The Hip-Hop Scene in New Hampshire is on Life Support

People always ask me how the music scene is up here in New Hampshire. They ask me why I’m even bothering to launch a rap career/rap label in this state. I always have a variation of these same answer for them.

This state (New Hampshire), and the New England music scene as a whole (Maine & Vermont also have hugely underdeveloped urban culture markets) possess enormous potential, if we would get our heads right as businessmen and develop a sustainable infrastructure for Hip-Hop fans.

Make no mistake about it, the fans are there.

The “fourth coast” has more than enough avid Hip-Hop fans to support a movement like the ones in places like Houston and Atlanta. We just need more Hip-Hop clubs, urban clothing stores, and independent record stores to service the market.

But it’s been an uphill struggle all the way. I can’t count how many times my fans have contacted me asking where to find local stores to buy my CD. It’s always hard to answer them, because although we have indie record stores up here, they always seem to be closed for business.

It’s kind of obvious why. Most of the independent stores in the state are run by drug dealers who only have stores as way of laundering their dough. You get a dealer who’s earning a lot of cash, but can’t file it on his taxes. Obviously he’s gonna get pinched eventually, because he’s riding around in that nice car. So what does he do? He opens an urban music and clothing store, and claims that on his taxes. I’ve even seen cats go so far as to buy out their own inventory, just to wash the money. It’s a tight hustle, as far as it goes.

The problem is, the urban music fans aren’t being serviced. You see, the stores are never open because they’re not really in the business of making money from music or clothing as a legitimate income. So the fans get frustrated, because they can’t find their favorite music anywhere. There are a few local stores that are open for legitimate business, SpiderBite Radio in Manchester NH being one of those. But the overwhelming majority of these stores are nothing but fronts. I’ve seen this in each one of the 6 states of New England.

The clubs aren’t in much better shape. I can’t count how many times the authorities in NH have shut down great clubs that are doing a legitimate business, just because they cater to an urban audience. Clubs like The Pyramid (I loved that place), Omega, and Envy have all been shut down by liquor commission authorities for infractions that wouldn’t even have gotten them a slap on the wrist if they had been catering to a rock audience. Hell, there was one club in 2006, Electra, that spent a million dollars on interior decoration, and carried more than 10,000 dollars a month in overhead for over 6 months, just to be continuously defeated in their bid to gain a liquor license. Manchester NH Mayor Frank Guinta repeatedly refused their applications for liquor and entertainment licenses as part of a “crack down on rowdy nightlife” in his city. (Translation: urban music and crowds are not welcome in Manchester.) This from a mayor that regularly parties with his aides at another popular upscale local nightclub, creating drunken public debacles of which no one ever speaks.

The latest vistim of this sytematic eradication of urban-themed establishments is an urban club in Nashua NH called Laureano’s. They’ve recently had their liquor license suspended for an infraction that involved no injuries. Of course this was published in the local papers as being a bottle- and fist-throwing free-for-all among several other members of the overcapacity crowd”.

Bullshit. I actually have friends who patronize some of the rock clubs in the state, and there are regularly incidents at these clubs that are much worse than the brawl that occurred at Laureano’s. But altercations at these clubs are rarely written about, and the establishments themselves seldom receive more than a slap on the wrist from authorities, if that.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that urban music has a stigma attached to it because of the fact that media (especially in this state) consistently over-hypes the negative stories, or if it’s just blatant racism to blame. In any case, that’s pretty much beside the point, because there’s nothing we as Hip-Hop fans can do to change these attitudes.

I do know that the urban club owners, store owners, and all other businesspeople in the urban music community in New England have got to step their game up. If we have any hope of making a real urban music movement happen here, we have go to go above and beyond to make sure that our audiences are safe, and our businesses are legitimate. We’ve got to be aware that there is definitely bad public perception of our industry that’s been perpetuated by authorities with their own agenda. And lazy, irresponsible, corrupt business owners have not helped to change things for the better.

The only way to counter this is to develop an agenda of our own. We’ve got to fight fire with fire, so to speak. Develop legitimate businesses that will stand under public scrutiny. We’ve got to take responsibility for the economic development of the communities in which we open our businesses. We’ve got to be even smarter than the next man, because there’s a lot at stake.

Fans have to their part, too. They’ve got to realize that every fight they have an urban nightclub has a negative impact on all of us Hip-Hop fans. Unfair that we should be judged on a different scale than other types of industries, but that’s the way it is.

1 Response to “The Hip-Hop Scene in New Hampshire is on Life Support”

  1. 1 Jon B
    October 5, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    You definitely have some good things to say. i’ve been into rap/hip hop since I was eight years old. I have tossed up the idea of opening an urban clothing store in Portsmouth, but definitely need the capital to get it started. You’re right that a lot of business are fronts, and what goes on behind the scenes is what’s making the real money.

    I know of a guy that successfuly runs an urban clothing store in Burlington Vermont, as far as I know it’s not a front. He’s legit, if someone can do it in Vermont, then someone can do it in New Hampshire. I’ve thought of reaching out to him, used to frequent his store. There’s definitely a scene here, and we could definitely draw from the Boston underground scene to help get it started. I’d be interested in talking to you more about it, because I’m all about making some serious legit money in the industry. I’m really just tired of my nine-to-five life. I love hip hop, and I’d be willing to help NH bring the game to the next level.

    Peace out,

    Jon B

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