Rhymestreet Presents: New Class
By Lissa Alicia for Hip Hop Party For The People
On a chilly winter night, Silk City opened its doors for Rhyme Street Presents: New Class. The event, hosted by Myke Storm, featured five up-and-coming artists from Philadelphia and surrounding areas: Ai-Que, Davon, Realysm, Emperess, and Jaye. As attendes funneled in, they were greeted with what we will call an “opening dance act.” A few ‘super fly’ patrons, who were much older than the usual crowd at the Northern Liberties Venue, we grooving to the nostalgic tracks spun by DJ Benz.
This member of Ghost Gang intelligent mind shines through in is art work. Being one of the directors of The Gathering, the longest running Hip Hop events in the city, he is able to get the full experience and history of this unique culture. His meaningful lyrics cover a range of real life issues.
[Facebook: Kevin Ai-Que Smith] [Soundcloud: Soundcloud.com/#ai-que]
Lissa: What is your take on Hip Hop and its impact on society?
Ai-Que: Hip Hop is probably, hands down, the most powerful genre of music on the planet. Hip Hop transcends everything. It transcends cultures, generations. Hip Hop is one of the only genres that you can go to any country, and it is universal. I doesn’t matter what, color, language, what race you are, what gender you are. It’s universal. You understand the boom-bap. You understand the break-dancing. Its more than just music, it’s a culture. It’s a universal culture. It basically has the power to change the world. You see mainstream artist go from nothing to international superstars. They (Hip Hop songs) are all over Television. McDonalds will exploit the shit out of Hip Hop with the black people in those commercials. You got people rapping about chicken nuggets. It has the power to change the world if utilized properly.
Lissa: What projects do you have available?
Ai-Que: I have Sunrise EP which will be coming out soon and another project that will be coming out this year called Skipping Class. So I’ve got two on deck that are actually both recorded, just waiting to be mixed. I’m a perfectionist. So when I feel like it’s ready, that’s when the people will have it.
Lissa: Independent or signed?
Ai-Que: Indie! I’ll take an independent situation because you have more control of over what you want to do. You can make as much music as you want to make. You can make as little music as you want to make. I can take the money that I make from my music and invest that back into The Gathering. I do appreciate distribution deals. I don’t mind those, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily want major backing. I feel like if the way that social media is, the way that technology is, and as long as you have a quality product and your outreach is on point, we don’t need major labels.
Lissa: What is your take on the Philly scene?
Ai-Que: It’s an interesting scene. It can get very clique-ish. It’s like a high school cafeteria. The cool kids are at the cool kids table. The other kids at their table. And then you have everyone else just scattered about, and they might frequent both tables. I’m kind of at the table with the hommies just floating around. I just move around the cafeteria. There is no real permanent position. I acknowledge that we have a lot of dope artist in this city. Philly is a fucking powerhouse, when it comes to MC’s, when it comes to culture. We have to find a way to pull this together and turn it into an “us” thing instead of looking to branch out. Everybody looks to Philly. If you go anywhere else and you tell them you are from Philly they are like “yooooo”. We are not in the shadow of nobody but ourselves. They know what it is the minute they hit one of those bridges. That starts from the bottom all the way up. Major signed artist to independent artist, they know what its hitting for when you come to Philly. The Philly scene is so saturated with talent is not even funny.
Lissa: March is Women’s History Month, seeing how the time is fitting, what is your opinion on misogyny in Hip Hop?
Ai-Que: I love women. There need to be a certain degree of respect. Some cats just don’t know any better. They know: Wake up. Roll blunts. Fuck Bitches. Get Money. That’s their lifestyle. And I’m not against anyone rapping (about) their lifestyle. I’ve been known to throw some stuff in there when I am free styling with the hommies. But I’ll never write it into my music because of the respect I have for women. Cats need to have more content and respect women. Especially Black women. The respect is unreal. Some of these women out here put themselves in that category. They show up, asking and acting in a manner that pretty much calls for disrespect. The basically solicit disrespect. The one thing I learned grown up is if you want respect you have to give respect. You won’t get respect if you don’t treat yourself with respect first. Is there a way to fix it though? I don’t know? But it can change.
Lissa: What is next for you as an artist?
Ai-Que: I can’t say. Only the creator knows. But hopefully, if I am working towards something, I have the power to speak it into existence. So what is next for me, everybody is going to hear my music. Everybody is going to like my music. Some people are going to love it.
Lissa: What do you see to be next for Hip Hop?
Ai-Que: It’s getting back to the MC’s. The cats that have been resilient enough to stay with their style. And keep writing and not selling out. And keep working and working on being doper MC’. Anybody can be a rapper. There are a million rappers in the industry. MC’s, that’s what its (Hip Hop) is getting back to. That what I get excited about. That’s what makes me do my little happy dance. I look at it from the perspective of: that gives me a chance because I feel like I can spit with the best of them.
Lissa: Where do you see Philly in the future?
Ai-Que: I would like to see things change. I would like to see a city that can actually communicate. Not to just one general population but all of us. I would like to see the cultural gap bridged. Its kind of like the Miss America Pageant, asking for world peace. Its not far fetched. This is something that has been in a steady decline since John Street left office. I like what Mayor Nutter is doing from the business aspect. I feel like his intentions are a little misguided.
Lissa Alicia is budding journalist from Philadelphia, who is constantly tweaking and perfecting her craft. Aside from being a Staff Writer for Hip Hop Party for the people, she also writes for urban lifestyle publication, Link Magazine. Lissa is also co-founder of blog, The Awkward Sauce.
[Twitter: @miss_lissali] [Facebook: Lissa Alicia] [Blog: TheAwkwardSauce.Tumblr.com]
Hip Hop Party For The People
The Hip Hop Party For The People (HHPP) believes that “Hip Hop Must be used as a tool inspire, heal, and uplift the people.” This organization is never without direct involvement in the community, may it be revitalizing empty lots, or youth outreach. HHPP has vast love, respect, and support for the Philadelphia Hip Hop culture.
[Website: HipHopParty.info] [Twitter: @VoteHipHop] [Facebook: Hip Hop Party For the People]