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Exploring Milwaukee's rich hip-hop culture amid Hip-Hop Week MKE

Posted at 6:17 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 19:17:50-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee and hip-hop may not seem to go together, but the two have a long history with each other.

"Not many people may know this but there are so many people making hip-hop, creating hip-hop, creating this culture in Milwaukee back in the late 70s and early 80s," Tyrone Miller, an on-air personality with 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, said.

Miller and Radio Milwaukee Music Director Justin Barney went on a multi-year journey to discover the first hip-hop song made in Milwaukee. They published their results on a podcast called Backspin. The results were somewhat inconclusive.

"So when you talk about the culture of hip-hop, A-Tack on the Wax. When you talk about the first song somebody rapped on, it's Class A, so it depends on what you define as the first," Miller said.

According to Miller and Barney, many people didn't even know about the song Class A by The Majestics. It came out years before A-Tack on the Wax did. However, the ladder had more of an influence on music culture in the area.

However you slice it, Miller and Barney believe it helped pave the way for current artists.

"Hip hop has expanded so much more than even them could have dreamed of," Miller said.

It's one of the reasons that Milwaukee is celebrating it's second Hip-Hop Week MKE. It's also a way to recognize the genre for its ability and power to make change.

"What we are seeking to do here during this week is engage the a-political, engage those that have become disenchanted with government. We have three tenants that's health, civic engagement and financial literacy," said Ald. Khalif Rainey at a Monday press conference.

It's also a time to bring attention to local artists and recognize the growing scene here in Milwaukee.

"I will stand behind this. I will die on this hill. I don’t think anyone creates better than Milwaukee artists," hip-hop artist Genesis Renji said.

The 27-year-old artist says the hip-hop community has grown considerably in the 10 years he has been pursuing a musical career.

"A lot more cooperative, like everybody is running in the same direction. A lot less ego. A lot more, 'alright the big goal is to get Milwaukee the shine and respect we know it deserves,'" he said. "Nowadays, all the artists here in the city they are coming out to other people's shows. They are supporting. They are staying for the whole thing. Their fans are staying for the whole thing."

Even though being a rapper in a city not traditionally known for its hip-hop scene can be tough.

"I'm broke baby," said Renji.

Genesis Renji believes anyone can make it.

“Where we are at now with technology of course you can,” he said.

From the 80s to today, Milwaukee hip-hop has come a long way. Now it's current artists turns to leave their mark on the local music scene.