Narrow Minded: Chico hip-hop is dead

The Bay Area Cypher Crew kicking flows on a parking garage on a pleasant Thursday evening in Chico. Photo courtesy of Kiana Abenoja.

“…What I mean by ‘hip-hop is dead’ is we’re at a vulnerable state,” Nas said in a 2006 interview.

André 3000 said he knew hip-hop was dead in 2001, but it wasn’t until Nas used the phrase as his album title five years later that the controversy spilled over into the mainstream. I can’t speak to Nas’ true intentions — maybe he just wasn’t digging southern hip-hop — but I can’t argue with his statement too much either, especially once it’s applied to Chico.

The vulnerability that Nas mentioned is a reference to the lack of innovation he saw in hip-hop. It’s a fear that if the hip-hop community isn’t in control of (or in our case, even involved in) hip-hop, it will cease to exist.

Despite proximity to cultural hubs like Sacramento and the Bay Area, Chico has failed to build upon the little momentum it had in the early 2000’s. And we’ve mostly given up. Some of the heads from those days are still around — Scott Barwick, Mazi, Himp C, Hap Hathaway, Matt Loomis and The Becky Sagers, to name a few — but there isn’t much interest around them.

We have enough talent in Chico to create a legitimate music scene, but we lack the support. When artists acknowledge each other, collaborate and strive for a success greater than their own as individuals, they will have built something real and the audience will follow.

Last Thursday, Himp C hosted one of his increasingly rare hip-hop cyphers atop one of the downtown parking structures.

He started the Butte Area Cypher Crew, or BACC, as an opportunity for people to experience real hip-hop, whether they’re an aspiring MC or just somebody with too much on their mind. It’s an open circle of people taking turns rapping about whatever they’re thinking at the moment over beats cranked out of somebody’s beat-up Radio Flyer wagon.

It was truly the dopest hip-hop experience I’ve had in Chico so far, and it was just a group of 15-or-so people.

Maybe I need to get out more. But it really might be the start of something.

If more people who say they rap in Chico would actually participate in local hip-hop, it might just dig itself out from six feet under and breathe the fresh air again.

Trevor Whitney can be reached at [email protected] or @nicegrandmas on Twitter.