Friday, April 10, 2009

Aalumni Radio Makes a Case for Milwaukee Rap

By Evan Rytlewski
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Though artists like Royal Fam and venues like the Stonefly Brewery and the Miramar Theatre have gone some way toward uniting the two scenes, the divide between Milwaukee’s East Side and North Side rap scenes remains unmistakable. There are geographic and of course practical reasons for the split—much as I may love me some club rap, I’m not going to spend my Friday nights on Teutonia Avenue—but widespread ignorance is also at play, particularly with how the rest of the city views the North Side. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard East Side luminaries depict North Side rap music as drug-funded vanity projects or didactically dismiss it with the dreaded “it's all bitches and hoes” meme.

Aalumni Radio, an Internet station dedicated to Milwaukee rap founded by local promoter Hood Hephna, refutes that notion, making the case that the city's North Side scene is more varied than its reputation. In a typical hour, the station may broadcast sharp singles from Jo FLoWroshus, Bizness Boi, Streetz & Young Deuces, Bobby Drake, Talent Couture and Big Meech Da Don. There's no shortage of get-money songs, but they're pulled off with a tunefulness and craftsmanship that might surprise outsiders, and though the South is undoubtedly the dominant influence, the music is a true melting pot.

Milwaukee's North Side has for two decades been overcrowded with rappers, many of which didn't have the talent to back up their ambitions, but now there appears to be a growing crop of rappers (and producers) with tracks that could make noise outside of Milwaukee, and they're all gunning to be the city's first big success story since Coo Coo Cal. The friendly competition between them has heated up in particular in just the past couple of years, and while the playing field may be too tilted against any one performer for them to score a big break, the scene as a whole appears stronger than it's ever been. Aalumni Radio is the best resource I've found to keep track of it.

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