Hip-Hop Hooray: A Beer-Line Trail Tale (Music on The BLT Post-Press Release)

“La Di Da Di, we likes to party. We don't cause trouble, we don't bother nobody.”

Heyyy, hooo! Heyy, hooo! HaHa

Hip-Hop definitely brings out the best of us and makes us all have a good time, which is why we were excited for this years Hip Hop Week MKE. This was the second year of the groundbreaking week that “celebrates Hip-Hop through the lens of Financial Literacy, Health and Civic Engagement,” all of which are important to know within our culture. 

One specific Hip-Hop Week event that shed light on a less talked about issue in Milwaukee, was the “Music On The BLT” and no, we’re not talkin’ ‘bout your classic Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato honey! This event, presented by Riverworks, was held on Holton Street on the Beer-Line Trail, bringing the communities of the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods together. Corey Pieper, Shle Berry, Jazzaveli and DJ Nu Styles were all on the lineup to perform on this family friendly evening. There were food trucks, drinks, and face painting for the kids, so there was something there for people of all ages. 


Now there’s no secret that there is a disconnect between these two neighborhoods due to gentrification, which is why organizations like Riverworks tries to figure out unique ways to bring them together. Riverworks brings opportunities to the Riverwest and Harambee area through workforce, job development, also programs and services around financial literacy and creative place making. Creative place making brings the community together around their culture, interests and likes. Having an event during Hip-Hop Week was a great opportunity for that to happen because entertainment draws the people...and I mean, what brings people together more than music and food?? 

Darryl Johnson, the Executive Director of Riverworks, says each community has a different set of issues they deal with. For example, the Harambee neighborhood has more concerns about vacant and boarded properties, unemployment and crime, which also spills over into different neighborhoods. He says what’s needed to bridge the gap between these two communities is communication.

“Let’s have that dialogue and break what we call this “Holy Street Divide” down and start dealing with the issues of really communicating with each other about issues that impact our lives and how we can work together to make Milwaukee a better city,” Darryl said. “These are two great neighborhoods. I always say that we have the two best neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee (Riverwest and Harambee), because they understand and they work toward communicating and working together to make change in the city of Milwaukee.” 

The crowd at Music On The BLT was very diverse, with what you would assume were residents from both the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods. However, after speaking with a few attendees, that was not necessarily the case. 

Tom and Amy Gutowski brought their daughter Ollie to the BLT event right after work. They said they live in the Riverwest neighborhood about five blocks away from the BLT and wanted to see what it was about, so they walked right over. They heard about it through 88.9 Radio Milwaukee and Urban Milwaukee. Plus they are fans of Shle Berry and never saw her perform before, so they figured it would be a great opportunity. And even though they were there for Shle Berry, they were living their best lives during all of the performances lol.

John Fitzgerald was another attendee, and he also said that he lives in the Riverwest neighborhood and walked over for the show. He’s also good friends with DJ Nu Styles so he came to show support. I saw him eating some bomb smelling jamaican food too, so that could’ve been another reason for attending (or maybe that’s just me always letting food be a reason for me to do anything lol). John was very candid with me when I brought up the topic of gentrification and the gap between the two areas. He mentioned the visible divide in class, race and crime, the rise in rent/property tax and him noticing more roads being done, bike trails being added and police presence in certain areas. I asked him how does he think the people feel who live in both areas and he says it depends on who you ask because one person isn’t speaking for an entire group. 

“It’s inevitable for people to not like the changes when they feel like they’re imposing on them,” John said. “But hopefully events like this help that and bring it together. People coming together is good and not too many neighborhoods could pull this off. It’s beautiful.”

