Web helps unite hip-hop artists

May 16, 2002
Section: TIME OUT
Page: C1

By    Scott McLennan

Worcester’s long-simmering hip-hop scene is now boiling over. The lid officially flew off the pot with the release of “7 Hill Xperience: The Revolution Begins Now … Volume One.”

The compact disc is a multi-artist compilation orchestrated through the efforts of the 7 Hill Xperience Web site (www.7hillx.com), which went online in February and quickly became a gathering spot for the city’s hip-hop community. It’s no exaggeration to say “The Revolution Begins Now” is as important a local release as was “Wormtown ’78,” the vinyl comp that solidified the city’s late-70s punk scene.

Worcester has been home to many hip-hop artists, but at the same time has been lacking any sort of focal point for the scene. That started to change a year ago when InCity Times, a neighborhood-based newspaper in Worcester, gave the go-ahead to Frank The Butcher to write a column on hip-hop.

Using the name Che 77 and titling his column “Revolution,” Che 77 started shedding light on struggling hip-hop artists working in the city. He also got involved with a Web site called wortownhiphop.com. Che began recruiting artists to record tracks for that Web site, but soon realized the site was on the verge of going under.

Before the ship sank, Che heard from hip-hop MC named Nytmare, who happens to be studying computer science at Quinsigamond Community College.

The two built the 7 Hill Xperience Web site and got back to work on pulling together a CD that would represent the size and diversity of Worcester’s hip-hop community. The Web site quickly caught on with fans and artists alike. Opinions get aired, info gets dispersed and relationships are built at 7hillx.com.

“A lot of artists in Worcester don’t even know each other. Now they go to the 7 Hill Xperience site like it was a building where you would go to talk to other people,” Che 77 said.

7 Hill Xperience: The Revolution Begins Now … Volume 1” lets the rest of the world in on the conversation. The CD is currently available on the Web site. City Records on Front Street was also carrying the CD before the initial pressing sold out.

The 18-track “Revolution” CD spans the political raps of Mujahideen Team to the lyrical gymnastics of Nytmare to the R&B-tinged rap balladry of Full Clip. Several producers and DJs are also represented in the project, showcasing a wide variety of sonic stylings from old-school scratching to cutting-edge sampling techniques.

What you won’t find on the CD are the sort of sing-songy, cartoonish raps that have come to dominate the commercial wing of hip-hop. Che 77 said he sees the appeal of big-time feel-good rappers such as Nelly. But that should not be all that hip-hop gets reduced to.

“Nelly and MCs like him are easy to swallow. Other stuff you have to chew on before you can swallow it,” he said.

The Worcester artists represented on the project stick to the street poetry that made hip-hop both raw and exciting in the first place.

“Hip-hop purists don’t say `What is everyone going to love?’ before making something. I create what I love,” Nytmare said. His attitude carries through the songs on the CD.

And while he’s not an master of ceremonies or a disc jockey, Che 77 is as hip-hop as any of the musical artists he corralled into the project.

“Hip-hop is why I decided to write. I never considered myself a writer. I’m just someone who loves hip-hop and wants to write about it,” Che 77 said. “I live hip-hop. It’s not some uniform I put on to go out in.”

As both a fan and journalist, Che 77 recognized that the few Worcester hip-hop artists getting exposure — Mingo, Billy Pain, Hank Scorpio — didn’t accurately represent the size of the scene.

As an artist, Nytmare recognized the lack of opportunities available to him in Worcester.

“There are a lot of people sitting on projects. There are no venues, no media and no focal point,” he said. “I think this project lit a powder keg.”

In addition to culling tracks made in various home-recording studios, Che 77 orchestrated three “all-star” jams that feature multiple rappers going at it. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of “7 Hill Symphony” are gems on the “Revolution” CD and show how typically competitive MCs can set aside differences for a common good.

The 7hillx.com Web site has helped bridge the different schools of local hip-hop. Lively discussions and a variety of opinions covered in Che 77’s columns for the Web site allow many voices to be heard.

Che 77 said that the compilation CD and Web site are just the beginning of what he sees as a local hip-hop renaissance.

“Not everyone is represented yet. We know that and the first CD is not comprehensive,” he said.

Thus, work is already under way on Volume 2 and some artists, new to both Che 77 and Nytmare, have already contacted them about being included. And a 7 Hill Xperience concert showcase is being organized for the fall once city colleges come back into session.

“If you look at the overall growth of hip-hop, it’s similar to the way 7 Hill Xperience is growing,” Nytmare said. “We’re coming out of a desolate place with disparate scenes into something bigger.”

ART: PHOTO

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS

CUTLINE: Nytmare, left, and Che 77, local hip-hop promoters, in the studio of Nite People Productions.

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