The Beats N Bars Festival takes over downtown Durham again this weekend. And like downtown, they have come a long way.
Beats N Bars Festival
Growing up and Taking Over
by: Aaron Mandel
If you are one of the legions of people who moved to Durham in the last few years and are sick of hearing about “how it was” and “what you missed” –it is important to remember there are always two ways to look at it.
For as gritty, durty, and full of heart as Durham was “then” it is equally innovative, equally impressive, and frankly, more entertainment filled today.
Insider example: whatever magic 305 South Anti-Mall had then, Durham Fruit has already had far more moving, evocative events in mere months of existence, now. (1)
Bigger more, relevant example for this weekend: whatever cache and local vibe the DURM Hip Hop Summit and the Beats N Bars Festival used to have, they have captured it, moved it forward, and are about to transcend it this weekend.
There are more dope artists, more venues, more audience, more excitement, and more civic participation than ever previously.*
The Beats N Bars festival, like its precursor the DURM Hip Hop Summit, creates a Hip Hop platform and celebration based on the five pillars of Hip-Hop culture: DJ’ing, BBoy’ing, Graffiti’ing, MC’ing, and knowledge.
The Beats N Bars festival utilizes its excellent panels to educate the community (especially budding artists) and deepen audience participation.
In 2016, I was mesmerized and delighted by the “Business of Beatmaking” panel. It was held in the underground Vault at the Palace International.
This year’s conferences are at American Tobacco. The kickoff party is on the rooftop of American Underground.
From the underground to the rooftop is more than symbolic for the Beats N Bars Festival.
What does Jay-Z say?
“Momma, I made it.”
Maybe that isn’t quite yet the level of Hip-Hop culture in Durham, errr DURM, but when the headliner is Dead Prez, it is hard not to feel that way.
Dead Prez was a rite of passage in the early 2000’s. “Hip-Hop” was anthem of change, ala Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop Children What’s that Sound”. Dead Prez’s music and lyrics spoke to Generation X’ers who had lived in oblivious Clinton bliss bookended by Rodney King and 9/11. (2)(3)
Dead Prez knew shit was fucked up. So did we.
Their music is ever more relateable when ol’ King Donald is frolicking in the White House.
These guys are playing Durham? DURM? Headling the Beats N Bars festival? That which used to be the Hip Hop Summit?
How long ago was it we packed out Intrepid Life—now it’s a dentist’s office.
Does it matter?
The answer, if you are new, is a resounding, “No.”
Go see some shit, Durham/DURM. (Ticket link here.)
If you are in the industry or want to be, do not miss the 1.45pm industry panels on Saturday and Sunday. Information that you will spend years grinding on your own to learn is being shared by experts who have been there and done that.
Beats N Bars is living on the front lines, as is Durham.
Co-Founder John Lawrence aka the Real Laww told me that he is “feeling honored that the community has embraced what we’ve been doing.” He is “super happy, humbled and excited to see people excited and sharing Beats N Bars with their friends and family! It feels like our child is growing up.”
Lawrence also said he is, “hopeful the Triangle will be recognized for its brand of Hip-Hop [and that] even more Hip-Hop related events will come to the area.”
1 We’d love to hear from someone who saw MacBeth at Durham Fruit.
* If the Cult of the More isn’t your thing, you should probably have left Durham already.
2 Dead Prez was talking about running up on them crackers in they City Halls long before Ferguson or any mob statue removal projects.
3 Dead Prez led me to Immortal Technique and rekindled my belief that Hip-Hop hadn’t been entirely captured by corporations.