As far as the Harambee residents, a lot of them were not present. But to keep my credibility I will say it’s possible I didn’t talk to the right people. For the people I spoke with who were Black, because yes I assumed the Black people there were coming from the Harambee side, they weren’t from the area. They heard about this Hip-Hop Week event through Instagram, were showing support for the performers or attended because their friends were there. However, Lavelle Young was one person who was there for all of the above. Lavelle, who gave us his new official title as community builder (you heard it here first), and is spearheading the redevelopment project of the MLK Library, grew up in the Harambee area around King Drive and Locust Street. He says the biggest change he has seen on King Drive is that right now the prices in the area are going up. This is a good thing but he says, “We [Blacks] don’t want to be displaced too.”

“Gentrification is real, I see it everyday,” Lavelle said. “But Harambee is a strong community that is woke, conscious and committed.”

When it came to the performance lineup, we loved the mixed group of Hip-Hop artists. We already did a pre-interview with a few of the performers who hit the stage (make sure y’all check that out btw), but I also wanted to speak with Shle Berry, who was a clear fan-favorite, to see how she felt about being included in the lineup and the gap between the two neighborhoods.

“I’m a woman, gay and bi-racial so I’m trying to bridge a lot of gaps,” Shle Berry said. “I bring a unique story to the scene.”

Shle Berry said Hip-Hop is the most authentic form of expression she’s ever experienced, which is why she pursued it. Because of the way it makes her feel. “It’s so political. You can talk about uncomfortable shit...and I’ve got some shit to say,” she said. Shle Berry says with Hip-Hop you can talk about vulnerable things thinking you’re alone and then find out you’re not. It’s all relatable.

And that’s just it. Hip-Hop is relatable. Music is relatable. It’s something everyone from any background can come together for. Which is why the “Music On The BLT” event during Hip-Hop Week was a great way to keep these conversations going. Just from the attendees I talked to, it’s clear people are willing to talk about what’s going on in the community. And we all know these concerns aren’t only happening in these two specific areas. Milwaukee by itself is known to be the most segregated city in the country. And of course this one event isn’t going to make us all join hands and sing “Kumbaya”, however, it’s a step. And by continuing to be open and honest with one another about what’s going on and having real conversations about the issues, there’s hope for not just Riverwest and Harambee, but for all the communities in Milwaukee to follow in their example. 

Shout-out to Milwaukee for making this important week happen. And man, just shout-out to Hip-Hop.

U.N.I.T.Y. that's a #unity!

/Carrie for CW





*Press Release: Hip Hop Week MKE ??? Music On The BLT (Pre-Coverage interview w/ DJ Nu Stylez & Jazzaveli)

Hip Hop Week MKE 2019 is here!

Last years commencement of hosting an annual event to celebrate Hip-hop and its culture became the talk of the town with high stakes, aiming for a high communal reward. Its controversial turnout, with multiple perspectives, left many curious to see what would come of it this year, and others eager to be involved. As the Hip Hop narrative has always been on our agenda, CopyWrite has joined in the action. 

This year we are the official media sponsor of Music On The BLT (Beerline Trail), a Hip Hop Week MKE music showcase with the goal of bridging the gap between the Riverwest & Harambee neighborhood on Milwaukee’s Eastside. From our perspective, the showcase is symbolic of more than just music in the city. It represents the conversation and change that can come from activating space. In the hopes that you may read something that makes you want to join us for the event, CopyWrite sat down with two of the acts from the amazing lineup, DJ Nu Stylez and Jazzaveli, to give you a taste of exactly why you should come to #SupportTheLocal

Carrie (CW journalist), DJ Nu Stylez, Jazzaveli, and Lexi (Editor-in-Chief of CW)

Carrie (CW journalist), DJ Nu Stylez, Jazzaveli, and Lexi (Editor-in-Chief of CW)

CW: “What made you decide to be apart of this showcase.”

Jazzaveli (J): “I haven't been active in six years [doing music]. . . I feel like this kind of fell into place with the mission I was already on. As far as the lineup, the location and even the person that reached out to me to do it. I think it's going to be a great show.”

