A skilled rapper is a fine commodity in the hip-hop world, but for every clever rhyme, there needs to be an equally intriguing beat to back it up or it could potentially fall flat. In most cases, the buoyancy of these beats is maintained by producers, not the wordsmiths who often soak up the spotlight.
Jordan Lee, morning DJ on 88NINE Radio Milwaukee and DJ Madhatter of The Rusty Ps, is doing his part to change that.
Now on its fifth year, his annual Miltown Beat Down Battle pits 16 local beat makers against each other in an effort to not only crown one king of local production, but also to help bring Milwaukee's hip-hop success stories to the forefront.
A big part of his event's mission, he says, is to further break down existing walls of musical segregation in the city.
"I tried hard to match up Milwaukee rap acts that are very different. Having Scott Knoxx and House of M share a stage is something special for Milwaukee hip-hop. Having Street and Young Deuces play with KingHellBastard is equally as unique. This was part of my design -- I wanted to show the Milwaukee scene that we all find a common ground in our love for hip-hop regardless of the style we like."
Beats are the universal glue that holds the culture together, he says.
"There's something universal about hip-hop beats. Even emo indie rock kids can bob their heads to a good rap beat. To see electronic DJs, club rappers, alternative rockers and underground trap heads all together in one room is a very special thing. I'm glad I can do that!"
After three months of battling, the Miltown Beat Down is now down to its final four producers, Lex Luther, Zeekzilla, DJ Peru and 40 MIL. Lee is hosting the finals Friday, May 28 at The Wherehouse, 818 S. Water St., and he's invited an all-star cast that requires a little name-dropping.
"This year I've been able to get Freeway, of Rock-A-Fella Records and now Rhymesayers, to headline the performance portion of the event. I've also partnered with Red Bull Big Tune (Red Bull's nation-wide beat battle). They were so impressed with the Miltown Beat Down that they offered the winner of my battle a spot in the Midwest Big Tune regionals in Minneapolis."
Two of Big Tune's founders, Jake One and Vitamin D, are scheduled to judge the battle.
And as cliched as it sounds, no matter which of the final four emerges as the champion, the Milwaukee scene as a whole wins in that it's finally starting to get the national attention and recognition it should for its talent.
Doors open at 9 p.m. and battles begin at 10 p.m.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”