A whole range of MCs labor away at making a name for Central Connecticut's hip-hop scene
By ROBERT COOPER, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
August 14, 2007
Just two hours from Hartford is the south Bronx, where hip-hop was born over 30 years ago. What started out as a local party scene quickly spread across the nation and the world. All cities and towns worldwide now have their own twist on hip-hop. Hartford is no different, with its own burgeoning scene waiting for a chance to grab national attention like other cities such as St. Louis, Atlanta and Houston, to name a few.
The Hartford area is bursting with rappers, each with their own unique style and “swag.” One of the locations with the most hip-hop activity is the Zen Bar in Farmington. Every Tuesday night is hip-hop night, featuring an open mic for any rapper who wants to show off their talents by spitting verses amongst a live audience.
“The motivation for doing hip-hop night was to help give Connecticut artists a platform,” said promoter and host Lovey Double XL, a member of Hot 93.7’s street promotion team and host of the All Love Show on Trinity College’s 89.3, who started the event last November. “I got so many demos from local artists that I just wanted to put something together for them.”
Besides providing a stage for area talent, Lovey uses his knowledge of the business to help them put together a package — music demos, a written bio, pictures and contact information — to present to A&R representatives.
“I’m here to help them market themselves properly,” said the south Bronx-bred Lovey. “People think it’s just about getting your CD heard, but in actuality it’s really about 10 percent talent and 90 percent marketing.”
The popular shows featur artists with a mix of rapping styles, not just from Hartford, but from all over the state.
Some MCs are of the hardcore street-rhyming mode. Then there are those with the party vibe, those who have the smooth lover flow and finally there are the underground linguists. Regulars at the bar go for the gritty three-member crew Blood Money, the four-man group Money Mafia, and Q-Summit, who hails from Middletown.
One MC making an undeniable buzz is Oscar Black, who also serves as co-host to the open mic. Black said he has been rhyming for about ten years and cites Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Nas, Jay-Z and 50 Cent as influences. With a nice, easy flow spread over bass-heavy beats on three mixed CDs, Get Gwap Vol. 1, Drops and Remixes, and the soon-to-be-released Get Gwap Vol. 2, Black plans to rope in the major record labels to the Hart-beat.
“I want to start my career here in Hartford,” he said. “I want people to come here, because I would be taken more serious as an artist if they came to me as opposed to me going to them.”
Another formidable area talent is wheelchair-bound LP (short for Long Plan), who seems to attack the mic, releasing lyrics with his down south twang. LP was born in Jamaica, Queens and was raised in Salisbury, North Carolina before moving to the Hartford area. He started his own production company — Cap Productions — which works with artists to get ready for their next step by getting them in the studio, putting CDs together and helping them with their stage presence. LP, who is currently working on a disc, said his music is both futuristic and realistic.
“I’m ahead of my time; some things I say happen in my life after I make a song,” said LP.
Similarly underestimatable is Bridgeport’s Prolifik, a white rapper with Albanian roots. Prolifik is also a DJ on Kiss 95.7 in Hartford and 98.3 in Willimantic. Although it’s easy and — unfortunately — common to compare rappers with similar looks (read skin color), “looks” are the only thing Prolifik has in common with guys like Eminem. His mix CD, Breaking Dollars is a 15-track mix of lyrics that have meaningful social commentary and party anthems that don’t involve insulting women.
“I like to put out music that has a meaning and a message,” he said. “When I’m not enlightening anybody, then it’s summertime, party music, something that you can roll the windows down to.”
The beautiful and spiritual Stella Roze also has a message that comes out in her music.
“I’m a child of God first, and I refuse to rap about anything negative that will bring my people down,” said Roze, who holds roots in Trinidad and Jamaica. “I’m very conscious about the words that come out of my mouth, and words are very uplifting.”
Currently she continues her stint as co-host of the All Love show and is working on a CD. Stella said she knows that being a female MC comes with a lot of pressure to sex up her image, but she’ll never sell sex.
“If I had a daughter and didn’t want her to look like that, then I shouldn’t be wearing that,” she said.
Although most Hartford rappers prefer to rhyme about the usual bling, rims, champagne and money, there is an underground scene with MCs more concerned with intelligent, substantial lyrics.
Uninterested in fame and fortune, Sagacity and Self Suffice are two rappers who are in it for the actual art of hip-hop. Sagacity originally hails from Providence, Rhode Island, where he was a member of a group called the Porno Click, alongside his older brother and a childhood friend.
“The name comes from us being real nasty and nice with our different styles,” said Sagacity.
He said his music now is more spiritual, a direct reflection of Sagacity’s reading habits.
“As I grow older, my music is more like applying theories of life,” said Sagacity, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hartford in Performing Arts Management.
Originally from Manhattan but now based out of Hartford, Self Suffice, with his rhyme partner, Mez, make up the Manhattanites. Suffice attended Trinity College, where he helped start the yearly Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival. He used a quote from Rakim — who many call the greatest MC of all time — to describe his mind set.
“Rakim said, ‘It ain’t where you from, it’s where you’re at,’ I took that to mean mentality,” explains Self Suffice, whose father is a former Black Panther who knew Mumia Abu Jamal and whose mother is a Jewish woman involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “I could never let go of that New York state of mind. Where I’m at in my mind is a strong love for my people, and a feeling my people need to be reminded of the truth.”