Hip-Hop Week is a Milwaukee Original

Milwaukee Celebrates Hip-Hop

It was recently a big week for music lovers in the 414 area code. Brought to the City of Milwaukee by Alderman Khalif Rainey, Hip-Hop Week MKE was full of performances, discussions, and ways to learn about health and financial literacy while commemorating 50 years since the genre came to be. The annual week was held on August 21-27, 2023.

There were events all over town to promote entrepreneurship like the Hip-Hop Lunch & Learn presented by the City-Clerk License Division and a Conversation with Dame Dash. The week also celebrated Hip-Hop in film at the Oriental Theatre and AMC Mayfair Mall. The Rave/Eagles Club hosted signature artists like Jadakiss, The Pharcyde, and Babyface Ray. Moneybagg Yo closed the week by taking the stage at Fiserv Forum. 

Free bookbags, school supplies, food, and haircuts were available for kids at the Back to School Fest in Milwaukee Aldermanic District 2.

Hip-Hop and Fitness

Many Black-owned businesses were involved in Hip-Hop Week including Spinn MKE. Owner Shakkiah Curtis is all about holistic wellness through spin classes.

Spinn MKE offered two free morning sessions to the public. DJ Dub Deezy had the room energetic and ready to burn calories. Curtis said the foundation of Spinn MKE is built on the culture of Hip-Hop.

“To be a part of Hip-Hop Week for the 50th anniversary…it was super dope to be a part of what brings culture to our studio…it just felt like a moment of confirmation, but also a moment of greatness.”

– Shakkiah Curtis

Curtis said her business set out to be a part of history and break generational norms and that’s exactly what Spinn MKE did by participating in Hip-Hop Week MKE.

She looks forward to participating next year and watching the week grow.

Women in Hip-Hop

Jasmine Tyler, a former rapper from the 53206 zip code, moderated an all-female panel of Hip-Hop artists at 5 Points Art Gallery & Studios on August 26, 2023. The conversation touched on many topics that gave advice to women navigating the entertainment industry.

Panelists share mimosa toast to begin Women in Hip-Hop Forum at 2023 Hip-Hop Week MKE.
Panelists share mimosa toast to begin Women in Hip-Hop Forum at 2023 Hip-Hop Week MKE. (Picture by Joy Boyd/Carvd N Stone)

The crowd and panelists included artists, business executives, and DJs who were influenced by Hip-Hop legends MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliott, and Da Brat.

Milwaukee radio station Hyfin Music Director Element Everest-Blanks gave encouragement to those in the room.

“Take full advantage of everything you have at your disposal,” she said. 

Everest-Blanks is a lover of Hip-Hop herself. The genre it’s more than just music for her. It was during a sleepover while watching TV with her older sister that she became obsessed with how MC Lyte made Hip-Hop for women digestible.

“Hip-Hop allowed me to find my voice.”

– Element Everest-Blanks

Evolution of Hip-Hop

There was a time in Hip-Hop when women could not admit to being a mother in the game and sexuality had to remain a secret for some. Now, more women are in the rap game and showing their versatility.

25-year-old Mani Imani was the youngest on the panel. She considers herself an artist because she has both singing and rapping talents. 

“You don’t have to pick a lane. Create your own lane,” she said.

In the current age of music, artists are being encouraged to know exactly where their money is coming from and to be involved in all the groundwork and decisions about their careers. 

As Hip-Hop continues to grow, it’s important to establish community through supporting each other at shows and remembering to teach professionalism without scolding the younger generations. 

Another key is for our women rappers to receive genuine support from the men in all aspects of the business.

Joy Boyd

Joy Boyd is a freelance writer with a background in marketing with diversity, equity & inclusion efforts. She has managed digital media platforms for Black empowerment publications and has written biweekly newsletters on topics from self-awareness to retaining talent in local communities. Her goal is to put out positive and educational messaging.

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