It’s funny to consider Rhymesayers as a major player in underground hip-hop.
When compared to two of the underground giants of the noughties, Definitive Jux and Stones Throw, Rhymesayers Entertainment may not be as large on the national scale, but something strange happened in toward the end of the first decade of the first millennium:
Through live shows and critical acclaim, they became one of the most prolific labels in the underground.
Call it constant dedication to the values in their roots, call it simply the right music at the right place, but the label grew considerably by the same standard of which they grew towards the end of the end of the turn of the century: they grew from a grassroots sensibility and sincere music.
At their 10th year anniversary, they celebrated at First Ave. At their 20th anniversary, they are set to celebrate at the Target Center. If that isn’t an immediate indication of their rapid success, there simply isn’t a better one. But, for the veterans of the label, the only difference from now and the mid-90s is scale and technological strategy. The work ethic; still there.
“When I had met these guys, they had just opened a record store,” said Brother Ali. “It’s not that they got successful then opened a record store, they had a record store from the beginning. That’s to serve the community. They’ve always had community radio shows… you don’t do those to for money or an agenda, you do that in service to the community.”
Events at the Institution of Production and Recording (IPR) and McNally Smith Music College, where musicians and label executives come out to give demonstrations on music techniques and speeches on business wisdom, give obvious example for that; it’s a common philosophy of the label to ensure the next generation of music professionals. As Ali mentioned, that isn’t a means of profit, that is a means of community growth and engagement. These are the philosophies the anniversary show at The Target Center revolve around.
After all, the label has a modest history: usually performing at friends’ houses, non-stop touring and releasing a slew of EPs and mixtapes, it becomes apparent that similar-minded tactics become the norm to this day.
“It’s not uncommon to have people [working] past midnight,” said Jason Bird, the General Manager at Rhymesayers. “I think everybody believes in it; that goes a long way.” Bird commonly mentioned how much of the label’s success depended on its members’ dedication. “It too a long time… a couple of months to get all of the artists’ schedules aligned for one show,” said Bird. Dilated Peoples is in Europe, they’re flying back for that. [P.O.S.] is in Detroit, he’s flying here for that and then flying to Chicago to do a Doomtree show. There’s a lot of camaraderie.”
What to which does this all lead ? Arguably the biggest show the label has ever produced, with one of the most cohesive label-dominated shows in the country and, ultimately, a celebration of a label that has stood the test of time as a credit to the independent hip-hop boom.
20th Anniversary Concert Information
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