When we asked Jazzaveli about the showcase being on the official schedule for Hip Hop Week events she assured us that it will be not only beneficial for her as an artist but also it will showcase a part of the community that does not house a large venue or event space, but has a lot of potential and has “changed”.

 J: “I used to live over there as a kid, back when it was Kohl’s grocery store. The residents over there are different [now]. I think that people may be afraid to take that approach, as far as introducing Hip Hop to that community. But I think it's just conversation and communication. I don’t think they are being resistant towards it. I think it's just not having those relationships.”

Let’s be honest. That’s why we need you to show up. For these local events, the word is getting out, circulating in some circles, and passing over others. Riverwest is showing up and Harambee is not. Hmm. . . Why do you think that is? We are not just talking neighborhoods. My friends, we are talking about a cultural shift.

CW: “What do you think the importance is of having Hip Hop Week in Milwaukee?”

DJ Nu Stylez (DJNS): “Just in general, keeping the cycle going. Even though I have had my hand in all the elements. My forefront is obviously DJing. For the younger DJ’s now they just need to know the full elements of Hip Hop week and DJing. Keeping Hip Hop alive is really what this week is about.”

J: “People have to understand its deeper than music. In that area, there is a lot of gentrification. So people feel a way! When you merge two communities, and there is no communication, one group of people feel like everything they have worked for is being taken and the other group of people are in a happy space because they feel like its a new beginning for them.”

She believes unless we communicate collectively, we will always have a distance between the two. So Music On The BLT is a start. 

So how does Jazzaveli as an artist fit into the mix? Well, she started her run in the Milwaukee music scene when she was in her early twenties. Young, gifted, with a flow that could, “Out rap most guys” (word to DJ Nu Stylez), she had her hand in a big part of the scene. The avid Hip Hop fan of great emcee’s like Tupac, the well respected Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (who she has actually opened up for), and Shawnna (who she met after rapping her way backstage as a teen) knows the importance of sharing your truth. Now at the age of thirty-one, after breast cancer, a divorce, and some other major life turning events, she has something real to say. She claims that her showcase will be filled with a genre she calls Soul Rap. Which consist of life experiences that come from the soul, allowing the audience to hear her testimony. 

DJ Nu Stylez also has an important role in the Music On The BLT showcase as its official DJ. In our conversation, we discussed how the role of the DJ in today's digital era is underrated. The history of the Disk Jockey and the service they provide is critical to the longevity of the culture.

DJNS: “Nowadays it's just so easy to put the music on your phone. Cats now, they don’t have DJ’s. They are just like, ‘Uhh can you play it off of here?’. Like what part of the game is that?”

He asserts that even though some people may not understand how crucial the DJ is to a performance, the proof is in the product. 

DJNS: “There is a structure on playing music and a computer can’t teach you that. . .You have to put the time in. You have to put the work in.”

And the work starts with the relationships. The same ones we want to manifest with Hip Hop week. Let us put you on game:

DJNS: “People don’t understand going to say ‘What Up?’ to the DJ without giving them your music. Without even just introducing yourself. When you're talking to a [woman] you don’t just go ‘yea ya know, hi-ah’.” *He said in a frantic mocking voice*. 

Word from the DJ, calm down and build the connection. Everybody thinks they have the most poppin track in the city. It's the authenticity that will get you played. 

J: “The easiest way to break a record is to take to the DJ. F*ck a social media.”

CW: “Now that we have the opportunity to really bring Hip Hop to the forefront in our city and make sure EVERYBODY sees it, what do you think that narrative shift can cause to happen in our community as a whole?”

DJNS: “I’m hoping more spotlight. I’m hoping that the door will open a little bit wider . . . I don’t understand why we are not further given social media, technology, and numbers. Some MF’s from here have real numbers (*Numbers: Plays). So why is that not connecting past the midwest? I don’t know. But I’m hoping things like Hip Hop Week MKE [can change that].”

