HOME IS WHERE THE ANXIETY IS...
From 2010 to the end of 2013, I don't know how many shows I did in Baton Rouge, but I did alot. First I was going to every open mic possible, then when I started putting on shows, I was booking at least once a month. I was just as active in the city as a facilitator as a rapper, so if I wasn't performing, I was hosting. Oversaturating myself like a MF.
Mid 2013, I started doing more shows with bigger names. Between March and August of that year I opened for acts such as Nappy Roots, Big Sant, SL Jones, Mickey Facts, Slum Village, Mobb Deep (R.I.P. Prodigy), and the most important one of them all, Run The Jewels. One day I'll tell that full story, but the important piece that's relevant here is that Killer Mike told me on our ride back to the hotel that I need to expand regionally, specifically expanding throughout the Gulf States.
So I did. From there on out it was all about Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, even up in the Mid-South in Tennessee for the next 3.5 years. Because I'd booked so many out of town acts I was able to call in favors in different scenes, and build my name in the region. I only came home to do bigger shows, in which I'd bring the bigger named homies down to BR to rock. I wasn't really performing with the local artists in BR much, because I didn't book it myself, or the bag wasn't right, I was passing.
Not much has changed in those regards.
But those Hip-Hop Is Alive at the Spanish Moon where well attended, at first. It seems the bigger I got regionally and nationally, the less the local scene supported me. Now this also has alot to do with music venues, and Baton Rouge being segregated in terms of where fans go to watch shows. I make underground/conscious Hip-Hop, ironically my biggest fanbase in BR has always been white college-aged males. I created fanbase doing all those shows, killing stages at Spanish Moon, NorthGate Tavern aka The Library, and Chelseas. All of those venues are gone, forcing me to book places outside of the LSU area, where my fanbase doesn't follow me. Now I'm hoping all of these rappers who I give game/oppurtunities to will come out and support the OG (their words, not mine), but they don't.
This gives me a level of anxiety I don't feel anywhere else in the country, because people in Baton Rouge see I travel all over getting paid to perform, but there's not alot of people pulling up when I come at home. This is for alot of different reasons, but it's not because they don't know what I have going on. Again that's whole nother convo. But the pressure of living up to the "legend of Marcel P. Black" weighs a bit on my psyche, when I come back home and get the feeling that some of the same people I empower are looking for a way to discredit me.
All of this is going through my mind as I walk into the Magnolia Theater on Baton Rouge Community College's campus after returning back from a successful 3 day trip to Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis where I was treated like royalty.
A MIXED BAG. OF EMOTIONS...
Donney Rose, one of my closest friends and a person who was the original person to give me a shot, is one of the best writers/poets/teaching artists/and poets in Baton Rouge. Period. Big dot. He was selected to be a Kennedy Fellow for the 2018-2019 season, and was this years first ever Artist In Residence for BRCC's Spring Arts Fest. When he called me to do it, it was a no brainer. When he told me I was gonna be the first ever Hip-Hop act this festival has ever booked. I was honored. When he told me bout how big the bag was, I started Milly Rockin'. I'm often on the road, and I never get to do shows at home where the bag is right, and be home with my wife by bed time in the same night. AND I only live like 5 minutes away from campus. So I'm super hype about it.
I walk in to the venue and see Donney runnin it with the host for the night, comedian Tony King Is Funny. Sole Lab BR done broke diet to go get some Canes around the corner, so I just set up my merch, and chill till he comes back.
LET'S DO THIS
I started my career promoting shows with Donney in the last third of his event promotion career via his company Soul By Demand. Donney taught me how to book, promote, host, and manage shows. I've been real good friends and business partners with him for nearly 15 years, so I can read his emotions. He's kinda disappointed at the lack of turnout for a FREE show on a college campus with 5 of the most talented artists in the top of their field in Baton Rouge. He mentions something to me that I won't repeat, but all the excitement I had for the show has now turned to anxiety and self doubt.
If you've been reading my blogs this year, you know this has been a theme for me. Most rappers lie like they stay A-1 all the time, but I'ma keep it one thou-wow, as the kids say.
