How Smaller Christian Hip-Hop Shows Build Community – Rapzilla Showcase Recap
It was a no-brainer when Justin Sarachik (Rapzilla writer and organizer of the event) asked if I wanted to help out with the Rapzilla Christian Hip-Hop Showcase June 30. Who doesn’t want a chance to see Th3 Saga, Jered Sanders, Eric Heron, and other upcoming artists in exchange for volunteering?
Disappointed I was not!
Two of my family members wanted in on the volunteering, so we took the trek from where we live in Pennsylvania to the Liberty Center in New Jersey.
Entering the showroom, all the artists and their crews were either lounging or preparing for their performance. When Justin announced us as volunteers, murmurs of gratefulness sprung up from all around the room. We even got to talk to a few of the artists.
After talking, my crew and I took instruction from Justin and proceeded to set up for tickets. Slowly, but surely, people started to trickle in, either by themselves or in small groups. At least one person had to be at the entrance until the latter part of the showcase. We decided that one person at a time would rotate after every artist finished. I volunteered to go first, and so I handled tickets alone as the first artist, J-Phish, performed.
Thankfully I did not miss the rest of the show. Every artist brought their A-game. Genaro Oritz changed the emotion with each song; starting with a banger and ending with a tribute to his daughter.
Joe Ayinde then came in with pure energy. The guy danced and moved his heart out. He was easily the most powerful performer of the night. Jered Sanders continued the energy, minus the dancing. He spat bar after bar, and the production of his songs were beautifully constructed.
Then Eric Heron came on and brought his mid-western Hip Hop style. Since he lives with the DJ (OnBeatMusic), the two performed together and performed songs they both worked on.
The duo YP aka Young Paul and Merk Montes brought redemption from the hood to life. I find that nothing is quite like the counterculture blatancy of Jesus Trap music, and that is what YP and Montes brandished on stage.
The show should have then finished with Th3 Saga. One problem, however – Saga wasn’t present. He had just performed a show in the Bronx and was still traversing the highway networks of New York. So to pass time, OB threw on a beat and all the artists came up to freestyle. Even some of the audience members came up and wowed the crowd. Former TheKnuBlack member Kay Sade blessed us with her presence by dropping some of her unreleased work.
At last, Saga showed up. He and his crew walked in, set up their own gear on stage, and proceeded to put on a legit show. There were no beats out of a computer – live instruments, live beats. Saga had the best performance of the night, controlling the atmosphere of the room and changing it at will.
The Rapzilla Showcase, from an organization perspective, was a success. All the equipment worked, Th3 Saga showed up, and the event ended on time amazingly. My crew and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and I am sure the rest of the audience did too. I only wish more people had shown up to experience the show.
This thought, consequently, led me to a question: why didn’t more people show up?
Most of you reading this don’t recognize at least one of the artists mentioned above and perhaps were disinterested in the showcase because of the nonrecognition. For those of you that do know all the artists, you’ll know that while these guys aren’t top tier names in Christian Hip-Hop, many of them are getting there. In fact, most of these artists have accomplished much more than you’d think. Around 80 people showed up, including the artists and their crews, so not the most impressive crowd but nevertheless not tiny.
I think, however, that we as fans tend to take these small showings for granted. While these events don’t harbor artists such as Lecrae or NF or feature huge production, they have something you can’t get elsewhere – community and human empathy.
One of the best aspects of CHH, in my opinion, is the community. Everyone (there are haters, but there are some in every community) is supportive of one another. Artists back up artists, while fans verbally and financially support their artists. Even the artists show their appreciation by listening and connecting with their fans. Godly fellowship between believers is a beautiful thing, and I see it in Christian Hip-Hop.
While this is seen on social media, the fellowship was even more apparent in the showcase. There was none of the boastful, self-praise talk in mainstream hip-hop. Everyone wanted everyone else to succeed, causing the attention to shift equally.
In an Andy Mineo concert, there are artists that tour with him, but the main focus is on Mineo and his performance.
Because the Mineo’s NF’s of the world are placed on this pedestal above others most the time, their concerts are less personable. There is a physical barrier in concerts that separates fans and the artist. Also, only the artist, his crew, and concert workers are allowed on the stage. If a fan is brought on, it is seen as an amazing, special occurrence. It’s also much harder to meet or interact with artists unless you pay for a sometimes expensive VIP ticket. All the separation makes these big artists seem less ordinary and more like royalty.
When it came to the showcase, however, everyone was on the same humanity level. Whenever they were not performing, the artists were in the crowd with us. I stood next to J-Phish and Joe Ayinde half the night! In-between performances and after the show, the artists were willing to talk to anybody that came up to them and had a normal conversation. I accidentally ran into Ayinde when he was trimming his facial hair. Ayinde, his hype man, and I had a friendly chat and we got to know a little about each other. My brother told me he was surprised, when he got a picture with Eric Heron, about how much Heron cared about taking a good picture with him.
The open mic freestyle showed, even more, the equality of artist and fan. Just the fact that four of the audience members went up and performed made it feel everybody was on the same level, nobody was more important than anybody else. There was a bond that we were all just a group of people who enjoy Hip-Hop.
So hopefully, when the next showcase or concert happens in your area, instead of thinking about whether the artists are the hottest in the game right now, think about the community experience you could have. While seeing a big name and going crazy with a large crowd is great, sometimes it’s the small things that can produce an enjoyable, meaningful time.