Hip Hop vs. Punk Rock
July 28, 2015
Interview & article by Chris Mosher:
Hip Hop vs Punk Rock, the local music showcase out of City Height's Tower Bar has become a mainstay for the hip hop and punk rock scenes of San Diego. It is humble yet consistent, running for over 4 years and for good reason; its always a lively and intriguing event. HHvPR is run by the First Power Crew, the first to bring hip hop to the Tower Bar, and it has now become an institution for fans and performers alike.
The First Power Crew is made up of active San Diego artists hailing from both subcultures with roots dating back to the early 90s. Originally coming together in the Linda Vista garage of the late Disco Rick, FPC paved their way freestyling, DJing, producing, and engaging in the DIY aesthetic so often found in punk rock. Nowadays they are working to bridge the gap between the two seemingly disparate scenes.
I sat down at Penguin Studios in Normal Heights to get some back story and have a few too many beers with these good folks.
Chris: Let's delve into the history of Hip Hop vs Punk Rock. Wasn't there a similar version of the event around 2010 at Kadan?
Pelengue: It started a long fuckin time ago! In the mid 90's our circle of friends would get together at The Land of the Lost and we'd go back and forth; cypher/freestyle and then a band would play. It was about the ruckus! How wild could we get? Nobody wanted to see played-out mainstream bands perform. I think that's one of the common threads between punk and hip hop.
Chris: So what would you say was the first formal version of the event?
Pelengue: Actually, our first HHvPR was at the Armory/Serye warehouse. That was in 2009.
Unite: Kadan was in 2010, but it didn't last for too long, maybe 2 years. Live Hip Hop was the name of that event. At the time it was strictly hip hop. I just wanted to play Rawkus and Stonesthrow, etc etc... and that event allowed me to do it. We actually ended up booking the first hip hop show at Tower.
Stuntdouble: Henshaw had the idea to bring it all together. There has always been a thriving Chicano punk scene out of the South Bay. I've always wished we could have a hip hop scene more like that. They all support each other, went to each others shows. If a group pressed a 7", everyone copped it.
Chris to Pelegue: You book the punk acts, right?
Pelengue: I consider myself a maximum rock n roller. I'm into all types of music. It's hard because I try to book bands and sometimes they dont get it. They say, "it's like comparing lizards and pomeranians!"
Sesh: They aren't old enough to know that the old school hip hop and punk scenes had a lot of crossover and similarities.
I wasn't even into punk in the 90's. Strictly hip hop...
Unite: If you look at the history of hip hop, it was bringing the music of the South Bronx uptown. and that's what we're into, that spirit.
Pelengue: Yeah, back in the days those guys were fuckin neighbors!
Stuntdouble: I think a lot of what people might not understand is that there is a brand of hip hop that will never be commercial. The nature of it is inherently punk rock. I think FPC and a lot of the people that we run with in the scene have a similar flavor.
Chris: It's funny that you say the punks are sometimes shitty about playing with the rappers. I'd assume it'd be the other way around...
Unite: Our outlook is that we're all homies, we all like each other's music, so let's support each other. I saw this thing the other day that was "10 bars you shouldn't be in if you're over 30", and one of them was the Tower Bar. There's no trap, there's no EDM...it was a bullshit Facebook list but, nobody at 21 likes the Tower Bar, they dont even appreciate bars yet.
Pelengue: Dont fucking touch my bar. I dont know if you've seen my Yelp review for the Tower Bar, but it says "Stay out of City Heights!"
Chris: Tell me about some of the main problems you guys are facing.
Henshaw: We face different problems at every show, but nothing serious. Usually a fixable sound issue or the occasional fireworks (in July).
Pelengue: My problem is usually with the bands. I've been asked to book harder bands. But I'm like, there arent really that many hardcore bands left! Punk rock is always rediscovering itself...
Unite: My biggest issue is that people think they can play a hip hop set without a DJ. You've seen how many times I've had to DJ for people... They show up with a thumb drive, and I'll oblige, but it's the Fresh Prince AND DJ Jazzy Jeff, you know? If they let me know in advance, its cool but, sometimes rappers just expect that someone there will do it.
Stuntdouble: Some people don't always realize that even though they're coming to a night that is organized, they are still expected to promote. Its a mutually beneficial situation for everyone involved, promoters and artists included. We're just trying to have a good time and make it work. That means folks gotta try to bring their people out.
Sesh: We expect the world from people we book, because we put so much love into it. But you're only gonna get out of it what you put into it. We only charge $3 at the door. Its never been about the money, its about being part of a movement and supporting the underground art and music scene.
Chris: So 4 years now huh? with your successes, do y'all see anything bigger coming of this?
Unite: It isn't going to stop. If we go bigger, maybe headliners. But Tower cant support that. It's 75 people capacity.
Henshaw: We took HHvsPR on the road once and that was a lot of fun. I'd like for us to do that more often. The ultimate goal from the get go was to bring the two crowds together and have a good time, so far so good.
On August 7th, punk bands The Waste Aways and The Grids will be playing, with hip hop act Sojurn and my band, Preacher vs Choir. Maintaining a successful monthly event is a labor of love so make a point of coming out and showing support every first Friday at Hip Hop vs Punk Rock.