Milwaukee Hip Hop Breaking into Summerfest
It’s the king of festivals in a city full of them. Summerfest is Milwaukee’s musical Mecca, and its Hip Hop disciples are on their paths to complete the pilgrimage, thanks to two loyal Milwaukee music heads.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, April 1, I arrived at Bosses Sports Bar and Grill at the intersection of Packard and Pulaski Avenues in Cudahy, just southeast of Saint Francis — at least, I thought I had. You see, there was no sign on the building, and I’ve probably been to Cudahy three times in my life. I noticed there was a stage set up behind the bar in the lower level of the building. Seeing my fellow Milwaukee Panther, JC, confirmed my suspicion; he told me about the show in the first place. He was also the DJ for the competition, as a favor to his friend who’s running it.
Brandon Morn, a.k.a., B Morn in local rap circles, said he received the opportunity in the form of a phone call. Jon Rouse, who is managing the Ground Floor Stage at Summerfest for his second year, played music outside of the gates to the grounds for more than five years. A festival official reciprocated his appreciation for the music and offered Rouse an opportunity to help run the stages at Summerfest, and, as of last year, to take over operation of the Ground Floor Stage.
The drinks poured, and the sounds of JC’s mix filled Bosses bar; the night was intoxicating. I found myself lost in the night before it ever really started. Meeting new people, artists and fans alike, my wife and I were on a rare night out on the town. I felt like I was surrounded by friends in a room full of strangers.
Just before the show was to start, I went back up the stairs to order my wife and I another round — whiskey for me, thank you. As I desperately waited for the bartender’s attention, I heard a man’s voice on my right.
“Fight,” he said. “It’s a fight.”
Well, it was more of a scuffle. Unfortunately two young women couldn’t handle themselves, and things got physical in a corner of the club. People broke it up pretty quickly, but it still dampened the positive nature of the night.
The performances began almost immediately after that. The entire crowd cheered on and danced to every song, and the fellow rappers couldn’t resist showing each other love while each performed. I would bet that every artist received backup performances from other contestants at some point during his or her set.
A true musician and music aficionado, Rouse took a moment out of the contest to simply thank the contestants, the bar and the fans for supporting “the movement,” as B Morn and his crew, the BrewCityBoyz, call it, and to reassure those who would not advance that everyone in the house appreciated their talents and efforts.
The whole crowd cheered and applauded his words. And the show went on.
There was even action outside the bar. People lined the sidewalks on Packard and Pulaski, talking and smoking cigarettes. They found entertainment there, as well.
Just as quickly — and unfortunately — as before, a there was another confrontation outside.
B Morn had enough. He and some others went and put an end to the drama. Then he came back inside and took his frustration to the microphone, saying his shows do not tolerate violence and gestured for JC to get back to the show.
Finally, once all 15 artists performed their first sets, B Morn and Rouse convened to discuss the first elimination. Six contestants would survive that round by musical substance, based on the judges’ opinions.
The remaining six artists in each heat would have one final shot, a “crowd-pleaser,” as B Morn told me, which he would judge “Apollo-style.”
Each performer played his song like it would be his last. When it came time for the judging by the crowd’s reaction, B Morn announced each artist one-by-one.
On April 1, the first two winners were Young Torch and Tyson Spears. He announced the remaining four again — a tie between Denny Lanez and Chicago rapper Kalabe T. It took two more tries, and B Morn said he was cornered.
“This is the last one,” he said, “or these two both won!”
Again, the crowd screamed even louder — before announcing the two again — consumed by its musical euphoria.
A final vote for each, and the crowd bought each rapper a spot in the finals.
As though meant to be, all of the developments allowing the upcoming Summerfest local Hip Hop show this July 3 would be based on goodwill gestures and passion — for the love of music.
B Morn told me he was pleased with how the contest turned out. He also said the contestants who didn’t advance surprised him by how much gratitude they showed him for the opportunity.
“Rue the Poet showed up and did his thing, and he’s one that didn’t make it to the finals. But, two days after the contest, he called me and told me that he respected me for being that person to stand up and try to unite this music scene and all the talent around here.
“That means a lot to me because the reason I did this was to show people that the more we work together, the bigger this can all be.”
1st Heat, April 1
* Tie resulting from equal crowd reaction
2nd Heat, April 15
On deck: 3rd Heat, May 20; Summerfest Ground Floor Stage, July 3
Check out the final show Friday, May 20, at Bosses Sports Bar and Grill, 5132 S Packard Ave., Cudahy, Wis. The top three performers, as judged by B Morn and Rouse, will advance to perform one 30-minute set each at the Summerfest Ground Floor Stage July 3 between 5 and 9 p.m.
Brought to you by Jon Rouse; B Morn of MidwestMadeENT and BrewCityBoyz; Collin “Chippy” Bischoff (Sound Engineer) of MidKoast Entertainment.
Rouse, B Morn, Bosses, OneMilwaukee and Summerfest ask that all attendees refrain from confrontation and violence.
Come for the music. Stay for the time.
Editor’s note: Check back for artist bio’s and short video introductions on each.
Must be 21 years or older to enter the show May 20.