Right now, the Naptown hip-hop scene is the strongest it’s ever been, and it keeps beefin’ up. The problem is that the average hip-hop fan in Indy — and there’s plenty of us — can’t keep up with everyone involved, or grasp the depth of talent. The deeper it gets, the harder it is to shine some light on it.

That’s where this column comes in. Hopefully, we can use this as a monthly forum to highlight some of the many things going on locally, as well as what locals are doing nationally. Or internationally. Did you know the blackSoil project is touring Israel in a few months? Nationally, the Mudkids will be rocking out in California soon; the soulful group DaFilled was just there, playing shows and recording tracks for their new album.

Sentinels’ ‘Meanwhile …’

But let’s stay in Indianapolis for a while. Already one of the all-time greatest Indiana hip-hop albums, The Twilight Sentinels’ Meanwhile … was just released on the St. Louis label S5. With innovative production on par with the industry’s elite, and rhymes that manage to be conscious, cocky and humble all at once, this is an album you need to have in your collection.

The “connectors”

Essential to the hip-hop scene are the “connectors,” the people that bring the elements together. Organizations such as Old Soul Entertainment, Class of 93 and Concrete Beats consistently create quality events.

Another such entity is the Indianapolis-based music label Audio Reconnaissance. With a diverse roster of rap, electronic, jazz and other music artists, and a strong online presence, this label is a new model for the music industry.

But in this day and age, if you don’t have a compelling live show, you won’t survive; online presence alone won’t cut it. So Audio Recon is hosting a showcase at the Melody Inn (3826 N. Illinois St.) Friday, March 14 to show you just why these groups were signed. Label artists Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel, The Twilight Sentinels, Amtrak, Id Obelus, motif and Whois Louis will all be representing. Cover is $5 for the 10 p.m. show.

Birdy’s, Casba, Sankofa

There’s always a diverse lineup at Birdy’s (2131 E. 71st St.) regular Mixtape Monday. The event, run by passionate, politically charged MC Full Blooded, gives Indy’s next wave of hip-hop royalty a chance to share their latest.

We also need to recognize the hard work that cats like Two put in to keep the scene alive in the Circle City. Just head to the Casba (6319 Guilford Ave.) any Thursday night and you are guaranteed two things: legendary DJs like Topspeed and Trouble will keep the party hot and some talented break-dancers will work the linoleum.

Indy’s hip-hop scene includes regional acts as well. Ft. Wayne’s always-active Sankofa has been making regular stops at Indianapolis events for years, and is profiled as one of URB magazine’s “Next 100” list of hot artists to watch for.  

Hip-hop education

However, the scene won’t thrive if future generations aren’t nurtured. Excellent programs created by a new local chapter of the worldwide organization Hip Hop Congress and spearheaded by DJ Metrognome and Ike Boyd have been flourishing.

Take their “Elements” series at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center (40 W. 40th St.): On the first Friday of every month, local hip-hop vets perform for and with neighborhood kids for free. Or you and your little one can still participate in “Elements” classes: Mondays are break-dancing, Tuesdays DJing and Wednesdays MCing; all classes last from 6:30-7:30 p.m., and fees are on a sliding scale.

The Hip Hop Congress has also begun to plan this year’s Hip Hop Summit, so contact them soon to get involved.

Whew! That’s a lot happening right there, and it’s only a glimpse. I’m not going to pretend that I know everybody in the hip-hop scene; it’s the type of music that can be created in seclusion. So if you’re part of the scene, hit me up at email me and keep me in the loop. Cuz there’s enough light to give you a little shine. Stay tuned …

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