Friday night, the Props to Hip-Hop classic rap tribute showcase plays its biggest show yet at B.B. King. For the past two years, TruStatement Entertainment’s Props to Hip-Hop concert series has created an audience for a live hip-hop homage. With a full band playing the beats and some of the city’s underground rap artists performing the verses, they’ve dedicated entire concerts to celebrating the catalogs of Outkast and the Fugees as well as performing entire classic albums such as Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle and recreating Run-DMC’s 1987 Together Forever tour. Friday’s event will be their most ambitious undertaking yet, paying tribute to the classic singles of 1993. We spoke to co-founder and co-host iLLspokinn about how the Props to Hip-Hop came together.
What first inspired the idea to give classic hip-hop live “Props?”
It was [fellow co-founder] Baldi and his company Tru Statement Entertainment’s idea. He knew that if it wasn’t done right it could be corny, so he hit me up for advice and to see if I was down to try to help build it. Then, next thing you know…
With hip-hop being a genre that doesn’t often look back to its past, why do you think the Props to Hip-Hop events have been so successful?
Well, that’s what we’re trying to do. The basis is we’re trying to expose something people may not know about. At the Outkast [tribute], there were people who were college heads that had never really dug into Outkast’s first album. It’s also for heads who are just strictly 90s heads, which there’s a lot of. It’s a good time for them to reminiscence, and we may play some joints that they have never listened to. I know a lot of 90s heads who were turned off from hip-hop after the 90s and may not have heard the more recent albums from the heads who built the game.
Being that the venues for the show have been progressively gotten bigger, was there a moment when you realized how much Props to Hip-Hop was catching on?You know what? I knew from the very first show. The reaction and feedback showed we were on to something. It has a house party appeal, and you forget that you’re at a show, you feel like you’re singing along at somebody’s crib. To me, it feels like a college party because it’s all the stuff I used to listen to in college. From that first show, A Tribe Called Quest tribute in 2010, we were sitting backstage overwhelmed.
What’s the deciding factor for each show’s theme?
It’s a really selfish show. Tru Statement and I go through a bunch of our favorite artists first, then we put them online and let the people vote to see what’s next. We’ve been doing it for a number of years now and taking suggestions from people, and it’s seemed to work out.
Has there been any feedback from the artists you’re paying tribute to?
The most support we’ve gotten was from (Run-DMC’s) DMC when we re-created the 25th anniversary of the Together Forever tour. He did a lot of social networking for us and conversed back and forth with me and Baldi online. It was really dope to get feedback from him as he spread the video around. That was a great support moment. Q-Tip did some retweeting for us and shouted it out too.
Do any moments from the tribute shows stand-out as among your favorites?The [female performers] at the Fugee’s show. They really killed it. All of Lauryn’s verses and the singing joints. They really stepped up. That was the most goosebump-y time for me.
What do you think makes 1993 such a pivotal year for hip-hop?
The albums that came out in 1993 are arguably the most influential albums in hip-hop history and may be the best year for albums in hip-hop history. They’re the most classic albums that everybody goes and listens to now. The songs that we’re doing in the show, you don’t have to be a hip-hop head to know what they are, but they’re still for hip-hop heads.
Do you have any future plans for Props to Hip-Hop following this show?
We’re working on some stuff now but we’re not going to uncover it [just yet]. I will say that we’re trying to get Props to Hip-Hop on the road, so hopefully that will happen in the next couple months.