DJ Lonnie B (second from the left) & Salute Ree (second the right called for a RVA hip hop community summit and the hip hop community responded with a large turn-out on short notice.
If you review the history of any major artistic renaissance, there is always one commend denominator: a unity front. Take that a step further and apply it to the history of hip hop and you will find at least two common factors when it comes to the rise of any major hip hop movement: unity and a sense that there movement was not being properly recognized. When the East Coast was getting the praise for being the birth place of hip hop, those of the West Coast felt that they too had a story to tell and used that motivation to get their music recognized, a few years later when the West Coast started getting as much shine as the East Coast, that’s when the South emerged as force to be truly be recognized, even today as the South seems to be dominating the landscape, you’re now seeing a new Midwest (Chicago) movement that is percolating throughout the culture. But the longstanding question when it comes to Richmond’s hip hop scene has always been: How does the community create enough unity to start a real movement?
That was the basis of a conversation between friends Heavy Hitter DJ Lonnie B and Salute Ree, CEO of SaluteENT that ultimately led to the first SaluteENT Seminar last night at Club Papparazzi, in Shockoe Bottom. A large number of MCs, DJs, producers, brand managers, and even a few R&B singe6rs showed up, on short notice, most at the request of Lonnie B’s Instagram message to hear from the likes of Lonnie (Heavy Hitters, I-Power, LBX), Salute Ree (SaluteENT, B Sounds (I-Power), Big Nat (106.5 The Beat), Mad Skillz, DJ Sleep EZ, RUM, and more.
The seminar, which ran much more like a free flowing town hall, was the first true olive branch delivered by those with immense knowledge of how the music industry operates to those local independent artists clamoring for recognition. Though the meeting was under strict orders for artists not to bring music, the majority of the conversation centered around how local artists can get their music in the hands of DJs like Lonnie, Sounds, and Nat to play on the radio. The response was resounding: buzz creates demand, demand creates spins – that’s true on the radio, in the club, or even at your family backyard picnic. “In 2014, Richmond radio DJs can’t make your career,” said Lonnie to the group, “even if I believe in your record, 10 to 15 spins is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s in rotation from major label artists, and I have to put my neck on the line for those spins, which I don’t mind doing if I know that record is in demand,” he went on to say, “There are a few songs that I didn’t like when I first heard them – I simply didn’t like them – but when the buzz came from the streets for artists like RUM (who attended the meeting) and J Roddy Rod, I knew that they had something special.”
RUM, currently one of the leading hip hop artist in the city- with affiliation to DJ Khaled, briefly delivered a message of consistency and commitment, “You can’t do part-time work and expect full time results,” he said to the crowd, most eager for the opportunities RUM now possess. “I pushed one song for 3 years man, it took that long for people to catch on.” B Sounds spoke about professionalism in presentation, “Don’t just put your CD in a paper bag and throw it to me in my car,” he said to the group. “Your presentation matters, your artwork matters, the sound quality of your music matters, it’s about being professional.”
One of the challenges that face Richmond’s hip hop scene may be one of perception. Though Richmond may be the center of the universe to Richmond based artists, it’s not a major hip hop market. The wider known DMV is still not consider a major movement by industry titans. Gaining mainstream attention requires more than just raw talent, it requires a much larger grind.
The flaws in perception is lot like I see in modern politics, where you think the divide is racial or gender specific – it’s really between those with economic means and those without. When it comes to the RVA hip hop scene the perception is that the divide lies between the established older guard – those on the radio – and the young artists on the come up. I think it’s really between those with the knowledge to truly the current business model of the music industry and those who are trying to use the old model.
The seminar was a legitimate step to close the divide. It concluded with Lonnie and many others giving their personal emails to the audience and encouraging them to call – not to get their music on the radio – but to start meaningful conversations about what it will take to be successful in the current music climate.