Hip-hop 2004 in the Ville

By Kimberly Cecil

Hip-hop music is a rapidly progressing industry in Louisville. From Louisville artists on major labels to the talents of the underground movement, Louisville is putting its mark on the map in the ever-growing genre of hip-hop. Unfortunately, hip-hop artists are generally overlooked and denied the recognition they deserve in Louisville, a lament common to many styles. Louisville-area artists, including the Platinum-selling Nappy Roots, on Atlantic Records and Native of Blackground Records/Universal, have risen to national acclaim. Top producers can be found in the area, like Static of the group Playa. Static done production for major label artists Aaliyah, Missy Elliott and Timbaland.

All this activity is not just a recent phenomenon: Louisville has been a hotbed of original talent for decades. Junior Mafia reached national audiences with "Gangsta Walk" back in the `90s. New York record labels have long been familiar with the distinct Louisville sound, with such groups as Too Big Click winning a performance contest sponsored by Def Jam.

In 2004, Louisville-area rappers, MCs and independent record labels should become more educated and informed on what it takes to make it in the industry. I talked with Marc Gunn, Program Director for B96 and HOT 104 radio and in the discussion, we both agreed professionalism was the key ingredient in obtaining success. What makes Nappy Roots, Native or Too Big Click better than anyone else: professionalism. Louisville artists must step up to the plate to "bring it"" better than LA or New York artists. We have to be better than the artists coming from Atlanta.

This year, the Louisville Musicians Industry Alliance (LMIA) will host a series of educational seminars and conferences, which should help more artists sign good major label contracts in the future (For the record, I recently joined the Board of Directors to represent the genres of Urban R&B/Hip Hop music in Louisville.). Louisville can be compared to Atlanta in the coming years as Louisville hip-hop becomes more diverse and creative. Styles are changing and consumers want much more than what is being placed in front of them. Consumers want something new and fresh and I believe Louisville has at least some of the answers. The underground talent isn't afraid to be who they are: different, innovative and starving for a chance. There will be more venues that will allow original music to be heard. Off The Wall Entertainment is planning to bring major artists to town each month to perform. LIMA will host hip-hop showcases and nationally known comedian Spike Davis will continue to host the "Roc the Mic" on Thursdays at Yuri's Bistro.

There is also an outlet to possible radio exposure through the WGZB B96 "Wendy's Spotlight." By sending your (professional) promotional packages in, you have a chance to be heard and maybe be put into rotation. With working record labels in Louisville such as SC Records, 502 Headz, One Hit and Big Bro, we are certainly in the game.

Lack of support for Louisville artists has been a problem: not enough articles are written about them, not enough venues are available for them to perform in and not enough audiences once they're there. This is an issue which we hope to address, at least a bit, with this column. As a publicist, I know the importance of promotions and publicity: two elements necessary to make a star.

On my `short list' for possible success are the Ville Billies, with a Southern flair and Beastie Boy Style; I think they're sure winners and label money making act. Hug, another Louisville rapper who has been approached on numerous occasions by major labels, says his time has arrived in 2004. It is going to be so exciting watching what comes out of the Louisville hip-hop scene into the mainstream. It's time for to be supportive and make 2004 a Hip-hop year to remember.