It's been a rough year for hip hop in Madison. Even before a beleaguered Club Majestic canceled a genre's worth of DJ performances, the local scene endured a summer when long-time fixtures BroDJ and Rob Dz moved away. So when the Rathskeller hosted five hours of intermission-free local hip hop Saturday night, it wasn't just a concert. It was a statement about how positive and vibrant this community still is.
The show, built around producers battling for a $500 prize, drew a surprisingly diverse crowd. Middle aged parents carrying toddlers were packed next to college kids. Local emcees who came to support their beats shared tables with card players who abandoned their games once the music began to fill Memorial Union. It was a fitting audience for a pleasantly varied show.
Streets of Gold Productions, which organized the event, called on artists who demonstrated the breadth of the community to fill in the gaps as competing producers set up and took down their equipment. The scheduled musicians ranged from DJ Chuck Money to youth percussionists the Funky Bucket Drummers. But as the show wore on, artists were seemingly welcomed onstage out of the audience. None was more shockingly talented on the spot than the acoustic beat boxing of the Youth Speaks duo, Juelz and Unique.
The actual competition was fierce, as evidenced by the bevy of rappers quietly freestyling at the back of the room. Da Ricanstruckta's DJ-styled sample-heavy beats stole the show, rightfully earning him the first place honors. The animated Madisonian kept engaging the crowd, pumping his arms to lead the crowd in cheers and head-bobs.
Though the finals pitted him against the looming, hard drums of TD Cakez, Da Ricanstruckta's most interesting match came against Milwaukee's Man Up Productions. The hometown favorite broke his cool veneer for the first time all evening - actually (albeit briefly) looking worried about trying to get the upper hand over Man Up's slyly aggressive sound.
But unfortunately, many left the Union thinking the biggest story of the night had nothing to do with beats, but rather the lack of violence. In a city worried about the effects of hip-hop on crime, this concert saw no fights, no shootings, no stabbings. But it did display an embattled local scene prevailing over adversity like Ricanstuckta over Man Up.