"You win some, lose some. They run the gamut from hilarious to gruesome" — Brother Ali
think it's important at the end of every year to take stock of what went right and what went wrong. So does your employer. You ready for that annual performance review, homie? Yeah, me neither. Let's just talk about how 2014 went for Charlotte hip-hop.
BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist
Renegades of Funk Tour at the Fillmore
Just seeing these two DJs perform together is a bucket-list item for any hip-hop head, but hearing them perform a set dug out of the legendary Afrika Bambaata's crates was less a concert and more of a spiritual experience. With every beat break and sample recognized, you knew you weren't just hearing another record that used it, you were hearing THE record that started it all. Backed by visuals of '80s subway graffiti, b-boys, record jackets, Zulu Nation medallions and a larger than life 3D bust of Bam, this production hit on every level. A dance cypher broke out in the audience and the tangible spirit in the air moved dozens to jump in and get down. Was this what some people call the Holy Ghost? Possibly. All I know is what I saw and felt that night is a memory I will cherish forever.
Permanent Vacation showcase at A3C
The A3C Hip-hop Festival in Atlanta celebrated its 10th anniversary as "Hip-hop's annual pilgrimage" this year. The festival gets its name from the idea of All 3 Coasts coming together to search for the next hottest thing to blow up in this culture we love. This year, Charlotte was a definite contender with a showcase exclusively for our artists, thanks to the Permanent Vacation crew. Performers including Stranger Day, Stereoloud, Lotta, Forever FC, Elevator Jay and Justin Aswell left little doubt in festival-goers minds that the real hip-hop is over here.
Snug Harbor packing big names in a small venue
Sure, you have to get up real close and personal with all 300 of your neighbors, but seeing hip-hop legends like Kool Keith and Slick Rick in such an intimate environment has the feel of an epic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Note: Kool Keith returns to Snug Harbor on Dec. 26.)
With These Handz Academy/ Sprite DJ Battle
WTHandz Academy is keeping the art of turntablism alive and well in the Queen City. It's a spectator sport and the battle this year saw DJs fly in from all over the country and perform some show-stopping tricks for an audience of all ages. None of them could quite hang with featured judge Mista Sinista, but that was to be expected.
Outkast in the rain
Some would say the rain at Funk Fest was a bad thing, and those people probably paid $1,500 for a super-exclusive, up-close-and-personal VIP table. Us life-long, working-class fans of one of the best groups of all time were supposed to be relegated to the 200-hundred-yard line and view them only as tiny specs of light on a stage we had to squint to see. But the rain proved to be Mother Nature's great equalizer. After an hour-long evacuation to shelter, ticket checkpoints were left unguarded when fans returned and the outkasts with $40 lawn tickets were able to walk right up to the stage, close enough to see the gleam in Andre's smile and the fat laces in Big Boi's kicks. And let me just tell you, dancing to "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" as a light mist falls all around is one of the most euphoric experiences you can have without chemical assistance.
Where have all the B-Boys gone?
For years, B-Boys and B-Girls have been dominating the Charlotte hip-hop scene; 2014 saw this taper off in a major way, with only a couple of jams and some of the best crews in the city going M.I.A. Knocturnal recently started to beckon the dancers back with a monthly battle for a cash prize. Here's hoping that works.
Monday Night Mic Fights
Charlotte's longest-running hip-hop event called it quits after 10 years. Who will pick up the torch now and give the city's lyricists and emerging artists a stage to flex?
Abysmal promotion for DJ QBert at Neighborhood Theatre
"So I saw 'QBert' on the Neighborhood Theatre's marquee. Do they mean DJ QBert???" This was a Facebook post from a huge fan the day before the show. QBert is an iconic turntablist, and as far as I know, this was the first time he graced Charlotte with his presence. There were no posters or flyers and I struggled to find any info about the event online until the week of. The crowd was sparse for an artist of his stature. He deserved much better.
No Charlotte venue booked Run the Jewels
Killer Mike & El-p's album, Run the Jewels 2, was so insanely anticipated that before it even dropped, the duo crowdfunded a $40,000 remix album using only cat sounds as vocals. It's on nearly every music critic's top five of 2014 list. The night it was released they played Columbia. The next night Charleston. Chapel Hill after that. Rumor has it they tried to book Charlotte and no venue could make it happen. Queen City, get your life.
CBS Radio DJ Poll
A few months ago, an online poll appeared and asked Charlotteans to vote for their favorite local DJ. There were 32 divided into 16 brackets. Some pit apples against oranges as the DJs grouped together were vastly different in terms of style, abilities and in some cases, equipment. And some pitted brother against brother as fans were forced to choose between two DJs from the same crew. By round two, there was so much shit-talking, finger-pointing and accusations of cheating flying around social media, the poll just vanished. This is why we can't have nice things.