye, V announced that he’d be calling on people to come up and rap off the dome with no prior warning. One by one, he threw the spotlight on an unbilled MC in the and handed him the microphone. Savage, Dave Da Barber, Bar Cardy, and others all got thrown into the mix, some handling the beat better than others–one older MC, longtime scene staple Norm Skola, sounded lost trying to adjust his slower flow to the rapid-fire beat. But as soon as anyone ran out of steam, V snatched the mic back and gave it to someone else. It’s too soon to tell if Hip Hop 101 will reach the heights of its original run in its new incarnation, but if Vicious V continues to bring that air of spontaneity to the proceedings, it at least won’t get boring.