The “This Is Wack, Why Isn’t Idaho Hip Hop Taken Seriously?” panel at Storyfort attempted to connect festival-goers to the prominent figures in the local hip hop scene by breaking down why Idaho rap may not be taken as seriously as the scene in other states nationwide, while also allowing each panelist to share about their rise to relevance in the local music scene. While the panel does start a much-needed discussion about the state of local hip hop, the unclear line of questioning from the host made for some moments where the panel’s responses didn’t always seem relevant to the topic at hand.
From left to right, the panel featured local emcees Madisun Proof, Zero, Eleven and local producer Wayne Beats. The panel was hosted by DJ Winkle and Andy-O of Radio Boise’s Krush Korner, a show featuring only Idaho-made hip hop, and it was also these two who moderated the panel.
To start the panel, DJ Winkle and Andy-O introduced the panel, and and each of the panelists spoke to how they first got involved with making music, and what their introduction to Idaho rap was. From here, each rapper was asked to recite a spoken word piece they had prepared, starting with the youngest of the group, Boise State student Madisun Proof.
“[This is] a formal invitation for us to dissect my identity of fancy, unknown to the strength of poverty,” Proof said. “I’m kind of like MC Lyte, but white and raised in upper middle-class Boise, a self-aware gentrified version of those who came before me.”
Proof bared a part of herself for the panel, speaking her truths and struggles with the industry she has found herself a part of.
From here, rapper Zero followed suit, freestyling a verse off the top of his head, taking it slow so the audience could hear every word of the verse. Zero chronicled the sadness he feels from society and how people treat one another, touching on the abuse those in places of power can inflict on the subjects.
“We do it for the people, we do it for the people,” Zero said, keeping the intimacy that had been started with Proof’s spoken word. “Even in situations where we know we’re not equal / when the disruption in town was just a little wrinkle / when tears from the sky was just a little sprinkle.”
Eleven, another artist on the panel, would take the mic next, spitting a portion from his song “I Am,” where he bore his heart and cut himself off because he could feel himself getting emotional. This verse was angry, seemingly at the state of everything around.
“On Michael Brown, Trayvon and Emmett Till, I am a splitting an image of souls slaved and killed,” Eleven rapped. “I am through my father a soldier at war, I’ve been at sea / I’ve seen bloodshed on sand, the land and I am home security…”
The panel moved onto the discussion portion after the performances, where DJ Winkle and Andy-O questioned the artists. First, however, Andy-O gave a quick backstory on the origins of hip hop. This is where the panel would begin to lull because, although the questions were smart and relevant, they would be over explained by the hosts, resulting in miscommunication and answers that didn’t address the original questions.
The first question was directed at Wayne Beats (Wayne), asking how he felt about how the culture around rap has changed, with SoundCloud rappers and Instagram celebrities trying their hand at the craft.
“You can create relationships with people that you wouldn’t, you know, be able to get in touch with otherwise, unless you maybe went to their city,” Wayne said. “So, it’s a double edged sword.”
Finally, the namesake question for the panel was asked. Why isn’t Idaho hip hop taken seriously? Further than this, the moderators wanted to know the panel’s thoughts on hip hop’s reputation more broadly. Each panelist echoed a similar sentiment; Idaho has some of the best artists you can find anywhere. But with very little attention from local publications, it is very difficult for anyone to learn about what is happening in the state.
While the panel was interesting, the line of questioning and disorganization from the hosts resulted in the talk being less potent than it could have been. That aside, this is the first time an event like this has happened in Boise, and hopefully, it is not the last. Awareness for hip hop can be spread, but only through the open dialogue and conversations, like those had at Storyfort, can the scene be pushed forward.