UCAN’s Eighth Annual Hip Hop Awards
Still Struggling After All of These
Urban Community Arts Network President Karen Reese (l-r), Treasurer Pacal
“DJ Pain 1” Bayley, and Social Media Specialist Dana Stormer
By Jonathan Gramling
Hip-hop developed as an art form and a way of life back in the
early 1970s during block parties held in the South Bronx, New
York City. And while it grew out of the culture and urban
experiences of young African American men, it soon became
a world-wide movement uniting young — and not-so-young —
people from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
It came to Madison at a time when Pacal “DJ Pain 1” Bayley,
treasurer of Urban Community Arts Network or UCAN, was
growing up in Madison during the 1980s. It is the culture that
he ascribes to.
“I’ve been involved with hip hop since the 1980s when I was
a young child,” Bayley said. “It became subconscious as any
other cultural practice becomes in a practitioner. And for
decades, that’s just been a part of my life. For me, it went
beyond being a fan of the music because I always listen to all
kinds of music. But hip hop has always been a framework for
how I interact with people, how I socialize, how I approach
problem-solving, how I approach competition. Now it has become my living, so it is hard for me to separate the culture from the self for me. It is
completely integrated into my life.”
Just like counter-culture hippies of the 1960s and 1970s who never turned away from the rock music of their youth, so too has Bayley’s
generation and those before it continue to identify with hip-hop culture as they approach middle age and are raising their own families. Yet hip-
hop continues to struggle to gain an equal footing with other cultural art forms in Madison, to a great degree, because it has been unfairly
labeled as a violent art form.
UCAN wanted to dispel the myth and some of the underlying racism that goes with it. And so they were the catalysts for a scientific study that
compared the level of violence at all music venues in the Madison area.
“This is something that UCAN has been wanting to do for quite a while now because we always come up against, ‘Why don’t you want to book
hip hop,’” said Karen Reece, president of UCAN. “‘Because it’s more violent and we can’t risk that.’ Of course we know that’s not true based on
experience. But it’s hard to refute when you don’t have hard data. So the only way to do that is by looking at police calls and police reports,
which is a lot of information to sort through. We never had the organizational capacity to do that in the past. We met up with a professor in the
Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, Randy Stocker. And he has a Capstone class where he actually takes students into the
community to do research on whatever a community organization needs. And so this is what we had them work on. They pulled all of the police
calls from 2008-2016, look at the dates, found events that were happening if they were associated with a live-music event and then coded for
genre and analyzed in three different ways to look to see if there was any statistical difference and there wasn’t at all. Basically everything is the
same. Downtown venues have a few more calls than others. But there is no difference. We could not prove that hip hop was more violent. That
was the conclusion of the study.”
While there may be no difference, hip-hop has been treated differently.
“Venues in Madison are short lived,” Bayley said. “Based on the statistics, you would think that the common denominator for violence at night
clubs and bars could be a number of things including location like downtown and campus. But never has there been a ban on events on
campus bars. Alcohol could be another one. But there’s never been talk about Prohibition. There are a number of factors. Just looking at the
hard numbers of factors that could contribute to problems in Madison’s night life scene; there is no definitive way of pointing to hip hop as the
root cause of anything.”
This creates a sort of downward pressure on Madison’s hip-hop scene.
“The hip hop scene has been really fragmented because it goes through 2-4 year periods where everything is going great,” Reece said. “Shows
are booked. People can come together. And when community gathers, that’s where the real action happens. Collaboration happens.
Relationships get built. And then something will happen at a venue. Everyone will stop booking hip hop. And there is nothing for six months to a
year. And then it slowly rebuilds. So we really haven’t had the chance to build solid community.”
And without any kind of synergy on the local scene, Madison’s hip-hop scene and artists can’t flourish locally or nationally.
" One way that those artists lose out is that if they are trying to get recognition even on the regional scene, let alone national, people are going to
ask them how they do in terms of attendance in their home town when trying to book colleges and other venues in other places,” Reece said. “If
you can’t show you have a fan base, no one is going to book you anywhere. So by not having a sustainable scene here, no one can rise up and
we can’t get recognition from that standpoint.”
