DJ DeeKay - In The Mix


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

U-Discuss Seminar (13/10/08): Urban Regeneration

So I'm sitting in the Roundhouse Studios in one of the MIDI Lounges with a MIDI keyboard that seems to want to work only sporadically (today's been a terrible day for me as far as working computers are concerned!). Having spent the last hour trying to get down to work producing a beat sampling the Veer Zaara theme tune, as the computer and the equipment pars me at every instance, I've just about given up.

I figured I might as well take this time to pen an article I was inspired to write having attended last night's U-Discuss Seminar again at The Roundhouse. The seminar was put on by Urban Development and featured industry insiders ranging from artists Bashy and Wretch 32 (who's album "Wretchrospective" is in stores now... dun kno "Ina Di Ghetto" is one of the biggest tracks of the year!), to Bashy's manager Desmond George and MTV Base's Jasmine Dotiwala. Ray Paul, 1Xtra's Executive Producer of Mainstream and Live Events (in his own words, he deals with what happenns on the station between 6am and 7pm), as well as experienced publisher Paulette Long and Urban Development's very own Fusion (who is the same fusion responsible for Fallacy's Groundbreaker and Big and Bashy!) were also on the panel. The seminar was hosted by 1Xtra's Ras Kwame, who is of course a famed proponent of the UK's "urban" scene himself.

The subject of the seminar was "Urban Regeneration" - the future of black music. What became clear as the night unfolded was that black music has an exceptionally bright future - the open mic showcase held at the end of the night was evidence of this: a number of exceptional talents emerged, and the eventual winner, Your Opinion, was chosen by Bashy and Wretch to perform at the Urban Development night of the Roundhouse's Emerging Proms. The night is on 30th October, and will feature Shola Ama, Wretch 32, Donaeo and beatboxer Faith SFX. And tickets are only £5! That's a massive lineup, and for that price, you'd have to be dumb not to reach.

Back to the matter at hand - the night was a huge success. The panel dropped some real science about the ins and outs of the industry, and the struggle that they've had to go through to push black music away from the margins so that it would generate the respect it deserved. Three points stood out to me as important to take from the night's discussion:
  1. There has never been a time when black music in the UK has been stronger. Desmond George argued that we were witnessing the birth and growth of a scene that could eventually be as big as the "urban" scene in the States, provided it's given the time and support to do so.
  2. The powerbrokers have never been more accessible - whether via MySpace or e-mail, or even a telephone, the people who hold sway at crucial outlets like Base and 1Xtra are contactable these days. It pays to build and maintain a relationship of mutual respect with them.
  3. On the subject of respect, artists and managers alike need to learn to approach these international media outlets (Base is part of an international media superpower in the form of Viacom) via the proper channels and with the right attitude. This is big business, and you might come across suits and people with no understanding of the scene - approaching them agressively and with a road attitude will get you nowhere.
Anyway, the post I was inspired to write was about the strength of the scene and how we can work together to help build it. It's 11.45pm now so it's not gonna happen tonight... maybe tomorrow! But I hope the summary of events at U-Discuss might be of some help to someone.

Oh also big up Wretch, over-safe guy... Like I personally do think he's a top-tier lyricist in the UK, but I didn't approach him telling him that, so I could've been any breh at the seminar who didn't know shit about him and still in that really brief interaction of giving him the High Fidelity Mixtape and exchanging a few words, he was bare respectful. Same with Fusion and Ras Kwame.

The last thing I wanna say is that these events are CRUCIAL to the development of the scene and for the birth of young enterpreneurs who fully understand the game. Too much money has been wasted because artists didn't understand the business side of the industry, and so to learn from people who have already been successful is invaluable. I'm very grateful to the people on the panel who gave up their valuable time for free to speak to us and dispense firsthand information that there is no other real source for and to UD for putting the event on. And I actually live in the Roundhouse these days... I was there for like 12 hours today, 4 hours yday... they should really charge me rent. Fuck knows what I'm gna do when I hit 25 and they don't let me in anymore.

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