Out of jam, local music scene fosters hip-hop

Ahh, hip-hop. The great, misunderstood child of the inner city, so often cast aside by too many closed-minded critics as representative of merely bling, hos and motor-mouthed rhyming. Unfairness reigns supreme in popular culture. Granted, I was taken in by this easy stereotype at first – being raised through middle school by MTV will have that effect on a 12 year old suburban white boy. It wasn’t until recently that I acquired A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Anthology” and my ears were open for the first time. A world opened up to me, a vast prairie of untapped music. Artists ranging from Immortal Technique, lamenting with sublime eloquence on all manner of social ills to The Streets – British “garage”, telling tales of lower class life in London. Not once, however, did I expect to discover a veritable Lake Champlain of credible hip-hop right here in the extreme northeast, Burlington, Vermont. Beyond Phish and Burlington’s burgeoning jam-rock scene are artists such as Fattie B and DJ A-Dog, long time Vermont residents and leaders in the rising hip-hop scene in Burlington. Performing at Red Square or nationally with Pharcyde, Jurassic 5 and other large acts and even beginning a record label (Tru North, Fattie’s baby) the two have become respected locally and beyond. Even below this layer lie talented artists awaiting discovery, proverbial diamonds in the rough (or snow, in B-town’s case). S.I.N. comes immediately to mind. Slick rhymes over classy beats which keep from overshadowing the deep, topical and often self-referential lyrical content. Shades of my old favorite, Immortal Technique, shine brightly in S.I.N.’s words and their relevance. Burlington favorite, DJ A-Dog mixes humor with a pertinent message, creating the most unique music I’ve heard from our fair city in an age. Burnt waxes critically and preaches togetherness and Dakota puts a fresh (and local) spin on fist-pumpingly fun. There are still handfuls of fools gold in the mine, though; Neighborhood, for instance, strings together hyperactive beats with nonsense lyrics which call to mind the smooth (but ultimately pointless and eventually irritating) Sisqo. (yep, The Thong Song guy) Simply, he comes across as utterly uninspiring. Counter-examples aside, the winds of change are blowing here in the Great White (Green?) North. Out with the jam, in with the rap (though the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive) is the call of the day from the underground and the revolution has a chorus of voices. Fattie said it best, “…I also think of it as a musical revolution..I think music is one of the last true freedoms, and Burlington is a hidden gem of creative forces.”