Solelab gets back, I give him the music, shortly after the show starts.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
The theature seats 400 people, there's maybe 30 there. Most of the people there are there with their professors for a class assignment. My wife and kids walk in as Tony is doing a short set before the first act goes up, and Tony makes a joke about them being late, not knowing she's my wife. My country ass East Side of Ardmore ass wife loudly says her name when Tony asks her, and she loudly says she's "The Wife Of Marcel P. Black," like I was some dignitary lol. IDK if Tony just respects me that much, or if he didn't have time, but he laughed it off and kept it moving, but my wife had time.
You can take a nigga outta Ardmore, but you can't take the Ardmore out of an Ardmore nigga.
Brittany Marshall, one of the top youth poets in the state goes up, and she kills it. I asked Donney was it a clean show, he said no. But since I knew my kids were gonna be there, I opted to keep my set clean. Well Brittany has no kids, and don't care about kicking her ballistics in the most beautifully profane way possible. Both my kids had ears muffs on.
Next is Donney, who runs through several poems, getting alot of applause and snaps, because he's that god damned good. We're a little ahead of schedule, so now Tony does another set, now it's my time.
FIGHTING FOR MY RESPECK
Now it's my turn. Oh yeah, even though it's not a clean show, Donney asked that I don't do "Hallelujah," better known as "Fuck Donald Trump." He was responsible for getting me this large bag, and I ain't tryinna fumble shit, so I agreed not to do it. Plus my kids were in the crowd. But I decided to do the Blackest songs I had to make up for it. Also, the auditorium is perfect for a play or a jazz concert, but not for a Hip-Hop show. There were no monitors on stage, and no soundman, so all the music was echoing off the wall with a delay, but the mics were mad loud. I was afraid I was gonna sound off beat to the crowd because I'm hearing the music late. So as I got into "PPL 1st" I had to watch my wife nod her head up and down like a metronome to keep time. I truly didn't know if I was on beat or not till it came to the call & response, which the crowd surprisingly engaged me in.
Now that some of the nerves were out, I go into "Live My Love," one of my favorite records ever, but the bass on my show mix is super duper big, so big that it drowns out the drums during the verse if you don't have a soundman who's working the boards. Once again I depend on my wife and the call & response during the hook to gauge if I'm on time or not. The crowd, who are mostly students there for a class (not necessarily Hip-Hop heads) are being really nice to me. And I'm appreciative. After all, I'm a 6'4 400 lbs Black guy wearing all Polo rapping about Black Empowerment on a Wednesday night during their normal class time.
I explain "Henry Clay," and THIS is the song that gets everyone involved, surprisngly. There were some older ladies in the crowd, white and Black, who recognized the KRS One sample and were rocking with me. All the call & responses went well, hands were in the air. Now I feel like I'm giving a li'l work. "FreeBLKPPL" comes on, and for the first time I feel like the walls are down between this casual crowd of students and my Black ass raps. And it hit different when you rap about the fear of dying young so you can't be there for your family, and you're family is in the room. I finally touched their souls all the way, it just took me the 4th out of 5 songs to do it.
Last is "Cry Freedom." Now we're cooking with grease. I feel good now, muscle memory is taking over, the crowd has successfully been converted. I run through the first verse and hook with ease, heading into the home stretch on the last verse of the night....
Then my motherfucking mic cuts off.
But I'm a pro. I really do this. Like Brutus.
Sole Lab tries to fix it, and can't so he turns the music down low eventually off all the way, as I power through and project my voice as loud as I can from the depths of my soul. Members of the audience start clapping for me, applauding my performance, how I didn't stop, just kept rapping, determined to give folk this work. Now it's time for the last hook, and I have the crowd giving me a handclap, saying "Freedom" as I ask them what we want, need, and fight for. I finish my set to applause from the audience, making me feel like I am indeed, that nigga. Show over.
Venue: 5/5. I mean it's a theater on a nice ass college campus.
Crowd: 3/5. They didn't know who I was, and didn't care. I can say whatever fan I gained I earned the old fashioned way. Taking off points for lack of turnout tho.
Merch: 3/5. I didn't sell much, maybe 5 items. The people who did shop were cool tho.
Sound: 2/5. Y'all gotta get stage monitors mane. Period.
Next Show: 4/19/19 in Lafayette, Louisiana