Boston hip hop acts are taking a stand in The Strand this Memorial Day weekend, sending a message by offering an answer to Boston Calling’s lack of local rappers on this years roster.
When Cousin Stizz and STL GLD made last year’s lineup, there was a glimmer of hope for hip hop acts hailing from the Hub. But when the festival's ten year anniversary scorecard scratched on anyone from the Boston area rap scene, enough WTF’s piled up for Boston Answering to buck back.
“I was excited to see them on that bill,” Boston Answering headliner Cliff Notez said. “I hoped that this was going to continue, but there really seems to be no follow-up at all.”
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That’s when HipStory decided if anyone was going to do something about the situation, they’d hop to it. Cliff had spent the last year or so working with Kara Elliot-Ortega at the Mayor’s Office to bring more events to Upham’s Corner.
HipStory got started seven years ago as a DIY collective of artists and audio/visual media production professionals dedicated to cultivating local creative and artistic endeavors. They brought home the Live Arts Boston Grant from the Boston Foundation in 2018 for promoting local film festivals, hosting late night parties at the MFA, and hyping local artists on the move
“We’re trying to push the mold to create a platform for marginalized identities, stories, and bodies in media through music and film to make their presence known through the events we put on,” Cliff said
“The Strand made the most sense for its location and as a symbol because it is a very important, iconic landmark that has not gotten the attention it needs,” Cliff said.
“It has every right to be Boston’s Apollo Theatre.”
While the lack of local talent on Boston Calling's bill is one glaring issue, the other issue is the marginalization of fans who might live a three-decker in Boston Proper.
It’s no secret that the festival caters to the presentably trendy out-of-towner crowd who will likely Uber from their Airbnb, not to those faced with the tedious trudge riding the entireity of the 66 Bus route from Dudley Station or the lion's share of the Red Line through public transit purgitory topped of with a half-mile walk from The Pit to the Crimson’s Colesium.
“Boston Calling is far less accessible to people who are actually from the city of Boston, especially if they live in Mattapan, Dorchester or Roxbury," Cliff said. "There aren’t many direct ways to get from Lower Allston and back to those neighborhoods.”
Initially, ancient Ivy Leaguers declared that the arena be “Dedicated to the Joy of Manly Contest,” but Boston Calling has called the athletic complex home for the last three years. The festival was far more accessible when it was held at City Hall Plaza in the early goings. But the bricks in the shadow Boston’s brutalist bunker could only house half of the crowds, and neighbors nagged about all the noise. One couldn’t add up an accurate ETA from Columbia Ave. to the Coliseum via public transit on a normal weekday if they mastered addition, never mind on Memorial Day Weekend with nearly 40,000 festival attendees struggling to decipher proximity via the T.
Getting home, Cliff said, is an entirely different situation too.
“Not only is it hard to get down to Lower Allston, it’s even harder to get back to these tougher neighborhoods late at night,” Cliff noted
“That’s not something that Boston Calling takes into consideration because most their target audience might not encounter that reality on a regular basis.
Local’s Lord Hobo and Aeronaut have signed on as sponsors for Boston Answering, along with the Boston Foundation, the City of Boston Arts & Culture, Union Sound. The show is 18+, $15 in advanced, $20 at the door with a cash bar.