He believes that though many have left the city and made a name for themselves, it's going to take someone to blow up from the dirt (right here at home) to put Milwaukee on the Hip Hop map and everything that comes with it.

J: “I think now we have to start creating our own environment so that we don’t have to leave. . . Milwaukee is a gold mine for artist. We have programs at the City and all types of stuff where an artist could actually make a living off of this. There are paths you can create to have that platform to stay home, it's just are you willing to do it. We do have a dark cloud over our city but it’s still what you make of it too.”

#PREACH

Their advice? Start putting a claim to it. They note that the most successful people in Hip Hop talk about where they are from in their music explicitly. They mention the names of streets, businesses, and landmarks. They shout out their local DJ’s and producers. They speak on hardships that happen there. It creates a collective story about that place. It moves the people. It becomes that spark.  

CW: “We are hoping for a diverse crowd. What do you want people who may not come from a similar background to take from your music?”

J: “One thing I live by is that music is universal. No matter what genre it is, no matter what age, or color, people identify with music if it is heartfelt. . . All I can do is tell my story. One thing I know for sure is that I'm not the only person who has had breast cancer. I'm not the only person who has been depressed, had anxiety or any other issues. I think that's relatable. So when they listen to my music I want them to listen in spirit, and not judge me. Try to meet my frequency for a second without expectations.”

CW: “What would you say to somebody who is not likely to come out to this Hip Hop Week MKE event, and maybe if they read this it could change their mind?”

J: “Step outside the box. I feel like we are so content with a certain feeling. For a while, I wouldn't listen to anything past made past ‘05. . . but then I started to listen to some of the new artists, different types of music like I started studying music from the ’80s. I studied Pop. I studied Blues and we all have a story! So I would just encourage people to come out with an open mind and learn something new. Get a new experience.”

CW: “So we can talk about all these things but let’s be direct. What is your contribution to putting Milwaukee on the map?”

J: “For me its community work. I have been working in the community for years. I think music is what gravitates people. Like I said earlier, it's universal so that’s how I reach them. But I have just really been challenging artist on every level to just get involved. I know it may sound cliche because I’m not talking about no clean up’s, even though that's cool if you do that. But I'm talking about real life. . . I’m working at city hall every day and I’m an artist. If I work in an alder-person’s office there is no reason why the streets, the artist or whoever should not be able to come to me and say, ‘How can we buy back the blocks? How can we do this?’. I’m the gateway for it. Here is your opportunity. If you want something to change, you gotta change it. I personally just got tired of asking. So it's like let me put myself in a position where I can try to change that.”

CW: “And you sir?”

DJNS: “You always have to represent no matter where you go. . . You will always see me with an MLB (He moves his Milwaukee Brewers Cap up and down with pride) no matter where I’m at. But I think too, a little more important is keeping the newer generation in tune to the art. As long as they are above average we will always be looked at. . .”

If you have not caught on by now, we really need YOU, in order to change the narrative. So this Friday, August 23rd, 2019, join us at 3334 N. Holton st. on the BLT performance stage for Music On The BLT. Jazzaveli and DJ Nu Stylez are not the only artists who will be blessing the stage. Local favorite Shle Berry will be on the mic and so will the popular Pop/ Hip Hop talent Corey Pieper. Representation is at stake, the disenfranchised of perpetual gentrification is of course at risk and the voice of Hip Hop may have the remedy. We may be biased (Andddddddd????) but you know what they say:

“Hip Hop saved my life.”

/Lexi (Editor-in-Chief of CW)




Music On The BLT line up!

Come kick it with us on the BLT (Beer Line Trail) during Hip Hop Week MKE.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2272410929740396/

CopyWrite will be keeping you in the mix for #AllThingsUrban for this event.

As media sponsor for Music On the BLT, we want to make sure we are inviting our REAL locals to come join us in this space, taking back our community, our culture, our city!

Music on BLT_Artist Annoucements.png