This Friday marks the end of an era as longstanding New York independent hip-hop label QN5 will host their final Megashow. The almost-annual event has become a travel destination for indie-rap fans worldwide, and this Friday’s show at BB King looks to see a true staple go out with a bang. We spoke to QN5 roster members Tonedeff, PackFM, Kokayi, and Deacon the Villain about the history of the Megashow and why it’s coming to an end.
Why is this weekend going to be the final Megashow?
Tonedeff: The easiest way to answer that is to say it spiraled out of control. It got bigger than we could handle, if that makes any sense. The Megashows started off in a basement eleven years ago as a simple show where we all would get together, and it turned into a destination event around 2007. By 2009 we had people flying in from all over the world, and now coordinating stuff like this now without a staff is a tremendous undertaking. And now, we’re all working on projects and stuff, and it’s just gotten to be too much. For the foreseeable future, we just had to put a cap on it because I don’t see us being able to sustain this much longer.
PackFM: We’re all in different stages of our lives right now and there’s other things we have to focus on, it’s one of those things where every year we love the fans so much, we’re convinced to do it anyway. We can’t just end it out of the blue, we have to give people a chance to be a part of the last one and know it’s the last hurrah.
So, this being the last Megashow doesn’t mean that this is also the end of QN5?
PackFM: It doesn’t mean that the label is over or we’re not going to be making music anymore or that you won’t see the whole roster on stage again. You may see us, it just won’t be called the “Megashow” because of all the “Megashow” things involved in it.
Tonedeff: This being the last show isn’t the end of the crew or the label, so to speak. We still have projects coming and everybody has plenty of records coming out. It’s just this event in its current version, this has to be it. The last one was nuts and we thought “let’s let 2011 be the last one,” but we can’t do a last one without giving people closure, so let’s just say this is the last one so people from the past can come check it out. It’s this carry-over from the underground days when everybody was playing basements, and we’ve evolved it and turned it into this big event. We’ve grown out of that stigma and we’ve grown as artist into a lot more than people would expect. Ending it allows us to do something new and bring something new to the table.
When putting together the first QN5 Megashow, was the intent to get the event to the point it’s at now?
PackFM: The first one that we would consider a Megashow was CunningLynguists’ first New York City appearance in the basement of the Knitting Factory. It was a show that Poison Pen threw, we took it as a family affair. It also coincided with the Rock Steady Anniversary, so what happened was the next year we [worked with them] and decided to do it again. We shared it with another label and their artists, but the amount of people who came out for QN5 was tremendous. We put out a bulletin that said if you’re coming for QN5 to wear baby blue, and the whole crowd [was] baby blue. After that, we came up with the name “Megashow” and started doing it yearly.
Tonedeff: 2005 was really the first year we branded it as the “QN5 Megashow” and started toying with video, live instrumentation and back-up singers. It was a step up from rocking a basement.
Deacon the Villain: And that Knitting Factory basement was the single worst performance in the history of [CunningLynguists]. I didn’t know you considered that the first Megashow because our performance was not “Mega.” We were babies. We learned how to perform through the progression of QN5 Megashows and keeping up with those guys. Back then we just rapped to our feet.
PackFM: Even at Bowery Poetry Club, the idea was to make it not like any other show. We had video intros and glowsticks, the whole thing became a package. There’s just so many things we tried to incorporate.
Deacon the Villain: We had a puppet show.
Tonedeff: There is no other hip-hop show where you’ll get a puppet show, crowdsurfing and a conga line all in the same night.
Kokayi: It’s production values. Turning to the QN5 camp, it’s something that you would want to pay your money to go see. That’s why people fly in. It’s not just a hip-hop concert, I wouldn’t classify it as that. It’s an actual Mega-show.
At what point did you realize what a phenomenon it had become?
Deacon the Villain: For me, it’s when people started flying from New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada. When people were buying hotel rooms two months in advance of the shows, that’s what blew my mind. It would sell out a month in advance with people flying in from 2,000 miles or more.
Tonedeff: People have sold their cars for it.
PackFM: And it’s cool because you get to really see people care about what you do. I remember seeing the 2005 Megashow and seeing the crowd there and the love they were giving us, this was amazing. We’ve been at festivals with 10,000 people, but this was a room full of mad people from all over the world and they’re just here to see you.
Deacon the Villain: And you get a room full of people who love the first person who gets on stage as much as they love the last person who gets on stage. They know the whole catalog.
Tonedeff: People started flying out in 2007 when we took it to the West Coast for the first and only time when we did it at the Roxy in Los Angeles. A lot of our East Cost fans flew out for it. But 2009 in particular we really had an international presence. We had people from Bulgaria, New Zealand, Australia, it was really surreal.
Is there a reason your chose B.B. King for the final Megashow?
PackFM: It’s a cyclical thing.
Tonedeff: It had to do with the dates that were available, and there’s a bit of poetry to doing it at B.B.’s because the first time we branded it the Megashow was when we performed at B.B.’s the first time.
Why do you think the Megashow has become such an institution?
Tonedeff: I think it’s a testament to our fanbase. New York has an extremely fickle marketplace in terms of audience. There’s a lot of bandwagon hopping that happens nowadays because of how the internet has infiltrated everyday life, and that homogeny has killed the local scene. When you really look at it, QN5 is really the last indie hip-hop label in New York that’s in operation, and that is partially because I’m absolutely out of my fucking mind and don’t know when to stop half-the-time, and half because there’s still music out there being made and kids willing to support us to keep doing it. We get just enough love to make sure we keep going forward. It’s that dedication from our fanbase, we have to come through for them.