Hip-Hop | St. Louis Public Radio

Hip-Hop

John Harrington has led local hip-hop group Midwest Avengers for 25 years, in addition to being a longtime organizer of annual graffiti festival Paint Louis. 8/29/18
Courtesy Midwest Avengers

A new St. Louis hip-hop festival will go beyond the music and celebrate the culture that surrounds it, including art, film and dance.

The four-day series of events dubbed Hip Hop Week will coincide with Paint Louis, an annual gathering of hundreds of graffiti artists from around the world who will paint murals on the flood wall by South Wharf St. downtown.

“If I say Hip Hop Week, most people will think of it as: ‘Oh, it’s a music festival.’ And [they’re] not thinking of other elements of hip-hop — such as the fashion, such as the film, such as the culture of hip-hop,” said Dwight Carter, a local event promoter who is the festival’s creative director.

The albums "Straight Outta Compton and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," are shown with other albums at Vintage Vinyl. The two albums have inspired a wider variety of hip-hop artists for three decades.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Two seminal hip-hop albums are now 30 years old.

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy and "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. ushered in a new direction for the genre with lyrics that exposed conditions in black communities to white audiences.

The St. Louis region has a long history with hip-hop. An East St. Louis radio station was one of the first to broadcast the first mainstream hip-hop song, “Rapper’s Delight.” And of course, the city has its own stars, Nelly and Chingy. But the death of Michael Brown, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and incidents of police misconduct have brought the lyrics and themes of the two albums back to the forefront.

Rhiyana Jackson and Chingy pose for a selfie at St. Louis County Library on Natural Bridge Road. Rhiyana's rap about violence, education and housing was one of a few verses selected to be in a Hip-Hop Architecture Camp music video.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Natural Bridge location of the St. Louis County Library is a little less quiet than usual. Instead of the occasional rustling of paging through books or the light tapping of computer keyboards, one meeting room at the library is electrified with children’s exclamations of elation. A celebrity is in their midsts.

About two dozen children, ages 11-14, met St. Louis rapper Chingy on Thursday. The hip-hop recording artist helped kids at Hip-Hop Architecture Camp — a week-long program that combines music and urban planning. The project focused on imagining a new North Hanley Transit Center.

Camp creator Michael Ford with a camper in May 2017.
The HipHop Architecture Camp

About 2 percent of architects in the U.S. are African-American. That’s a statistic Michael Ford wants to change by inspiring young people to think of new ways to solve urban development problems that segregate and marginalize low-income communities.

Ford wants to achieve this goal using  hip-hop music and culture. He created The Hip-Hop Architecture Camp in 2017.

Arthur Ross is a freshman at Innovative Concept Academy and one of the finalists of the Mentors in Motion songwriting competition. Here he records the hook to a new song.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Music comes naturally for Arthur Ross. He’s been immersed in hip-hop since he was a child. Now he’s hoping one of his songs might help with his college goals.

“I hope this rapping takes me to the BET stage. If it doesn’t take me that far, I hope it can give my family a better life,” Ross said.

University City seniors Alex Cunningham, sitting, and Kyhler Cross work out a new beat as part of the audio production course Cunningham started last year. April 23, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Alex Cunningham is sprawled across the hallway in a corner of the University City High School music department. His laptop rests on his chest. Headphones cover his ears.

“I was trying to get to the studio but the door was locked,” he explained.

Cunningham, an 18-year-old senior, didn’t feel like doing the four flights of stairs down and up again to find a staff member to let him in. So he plopped down in the hall, outside of what could be considered his classroom.

Father-daughter beatboxers Nicole Paris and Ed Cage have fun posing for this photo on November 5, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Millions have marveled at the beatboxing contests between father-daughter duo Ed Cage and Nicole Paris. They’ve battled it out in numerous YouTube videos and TV appearances including “The Late Late Show” and “Steve Harvey Show.”

But did you know they live in St. Louis? And that their beatboxing (percussion sounds produced mainly by mouth)  is more often collaborative than competitive?