Alabama Hip-Hop Week 2016
Before he was a radio personality on WBLX, Kalenski “DJ Dirty Dan” Adams served in the military. No matter where service took him, Adams always had the Azalea City and hip-hop on his mind. As Adams left the military, he made plans to return to Mobile and submerge himself in the local hip-hop scene.
In those days, notable artists such as The Last Mr. Bigg and Keno Valentino were represented by local labels including PCP Records and BustBack Records. Adams began to establish his reputation as not only a radio personality but also a performer and label owner.
As the years passed the number of regional hip-hop artists grew. Adams noticed many up-and-comers were leaving Alabama for bigger cities receiving nationwide industry attention. He also noticed many of them were forging ahead with no prior knowledge of the business side of things.
This mass exodus of artists and their need for industry education eventually inspired Adams to create Alabama Hip-Hop Week. “This platform is to let them know that they can get that love and pursue their dream right here in their own home state,” Adams said. “Alabama Hip-Hop Week is there for them to showcase their talent and also network and meet the people that you need to meet to take you to the next level.”
Adams also wanted Alabama Hip-Hop Week to have a communal focus. Hip-hop is not just about catchy beats and verbal flow, he said. It has also inspired fashion, community, art and culture. As this event first came to life in 2007, Adams saw the opportunity to not only encourage artists to develop the Alabama scene but also to educate all those involved on the various aspects of urban music and the social and political issues serving as inspiration.
“It was started on the basis on promoting the music community,” Adams said. “Over the years, we saw that the community needed a lot of attention. So, we combined the efforts to make it a musical community week, so we could really promote and build this community up.”
Now in its ninth year, Alabama Hip-Hop Week will begin on the Fourth of July with an epic kick-off party at TAG Bar & Lounge (105 N. Jackson St.) at 5 p.m. with DJs and lyrical artists performing.
“We want to bring them the ambiance of straight party with entertainment and let people know that this a fest that you want to be a part of,” Adams said. “So, we want to kick it off with a day party to let people know that it’s Alabama Hip-Hop Week. It’s the Fourth of July, so let’s have a good time.”
On Tuesday, participants will gather at the Thomas Sullivan Community Center (351 Catherine St.) at 2 p.m. for the first part of an “Urban Summit,” a chance for local artists to interact with community leaders on a positive level. Adams sees the summit as a way to exchange ideas on building the local community. He also sees it as a way to create understanding between parties who might not have had a chance to interact.
The day will end with an installment of TAG Bar & Lounge’s RunMob, beginning at 9 p.m. RunMob is a weekly open-mic competition that allows promising performers to hone their skills. RunMob is part of the greater RunAla entity, and this episode of RunMob will serve as the finals for RunAla. Adams says this function will pull DJs and hip-hop artists from across the region to TAG’s stage.
Wednesday will bring the second part of the Urban Summit, which will be held at the Joseph Dotch Community Center (3100 Bank Ave., #A) at 2 p.m. Balancing community education with fun, Adams has organized a celebrity bowling session at Eastern Shore Lanes (10460 Eastern Shore Blvd.) at 9 p.m. involving DJs and artists from across the region.
Since the beginning of Alabama Hip-Hop Week, Adams has noticed many visitors to the Azalea City participate in the week’s events and afterward travel to the beaches and casinos. He hopes events such as the celebrity bowling session will encourage visitors to have fun locally.
As the week continues, Xcite Pool Hall & Lounge (270 Dauphin St.) will play host to a DJ conference/networking event Thursday at 7 p.m. Networking opportunities between DJs and performers are rare, Adams says. DJs tend to maintain a busy work schedule, and typically the only time a performer gets a chance to approach a DJ is in a club setting, when the DJ is working. Xcite will provide a relaxed, productive environment in which DJs and performers can meet and showcase their respective styles.
For several years, Artwalk and Alabama Hip-Hop Week have worked hand in hand. In fact, Alabama Hip-Hop Week has provided July’s Artwalk with a soundtrack in honor of this weeklong event. In addition to themed Artwalk events, Soul Kitchen (219 Dauphin St.) will be holding a special installment of its monthly Elements showcase (doors at 7 p.m.). Adams has been working with Soul Kitchen owners Brad Young and Maggie Smith as well as Elements mastermind Seth Maness to create an evening focused on the popular Trap style of hip-hop. The evening will also serve as a tribute to the late Young Thad.
“Young Thad was a great artist on the way to the top,” Adams said. “His untimely death shocked this community. At the end of the day, a lot of guys supported him, and he supported them.”
Saturday will be an opportunity for locals and visitors to sample one of LoDa’s newest establishments. Marc Jackson’s Kazoola (558 Dauphin St.) is not only a great place to eat and drink, it’s also a place where patrons can immerse themselves in art and culture. Summer Madness will ensue at 5 p.m. Adams the week will also focus on cultural institutions that have been inspired by hip-hop. Kazoola’s eclectic vibe provides the perfect environment for such an event, Adams says.
“We wanted it to be a mixer, but we also want it to spotlight people that’s doing fashion and the beauty industry and also the music industry,” Adams said. “Culture, fashion and music all go hand in hand, and he [Jackson] has a great platform to showcase that.”
Alabama Hip-Hop Week will conclude at Phat Tuesday (1608 St. Stephens Road) and Brandi’s Nite Club (1610 St. Stephens Road). This block party’s purpose is twofold: it will be a proper wrap party for Alabama Hip-Hop Week 2016, and a celebration of Adams’ birthday. He sees these venues as perfect for completing the week.
“It’s all about coming together and having a good time and spotlighting the culture in a fun and safe environment,” Adams said. “It’s just to wrap up a successful week and celebrate crossing another year of life.”
As this year’s Alabama Hip-Hop Week comes to a close, Adams will begin making plans for next year’s 10th anniversary. He definitely has plans to cultivate this festival/conference, and hopes to watch it grow and strengthen with age. Eventually, Adams wants to see Alabama Hip-Hop Week celebrated across the state, with the various scenes showcasing their talents to the music industry.
“It’ll be 10 years of pushing and building and growing and trying to create an environment in our state for hip-hop, which is a billion-dollar industry,” Adams said. “We want to show people that you can be a part of the music and do it in a positive way with your freedom of speech. We also want them to know that they can make money and provide for their family.”