Last March, when I started Milwaukee UP, I asked a very important question: "Where is Milwaukee hip-hop going?"
I essentially presented two paths, one of success and one of destruction, and the time frame that I gave for all of this to go down was somewhere in the middle of this summer. I was sort of predicting that the heat of those months will either help to catapult one or several artists to the next level, while allowing for the real possibility that the heat of the summer when coupled with a stagnant atmosphere could literally crush the scene.
As 2010 went on, both good and bad things happened in Milwaukee hip-hop.
Some of the good things that we saw in the hip-hop community is almost a weekly feature or mention of hip-hop between publications like OnMilwaukee.com, the AV Club Milwaukee, the Shepherd Express, Fan-Belt, the Journal-Sentinel and Seizure Chicken. National and international blogs continued to cover MKE hip-hop more and more.
Radio stations like WMSE and 88Nine continued to do their part in playing Milwaukee hip-hop, but it was V100 that surprised a lot of people by getting behind more local artists. The commercial, or club, side of the scene has continued to maintain popularity not only within the city but it has artists like Ray Rizzy, Ray Nitti, Prophetic, and Streetz and Young Deuces all dipping their toes into the larger pond, with Rizzy potentially having the most national prominence.
There are also some younger artists that are pretty quality who are popping up, which continues to add depth to the Milwaukee scene. The best thing however is the fact that good music continued to be made in 2010, at a very rapid rate.
Some of the bad things we saw in the hip-hop community is a falling off of attendance at shows put on by artists from the alternative side of the scene. The level of complaining in Milwaukee hip-hop was also at an all-time high it seems as more lines were drawn between this crew and that crew, and this
artist with that publication. Fan-Belt unfortunately has fallen, giving one less option for local hip-hop coverage.
And though MKE hip-hop is being written about on a larger scale now locally, the writing often gets into ruts focusing on the alternative scene, which I myself am completely guilty of and will accept all the backlash that people want to send my way.
Another negative in my mind is the fall of the House of M, a group that was instantly popular in 2007 when they were formed, and through a few line-up changes, still created incredible local fanfare that culminated in the release of their fantastic 2009 album. 2010 saw any steam they had built peter out completely and knowing the magic was essentially gone, people started leaving once again. If anybody remembers the UMG/HoM beef that's been going for years, I think it's safe to say that UMG has won now by simply outlasting their rival.
Several venues have modified their approach to hosting local music and they've simply modified local hip-hop right out of what they do. Ald. Bob Donovan can still talk, and Milwaukee hip-hop hasn't matured out of being extremely self-conscious yet.
There are other positives and negatives that could be mentioned, but I'll stop there.
Looking back at 2010, and now looking forward into 2011, I'm going to change my outlook on things. I no longer think that this summer is going to be the boom or bust point. I honestly don't think that Milwaukee hip-hop has a boom or bust point within it's spirit. This leads me to the greater point that I have for this post and that's to point out the amazing resilience of the Milwaukee hip-hop scene.
Over the last few decades, an extremely small number of artists have been plucked out to find success at a national level. The R&B scene has been WAY more successful. And, despite constantly being overlooked by the industry for whatever reason -- proximity to Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis/St.
Paul, and St. Louis, no original sound to call our own, inability to covert local popularity to national popularity, etc. -- people in Milwaukee don't give up.
In 2011 artists will continue to make music, quality music, and they will continue to fight for their share of recognition. Most will keep fighting but some will give up. New artists will come in to take the place of those no longer willing to carry the torch forward, and hundreds of fists will continue to pound against the wall in hopes that one day it will crumble, and the city in one breath will finally sigh a great sigh of relief because it's time has arrived.
So, to the scene that I've been writing about for months now, I encourage you to keep pressing forward and to not let lack of national success get to you. People will catch on eventually to what's going on in Milwaukee hip-hop so keep making great music and pushing each other forward through an intense competitive spirit.
I also encourage you to stop being so sensitive. Not everybody is going to open their door to you, not every ear is going to hear you as being good, and not every work that gets written about you is going to shine a favorable light on what you've done. Stop trying to claim the title of most hated and stop saying that people who don't like you are hating on you. Who knows, maybe maturity is the difference in what will catapult things to the next level.
Whatever the case, I look forward to another year of writing about the great wealth of music Milwaukee hip-hop is certainly going to create. Happy New Year.
Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.
As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.
Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.