Friday, October 29, 2010

Fish Sticks!

Hip Hop's relatively low profile in Albuquerque is puzzling.  I could make an argument that it's the most popular music in the city.  KISS 97.3 has used a heavy rotation of hip hop music to stay at or near the top of the local fm ratings. If we were to survey the stores that still sell music, we would find that rap music out sells most genres.  Somehow the music's popularity has never resulted in a cohesive local scene or a breakout mainstream artist. To that end, Duke City rap moguls, George Fisher and Stevie Melendez have assembled a stable of  rappers, and are now hard at work building up their burgeoning rap collective.  By posting videos on You Tube and producing a steady flow of mix tapes, they've slowly built  on a mix of West Coast Hyphy and Dirrty South Crunk, to spread the gospel to the good folks of Albuquerque and beyond.  Fat Fish Records, founded in 2002, features a roster that includes Stevie B (Melendez) Bamboozle tha Boss (Fisher) Boy Dirrt (the most prolific) Bundlez tha Billionaire, Bill Shakes, G.B.U. (the good, the bad & the ugly) which includes Boy Dirrt, Bamboozle and Jiggie da beast.  Associated acts such as the Blok Boys and Yung Bizzle also have releases and videos out.  In a world where the tallest midget is king, Fat Fish Records is the Duke City's best hope for making some noise on the national hip hop scene.
There's also a number of Hispanic artists who pattern themselves after the O.G. Cali rappers.  Juan Gambino, who hails from Roswell, has had the most success in building an audience outside of New Mexico. Other Hispanic artists like; Romero & Big Rich Tha Don are in the process of developing their talents.  The problem facing the Hispanic rappers and Fat Fish Records, is a lack of local venues, airplay and exposure.  Another problem that plagues Hispanic rappers is that the style is so derivative.  If you've heard one song by Lil' Rob you've heard every song by Lil' Rob.  There is very little innovation in that sub-genre, the soldiers all march in lock step. Outside of Chingo Bling and Baby Bash, none of the Hispanic rapper are willing or able to drop the scowl and try something different.  It's not just limited to the Southwest, Florida's Pit Bull suffers from the same limitations, it's a musical style with a limited audience, that has little chance of  busting out of the regional markets.  The primary difference (beside the musical styles) between rock musicians and rap artists in Albuquerque  is that local rock bands often include musicians not from Albuquerque, thus they will pull up and move if another locale offers more venues or opportunities.   Rappers maintain close ties to their hometowns, openly expressing this in their lyrics and videos.  They pour out their love for the city and state, all the while celebrating the ordinary things about the city that most of us take for granted.  Would James Mercer ever write a song about Albuquerque sunshine?.... probably not!  This loyalty, while commendable, also works to hold them back, as so many local rock musicians have discovered.