Music News

The Beatdown

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Nor does much of the rest of the city. Last week at www.FreshSites.com, a site as plugged in to the local hip-hop scene as anyplace in town, none of the posters had any idea when Denver's Hip-Hop Festival would be -- or what it would be.

"Does anyone even care that's it's coming?" one poster asked. "It seems to me that it has no buzz, because the city is in charge of it. Any opinions?

"What is it?" responded another poster. "What city? What are you talking about? I don't think anybody knows anything about it. Care to shed some light on the details? Can I get paid for performing there?"

"We're going but my people told me it wasn't till August," another wrote. "Where is it at? I'm trying to get info."

Here's the info -- at least, the info available on May 3. According to Stevens, on Friday, May 14, the Denver Idol finals and performances by Frankie J and Baby Bash will run from 5 to 9 p.m. at Club Bash in LoDo; admission is free. On Saturday, the lowrider car show and free workshops will start around 9 a.m. at the Denver Coliseum and continue through the day. The official HSAN summit panel will run from noon to 3 p.m., with a concert that night featuring Big Tymers, Yin Yang Twins, YoungBloodz and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony(tickets to the concert are $38.50 to $49.50).

But after seeing that lineup on the event's official website (www.denverhiphop.com), one FreshSites poster wrote: "I wouldn't pay 5 bucks to see any of 'em. Why does Denver hip-hop summit look exactly like a Clear Channel concert?"

If this actually were a Clear Channel production, though, it's a safe bet that you would have known all the details long before now. Stevens admits that SafeCity could have handled publicity better -- but it wasn't for lack of trying. Six committees and countless volunteers, including summit chair and former mayoral candidate Penfield Tate, lobbyist David Cole and former city spokeswoman C.L. Harmer, have all been working on the event's logistics. It would have been nice to have a centralized office with a full-time marketing person on the job, Stevens says, but that didn't fit into the $260,000 budget.

"We have never tried to fool ourselves," she says. "We'll be the first ones to say -- I sure will -- that I don't know what I don't know. But at the same time, you can't just leave those kids out there hanging with nothing. We don't have a problem with being criticized for what we do. But then again, the good news is, there is something good happening to at least criticize."

Jeff Campbell, executive director of the Colorado Hip-Hop Coalition, has made his share of criticisms. "My organization was used in the initial pitch to get the summit here," Campbell says. "And I had Def Jam calling here, calling my office, and I was thinking, 'Wow, I must really be putting in some work.' In reality, they were throwing my name around to validate themselves. So when I found out they were using my name without my permission, that was damaging to me."

It was also ironic, because SafeCity turned down a grant request from Campbell's organization in 2003. "Last year it was like, 'No, we're not going to give you any money for your little hip-hop thing," he says. "And now this year, they're all about hip-hop."

And when Campbell did become part of the official organizing committee, he never really felt he was part of the process. "I feel like when you community organize, then the community is involved in the overall planning, in the input stage, in the brainstorm stage," he says. "I was absolutely not a part of that. I was just given orders. When I showed up to the first meeting for the Hip-Hop Summit, it was like, 'Jeff, you're going to be in charge of this, and this is what you're going to do.' And from that jump, I felt slighted." Adding to the frustration was the fact that SafeCity initially planned to launch the Denver Hip-Hop Foundation as a beneficiary of the event, essentially duplicating the efforts of Campbell's own grassroots organization. Stevens now says her office will will split any proceeds from the event between SafeCity's summer job program and Campbell's group. But even HSAN is still learning as it goes along. "We're always working out kinks," Miller admits. "As in any enterprise, the bigger it gets when you have a really, really small staff and you rely heavily on the people you work with on the ground in each city, there are always going to be kinks to work out and growing pains and learning and revising things."

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera