"When God made me, he made a musical mismatch. My father was into jazz and spirituals and my Mom was raised on country music. So, I was raised listening to everything. When I got older, I was all about go-go. That was all I knew. That was all I wanted to know. In the late 80's, a guy named Zay moved to our neighborhood and started talking about hip-hop music. We weren't trying to hear that because go-go was king. Zay became the manager of a club called the Krib that had a lot of rappers come through. I started hanging out around the club and got exposed to the hip-hop culture. In those days, there were no local hip-hop artists, so all of the music was coming down from New York or Philadelphia. But, eventually D.C. started to produce its own hip-hop in the late 80's.
"About five years ago, I really got into hip-hop and decided to write a book about its history in D.C. At the time, there were no books and very little research done, so I interviewed a lot of the local artists for my book. While small, D.C. has a rich hip-hop history. The first local hip-hop record to really hit in D.C. was called Stone Cold Hustler by DC Scorpio. I am pretty sure that the go-go band Rare Essence played the music for the track, so it definitely has a D.C. feel to the record. After him, there were other go-go rappers, as they were called, like Stinky Dink and Fat Rodney. The influence of these rappers was tremendous because it showed the ability to cross between these two genres. Still, hip-hop has always been and remains a step child to go-go in D.C..
"As hip-hop developed in D.C., there became two distinct movements.The U Street movement, which were a lot of college kids who hung around Howard University, was centered around Bar None, now Pure Lounge. That place is legendary because it is where a lot of rappers got their start. The U Street movement is very lyrical and melodic. Then, there is the uptown scene, centered around the Island Cafe. Uptown is more gangster rap, for lack of a better term. The two groups don't overlap that much, except for the open mic nights.
"D.C. hasn't really broken out on the national hip-hop scene because a lot of the music isn't even hitting in D.C. I say it again, go-go still kills it here. Some people have gotten national attention, though, like Nonchalant, D.C. Scorpio, the Section 8 Mob, Question Mark Asylum, and DJ Kool. Of all of the D.C. rappers, I think that Wale is the really the first to make national moves. I think that 2010 is going to be a great year for D.C. hip-hop. There is a lot of energy and collaboration right now, especially with Obama as President.
Sidney 'DCSuperSid' Thomas is author of Diamonds in the Raw.