#FirstCoastChronicles: The Kingston Hip Hop Timeline

This piece was originally published as Thoughts on Jamaican Hip Hop Pt.2, in April 2012. I have revised it slightly and re-posted it on FiveSteez.com as the first entry in the #FirstCoastChronicles as I believe it provides some historical background for the Hip Hop movement in Kingston, Jamaica. In no way is this supposed to be a summary of everything that occurred in the local scene... just my thoughts, particularly as it relates to local Hip Hop shows.   

Just yesterday, I told a female friend of mine about Pay Attention, an upcoming Hip Hop party and showcase series that some friends and I are staging (#PayAttention! - The New Musical Experience, Pree Jamaica). The fact that there would be a Hip Hop party in Jamaica was obviously a surprise to her. She had never heard of such a thing and that is exactly why I am proud to be associated with this event and this movement, in general.

I grew up on Hip Hop. I have two older brothers who listened to a lot of Hip Hop so my introduction to the genre came very early. The older I got, the more I delved into the music. By age 14, I was studying the craft of MC'ing, jotting down punchlines during school hours and recording my verses at home on my family's computer. As much as I loved this art and culture, I fully understood how odd my musical tastes and choices were compared to the majority of my peers, who only listened to what was popular.

Throughout most of high school, I was the only rapper I knew. Fortunately, I connected with Simo-B and later, Nomad Carlos, Shermon Dadz and Sosa when we formed The Bulletproof Army (BP) in late 2002 while we were in 5th Form at St. George's College. Finally, I had friends who were as passionate about the music as I was and I was motivated more than ever to write rhymes and make music.

Beginning in January 2004, BP released frequent mixtapes. At the time, we knew of no other rappers or groups except for a handful with which we had little interaction. By 2005, we began frequenting Gambling House Recording Studio (GH), which has been a 'Mecca' for local Hip Hop, as most Jamaican MC's have worked, passed through or hung out there at some point. At GH, I met Wall$treet, who I learned, saw themselves as the '2nd Generation' of local Hip Hop, being that they were students of Keystone, the first local Hip Hop group I have known to have an album in stores. We, as BP, were the '3rd Generation' of local Hip Hop. I also met the super-producers Damien and Inztinkz (also our elders), who shared a lot of local Hip Hop history with us.

For the first, I felt like I belonged. We felt like we belonged! We found so many other rappers who influenced us and as a result, we formed a new view on Jamaican Hip Hop. No longer were we alone. We were a part of a community.

In 2007, Nomad Carlos and myself attended an event at Up on The Roof in New Kingston, to give out some of our CD's. There we saw a performance by two local rappers. Never before had we seen a performance by local Hip Hop artistes so we knew we had an opportunity at this series of events. We made contact with the promoter and BP was booked for the following month. This was our first performance as a group (Simo-B and myself had performed before) and in my own humble opinion, it was the ushering in of a new era for Jamaican Hip Hop.

Our first show at Up on The Roof went excellent. We brought a much larger crowd to the event than ever before and we closed the show with a bang. Still feeling excited and encouraged, I, and some other rappers, made contact with some organizers of the weekly Tuesday Nite Live, which was held at Village Cafe. The following month, they held a show that incorporated local Hip Hop, including BP. I guess it went better than expected because not too long after, there was a full Hip Hop show! I had never seen Village Cafe so packed in my life! For approximately four months, between Up on The Roof and Village Cafe, there were a total of 4 events that went well, one each month, with the venue alternating every other month.

One of the organizers of Tuesday Nite Live, Julia Vaz Campbell was overwhelmed by the amount of local Hip Hop talent and raw enthusiasm that she witnessed. It wasn't long before she teamed with DJ Boyd (if Jamaica has any true Hip Hop DJ, it is him) to begin a movement they called Da Underground. Julia and Boyd invited numerous rappers to be a part of something and institutionalized regular rehearsals at our designated meeting spot, GH, which was common to so many rappers. They both had a vision to propel our movement into notoriety but could not acquire the sponsorship they desired. One staging of Da Underground was held at Weekenz in 2008 but for various reasons, it never had the impact of previous Hip Hop shows and was never held again. This initiative dissolved not long after.

In 2009, The Sickest Drama (TSD), one of my peers from GH, began working with Two 9 Xclusive, a promotional company that held weekly events on Sundays at Moulin Rouge on Constant Spring Road. Being the MC that he is, he brought in numerous Hip Hop artistes to represent week after week. This weekly event lasted for months but eventually ceased.

In 2010, I began working with the non-profit youth organization, Manifesto|Jamaica, which staged ART'ical Exposure: Rhyme & Reason in September. Dozens of rappers represented on stage and it was surely the biggest local Hip Hop event since the last show at Village Cafe three years earlier (ART'ical Exposure turns to rap, Jamaica Gleaner). Manifesto also showcased Hip Hop artistes such as myself and Shaq the MC on its Festivals of ART'ical Empowerment in both 2010 and 2011 but it is Verse: The Art of Rhyming, of which I am most proud. As a special feature at the monthly Poetry Society of Jamaica fellowship, myself, Shaq the MC and Kabaka Pyramid had a cypher that lasted around an hour, if not more (See Pree Jamaica's highlights Pt1 | Pt2). Nothing like that had ever been done before locally and I can tell that the experience of witnessing that has stuck with some of the people who were there. It must also be noted that Shaq the MC was one of the organizers and the host of Jamaica Vibes, which was a regular live music show that went on for many years at Weekenz during the 2000s. While it was not a Hip Hop show, Shaq would often freestyle on stage and the event featured Hip Hop performers often.

Now in 2012, I am happy to see local Hip Hop artistes, producers and supporters coming together for Pay Attention. Too many times, the organizers of Hip Hop events, or events that include us, have been outsiders and I believe this is why they have not lasted. They were not sustainable in the beginning and first and foremost, there was no community ownership.

Pay Attention is owned and organized by members of the community for the entire local Hip Hop scene. I hope to see this event prosper and flourish to become the meeting point for all lovers of Hip Hop music and culture. In due time, I would love to see more events like it and many more opportunities for local Hip Hop artistes.

It's time... Peace!

Last modified on Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:26