And the problem isn’t that there isn’t the talent living in the Madison area.
“I would say hip hop is a hidden gem in Madison certainly because it has been marginalized largely due to racism here in Madison,” Reece said.
“So we have rappers, dancers, visual artists, producers, managers, PR agents, you name it; we have experts in those fields. And we have a
really long list of just rappers alone of over 100 artists in Madison. The vast majority are African American artists.”
In spite of the obstacles, UCAN and others are trying to promote a viable hip-hop scene.
“I don’t think we’re at that critical mass yet,” Bayley said about the Madison scene. “It goes back to now a new generation of hip hop artists has
figured out how to utilize social media a lot better than the previous generations. And so their momentum is more easily conveyed to a national
audience. Because of that, their growth is not only documented, but it is also compounded by the energy of dance all across the country and
even all across the world. Slowly, but surely Madison is trying to get mentioned more and more often in national publications because of
musicians like Ted Park or musicians who travel. Time will tell whether or not that uplifts the entire scene.”
For the past eight years, UCAN has been working to bolster and support Madison’s hip-hop scene. One thing they have been successful in
promoting is a summer concert series.
“This year, we did 11 shows, six of them on State Street and the rest in parks and one at UW-Madison,” Reece said. “That’s been growing
throughout the years. But usually when you approach businesses and mention hip hop, you’re getting the door slammed in your face. There is the
violence stigma. No one wants to be associated with that, so it has been very difficult to get support even from some of the larger foundations.
They just don’t see this as a legitimate art form. The smaller money we’ve been able to receive and grow projects. Now that we’ve been doing
some things around town, we’re gaining legitimacy just by our reputation and consistency.”
Another event that UCAN has been producing to support and promote Madison’s hip-hop scene is the annual Madison Hip-Hop Awards Show.
“It’s the Hip Hop Awards’ eighth year, which is amazing,” Bayley said. “We didn’t think we would survive past the second or third year. There’s
a new venue, so we’re more centralized now. Students and Madisonians from all parts of the city can access the awards show more easily. We’
re at Majestic Madison on Saturday, December 16th. It’s an all-ages event. We’ll be recognizing excellence in the hip hop arts in multiple
categories, everything from album of the year to R&B artist of the year to hip hop dancer of the year. And then there is the Spotlight Award for
outstanding members of the community who have really made an impact locally. We have a few headlining acts including Third Dimension and
Ted Park. It’s hosted by Antoine McNeal, a local comedian who hosted last year’s award show and that was great. Hopefully, it’s a new tradition
for us. All proceeds will benefit the East Madison Community Center break dancing program.”
And according to Reece, the Hip-Hop Awards has its own eclectic feel in a relatively family-friendly environment.
“The Hip-Hop Awards is really amazing,” Reece emphasized. “All different kinds of people come to it. It could be compared to a night at the
Madison Symphony Orchestra where you have some people dressed to the nines in designer clothes to the guy in the Packers outfit. It’s a time
when you can get dressed up. It’s an important time. It’s an awards ceremony. You have everyone from college rappers to the most gangster
rapper in the scene. Hip hop is as diverse as that. It’s nice to see all of those different kinds of people come together just to celebrate hip hop,
young, and old, and having a good time, talking and networking and celebrating. It’s pretty amazing.”
And if one wants to become educated on what hip-hop really is and who is a part of the hip-hop subculture, the Hip-Hop Awards is the perfect
place to start.
“If you think you know what hip hop is, this is the place that you want to be because you are going to see what hip hop really is,” Reece said. “If
you have any preconceived notions from the positive to the negative, come and see what it really is because this is the place where hip hop is
celebrated. Every person is welcome. Every race, class, education levels and age is welcome although sometimes there is some adult
language. It is certainly appropriate for teenagers. That is what community is and that is what the Hip Hop Awards represents.”
Get a taste of Madison’s hip-hop scene at the Eighth Annual Madison Hip Hop Awards.
The Eighth Annual Madison Hip Hop Awards is being held Saturday, December 16, 8 p.m., at the Majestic Theater, 115 King Street. Tickets are $7
in advance and $10 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the Majestic box office or online at www.majesticmadison.com.