Local B-Boys and B-Girls Appreciate True Hip-Hop Music
KRS-ONE once said that hip-hop music doesn't exist in New York anymore, it's all rap in the Big Apple, and hip-hop only has a voice now in Los Angeles.
When he said this it took me months to understand what he meant because in L.A. there is only gangster rap, right?
After visiting a small, yet famous spot tucked away in the Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles, aptly named with jazz mystique, "Project Blowed," a free-styling and breakdancing battle competition that breathes hip-hop, the meaning behind what KRS-ONE said finally materialized into reality.
"This is a teaching ground, a learning ground for hip-hop, because in hip-hop, to get on a stage and get on a mic a lot of the times it is going to be a battle. You're gonna go up there and you guys are gonna' dis each other and whoever has the sickest dis is gonna' win.
But that's not what it's about here, around here it's an open mic," said Sean Hallorand, 26, a Philadelphia native and graduate of UCLA. "You get three minutes to spit your lengths, spit your rhymes and just make sure it's on time so they don't say pass the mic. Other than that it's all alright out here."
The first time people visiting the spot will notice that you won't find Cognac or Dom PÃ©rignon being served, nor will a bouncer search you or say that you can't get in if you aren't on the guest list.
Instead, outside you'll find people of all ages standing in groups, chilling solo or free-styling and battling each other over what they describe as true underground beats - stuff that the crowd of as-of-yet-famous musicians make at home on computers, with samplers or such things as the Sony AKA.
"I have a couple of friends that make beats and stuff like that. But mostly I come to Project Blowed, you know, to listen to other people with their versatile, their different style that they have out here and I try to upgrade my style, go home write something down," said Marcus Williams, a hip-hop freestyler from Pomona who just enrolled at Santa Monica College. "You gotta' understand that metaphors and similes are one of the basic keys of rapping.In order to have a punch line and make the crowd go, 'ooh' and 'ah.' With hip-hop I try to really get my point across."
The second thing that you will notice is that this place is "hip-hop," it breathes "hip-hop" and talking to people hanging out they will all say the same thing - "Project Blowed" is where you can make your statement and say your rhymes-uncensored.
Hosted by a live DJ, after sign ups, a microphone is passed around and anyone who wants to spit flows has three minutes to rap, mc and battle how they want.
"It does a lot that's visible and it does a lot that's not seen, just me coming up here, seeing all different ethnicities and even my own people being united," said Marcus Clayton, 24, a local rapper at Project Blowed who works at Crenshaw High School.
"When I'm out in the city away from this, it's not like that a lot of times. [Project Blowed] is basically positive; it's brought positive energy to a place stranded with negative energy."
The spot, originally started at the Good Life CafÃ©, turned into Project Blowed when the crowd became too large for the cafÃ© and Aceyalone, from the group Freestyle Fellowship, expanded the idea of the open mic into the culturally, historical place it is today.
"It's about being an artist; it's about projecting that creativity you have in your life and expressing it. It's a creative outlet for this community and if you do some research on this place it's been around for along time," said Hallorand.
"It came out of a place named the Good Life CafÃ©, which was the first open mic here in L.A. for hip-hop. That's a place where like all the big cats came out of it, everybody from Snoop was up in there. Medusa was up in there, man, everybody."
A host of other hip-hop elements make the place a foundation for the culture. Famous graffiti artists have their artwork hanging on the wall.
Other graffiti crews showcase the clothing they have made with their art printed on the front. Even break-dancing gets showcased as the old school rockers and the younger generation add their flavor to the DJ spinning his records.
The place doesn't go unnoticed, especially by the police, who constantly monitor and often pay a visit to the location. In January of 1996 the Los Angeles Times reported that during a show, about 150 persons got into a conflict with the police after they tried to shut the spot down due to overcrowding.
Four officers were hurt and two Inglewood men were arrested in the fray that patrons of the event said the police started and used brutal force to stop.
"Some of the critics are the LAPD of course, they used to have a big truck that was parked right where that long red curb is and it was always lit in inside of there and you would see computer screens and stuff," said Clayton. "Seriously, and as soon as they closed, the police would come circling, they would go around the block and nothing ever happened to them and they don't ever mess with us. No one is out here to fight or sell blunts making ends, no one using...it's a cool vibe and you got the jazz clubs." Project Blowed, which happens on Thursday night at KAOS Network, 4321 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles (www.projectblowed.com), acts as an important place where not only hip-hop MC's and rappers can show-off their talent, but also a location where B-boys and B-girls in all instances can find a crowd interested and willing to see, hear or conceptualize their art.
"'Project Blowed' is the greatest place in the world," said MC Open Mic, an aspiring musician from Chicago.
If someone attends "Project Blowed," check out the other local attractions in the area like the jazz clubs, the coffee houses and during the day the many shops.