Buildings are shuttered and events are cancelled. Reality has sunk in. The world has changed. Some things may never be the same. But in this new reality, some are finding new ways to change the way we build Hip Hop Culture. From DJs spinning livestream to virtual dance classes, in many ways, the global quarantine has brought so much talent and creativity to our fingertips.
In this month’s blog, we take a look at some of the game changers finding new ways to keep pushing the culture forward and keep us connected. Although there have been countless podcasts, livestream concerts, virtual cyphers and battles, two events have really stood out. Time will truly tell, but we recognize these events as game changers that will forever be a part of Hip Hop history.
The first event was a beat battle organized by two world famous Hip Hop producers, Timberland and Swizz Beats on April 11th. They organized a battle between two giants in the music game, DJ Premier vs. RZA of the Wu Tang Clan on Instagram live. This battle put two legends head to head with each playing 20 tracks from their own catalog of production. With their legacies sealed in history, there was nothing for either to prove. So they took the opportunity in the tradition of Hip Hop to battle, not for fame or clout, but for the people.
As the battle started live on Instagram, it quickly became evident this event was a massive moment in time. The viewer numbers grew in minutes from a few thousand to tens of thousands to close to 200 thousand! Hip Hop fans from around the world were tuned in to listen to 40 of the greatest Hip Hop songs ever. As viewers started to comment the weight of the moment became clear. Nas, Timberland, Method Man, NuMark, Crazy Legs, Biz Markie, Cros One, Fat Joe, AsiaOne, Rapsody, Talib Kwali, Ynot, Adriene Brodey, HiTek, Michael Rapaport, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and countless more celebrities and Hip Hop icons began to comment. From the comfort of our living room couch we realized we were sharing this incredible moment with a giant community of fans and stars.
Both producers dropped iconic track after track and we knew that there was no clear winner or loser. The true winner was Hip Hop culture, there in that moment together, celebrating the music we love. As if we were all sharing some giant green room backstage of a concert, nodding our heads 200k strong to the soundtrack of our collective experience. I personally haven’t sat and just listened to music for 3 hours straight for a long long time, but that moment was so absorbing and electric and I found myself unable to turn away. It’s a night that will forever be remembered in Hip Hop as a defining event in a world changed by a global pandemic.
The second event that we recognize as forever changing the game was the Break Free Worldwide 2020 Championship organized by Bboy Moy and his team at Break Free in Houston April 21st-26th. Break Free has been a leader in the Breakin' community for a long time. They run a successful franchise of Hip Hop and Breakin' education centers and are a major influence on the global Breakin' scene. The 2020 Championship event they organized was a massive undertaking that truly connected the entire globe. This six day event featured four 64 person brackets from four regions; the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East and another 64 Bgirl bracket with bgirls from all over the world.
For six full days they hosted incredible battles, virtually connecting people around the globe who may never have had the chance to travel to large international battles before. The battles culminated in a World Championship, with the top 4 dancers from each region competing for $5000. We witnessed so much culture and diversity through the lens of this competition. Connecting with people in their own homes, studios and neighborhoods was truly remarkable. In a sense we were given an opportunity to visit small communities all over the world. We got to see people in their own elements, some with family and friends, some hauntingly alone and yet somehow, all together connected.
Not only did Break Free produce an epic event on an enormous scale, they also created a platform to broadcast important education and stories that many of us hadn’t heard before. The production allowed them to truly shine light on the fact that this culture is global and these stories have touched the entire world. They forged a new path that provided inspiration and connection in a time that we are all finding ourselves in need. They grasped the moment and fulfilled a large gap many of us are feeling.
It was no surprise to see so many tune in to these broadcasts. Whether participating or spectating we witnessed them successfully create incredible events that will forever change the game. In a historic time for humanity, they both created important moments in Hip Hop history.
In times like these, much is revealed. Unfortunately, there will always be those who will not recognize the beauty of other people’s devotion and hard work. Hip Hop has a long history of “haters.” In every local scene and globally there are those who act entitled to be a part of every significant event. Or if an event doesn’t fit with their own vision of the culture they try to turn others against it. Rather than putting their energy into creating something for themselves, we so often see this energy put into bashing those doing the passionate work it takes to organize these events.
There will always be forces of opposition in everything substantial we do individually or collectively. My mother has always told me, “if you aren’t ruffling feathers, you aren’t doing enough.” These two moments in time were both celebrations of the culture, arts and the expression we love. Those who know the power of love witnessed the beauty. How could you not?
In a time of difficulty, a time of isolation and fear, these events show us we are still together and that there is hope. We are able to adapt and evolve and find a way to keep striving for the artistic expression we share so much love for. These are great people who put everything on the line when times are most trying. These are game changers.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” Dan Millman.