On December 20, something that’s been a long time coming happened at Cambridge’s Massive Records: a group of hip-hop locals met and, with artists like Lyrical, Slaine and Jaysaun from Special Teamz, and Eroc and Optimus from the Foundation on hand, created a union of local emcees under the banner of the Mass. Industry Committee (M.I.C.). “Boston doesn’t cater to hip-hop,” Slaine said at the meeting. But that’s beginning to change, with success stories like Mr. Lif, Akrobatic, Benzino of Made Men, and EdoG. Keeping those artists in Boston when NYC is just a turnpike away is a challenge. Unity among local rappers, along with a friendlier attitude toward hip-hop in general, is a big part of the solution. M.I.C.’s focus is on booking more shows, doing away with dress codes (the jersey, sneaker, and baseball cap ban that many clubs enforce), and eliminating the fear of violence that’s associated with hip-hop.
“We want to get into clubs,” local rapper Lokee said. “We need to rally against racism.”
M.I.C. is already bearing fruit: on January 21 they’ll bring legendary Queens rapper Kool G. Rap [see "Correction," below] to headline downstairs at the Middle East on a bill with some of the local scene’s finest — Lyrical, Dre Robinson, Cekret Society, and Illin’ P. Rap’s now working on new tracks while supporting a self-released mixtape, Dead or Alive, he put together with DJ Whoo Kid and G-Unit.
The Middle East show also marks a big step for M.I.C., which will announce the nominees for the first annual M.I.C. Hip-Hop Awards. Fans can vote through www.MassIndustryCommittee.com, and at select locations around town, M.I.C. VP Lyrical explained by phone.
Lyrical is one of the hardest-working artists in the city, according to the show’s host Kerosene, an executive at Portlife Entertainment. He recently released Infiniti (Blaze the World), a disc that highlights his smooth delivery, quick wordplay, and intelligent commentary. “The flow’s Butterworth,” he raps in “The Focuz Is Back.” “Nicest on the mother earth . . . Spit game like I’m Shuttlesworth/Staying humble first.” Between performances, he promotes events, scouts talent, and brings national artists like Kool G Rap to Boston. His label, Dotted i Music and Entertainment (D.I.M.E.), is currently merging with the fledgling Massive Records, which was announced last week by the Cambridge record store.
Two additional artists performing at the Middle East — Dre Robinson and Tek MP from Cekret Society — have known each other since they were corner kids spitting freestyles on the block in Dorchester where they grew up. Their point of view — particularly Tek’s — is strongly influenced by a tragedy that struck on May 24, 1991, when a good friend lost his life to street violence. “This is how it was in ’91,” Tek recalls with an eye toward today’s rising murder rate. “I lost so many friends between ’91 and ’95.”
Dre remembers freestyling at Dorchester cookouts long before he recently inked a distribution deal with Universal. Indeed, this year, Tek, MP, and Lord Linz of Cekret Society are planning to pursue solo projects to follow up last year’s Top Cekret mixtape. The trio’s complimentary styles on tracks like “Cekret Anthem” and “Pop Musik” made that collection one of Boston hip-hop’s 2005 highlights.
Dre says he’s already recorded 60 tracks for the solo album, tentatively titled This Is Me. And he’s hoping to have it out as early as mid April. “This is my first album with Universal distribution,” Robinson says. “I’m not expecting it to go platinum. Coming from Boston that’s hard. The records will be in stores nationwide, but we’re going to concentrate on New England.”
CORRECTION:After the Phoenix went to press, the Middle East announced that Kool G Rap cancelled his appearance for the January 21 show "due to a medical emergency" and would be replaced by headliner Black Sheep.
On the Web:
Black Sheep: //www.blacksheeponline.com/
Mass Industry Committee: //massindustrycommittee.com/
Dre Robinson: //www.drerobinson.com/
Cekret Society: //www.myspace.com/cekretsociety