Microphone fiends

Hip-hop open mic nights showcase up-and-comers

Megan Kadrmas

The lights dim, the crowd quiets in anticipation and a bass heavy beat starts bumping out of the speakers. A man hops onto the stage as the lights flick back on. The crowd cheers and starts nodding their heads to the rhythm.

The man on stage is not a hip-hop megastar. Not yet.

He is One Be Lo, an underground rapper from Michigan who routinely stops by the Twin Cities on his tours. He is one of the many performers to come through local venues like the Dinkytowner, where he performed Saturday alongside other underground hip-hop artists as part of the Dinkytowner’s “The Hook Up.”

“The Hook Up” is a weekly Saturday night hip-hop show booked by Unicus and DJ Stage One, both of whom are prominent figures on the local hip hop scene. The 18+ shows started over two years ago and feature lesser-known local hip-hop artists alongside more recognized stars.

Other Minneapolis venues have started hip-hop nights more recently. The Turf Club, Big V’s and the Red Sea all host their own hip-hop events on a regular basis.

The Turf Club has been holding “Recordface” every third Thursday of the month since the end of last spring.

“I’ve been booking at the Turf Club for a few years now, but I’ve been wanting to get hip-hop in here more and more,” said former University student Oren Goldberg.

He added that getting acts and fans into the club is difficult because the hip-hop community is not familiar with the club, which has traditionally hosted more rock and alternative music events.

Goldberg recruited the local hip-hop group Big Quarters to help him book local acts and boost the hip-hop community’s recognition of the Turf Club.

“Medium” Zach Bagaason, one-half of Big Quarters, moved to the Twin Cities in 2000 and said he noticed a change in its hip-hop scene over the past six years.

“Things have become a lot more diverse in (regards to) who is out there and what is being said,” Bagaason said.

Local hip-hop nights at smaller venues like the Turf Club give lesser known artists a chance to perform in front of 50 or 100 people. Giving those aspiring musicians a chance to try out their material is what Bagaason enjoys most about his work with the Turf Club, he said.

“My goal, since I don’t have the biggest interest in being a promoter, is to just give people the opportunity to see if this is really what they want to do,” he said.

Jason Lupeituu, a sound technician and booker for Big V’s, agreed that local hip-hop nights give new artists a “launching pad” where they can “get their sound out there.”

Big V’s started hosting a hip-hop night every Wednesday and also sets aside either a Friday or Saturday night every month devoted to genre.

Lupeituu said he started trying to get more hip-hop music into the venue after they installed a new PA system and subwoofers about three months ago.

“Big V’s is kind of a punk rock bar, and we decided we could have some music that bumps since we got the new sound system,” he said.

Another motive for Big V’s to get involved in the hip-hop scene was a lack of hip-hop venues or events in St. Paul, Lupeituu said.

“Minneapolis has more of a stronghold on the local hip-hop scene,” he said. “We understand that there are other places in town that are doing the same thing, but there aren’t really any in St. Paul.”

Hip-hop nights at smaller venues are important for the local hip-hop scene, Lupeituu said.

“It builds artists and it builds up the community,” he said.

And supporting that community now is important to

Goldberg and other local hip-hop enthusiasts, who say the scene shows no signs of fading.