Hip-Hop: The RI Experience

At first glance Rhode Island may not seem like the ideal place for a young and hungry indie artist to flourish. After all, we are the smallest state and we also have no major record labels or agencies to give indie artists the push needed to achieve fame and glory. As a result, artists based out of Rhode Island start at a staggering disadvantage compared to someone based out of NYC or LA.

This might seem like a lot of negative things all at once but on the brighter side, these are the aspects of the culture that make Rhode island a hidden gem. Artists have true freedom and opportunity to create their own sound and develop themselves in innovative ways. Without any preset guidelines or rules to follow, the sky is the limit.

I had a recent conversation with an up-and-coming RI artist named Biz Marik about his experience.


Spocka Summa (Motif): How do you view yourself as a local artist?

Biz Marik: I would say different, but different is a genre now. Everyone makes different music. I view myself more as a mirror to what I see and experience. I try to make music people can relate to, whether it is a story or just a vibe. I don’t consider myself a local artist at all — that’s just a mindset.

SS: What do you think the local hip-hop scene is missing?

BM: I think the scene is missing an identity. We do not really have a sound and a lot of artists seem to be doing their best impression of someone else (famous in most cases). This is cool, but it kinda divides us as a state and does not show who we are. But I feel like as soon as someone breaks out with a unique sound, that could all change.

Building a stronger foundation will be crucial to help local indie artist progress beyond Rhode Island without having to pack their bags and move out of state. Everyone has a role to play, from the artist who writes and performs the music to the almighty fan(s), producers, engineers and promoters.

To understand the experience on the other side of the stage, I talked to a frequent concert attendee from Providence, Casandra Adio.

Spocka Summa: How do you feel about local artists?

Casandra Adio: I think Providence has a mix of local hip-hop artists, which is a direct reflection of commercial hip-hop. Some are lyrically inclined, socially aware and progressive, while others represent the struggles and hardships of city living. I greatly appreciate both because they’re just as diverse as Providence. Rappers are so common here, but that shows you how much we love hip-hop as a city. It only gets negative for a few artists because that’s their personality and their life. Otherwise it’s all good.

SS: What kind of experience have you had at local shows?

CA: My experience at shows differs. I’ve gone to shows from open mics for the very beginners to headlining shows at Lupo’s. Within that range, the quality of performances are similar — the artists perform passionately. The response they get depends on the size of the crowd for the most part, though. Smaller, intimate settings are welcoming and supportive; that’s where you find community. Bigger events that bring a mixed crowd rock with you if they know you already or if you appeal to their particular taste.

Ultimately none of us can tell the future and have no idea if Rhode Island will ever generate the next national star. But if you are ambitious, do not let the lack of resources determine your success or propel you into failure. Take your time and seek out new networks, perfect your craft and grow as much as possible. If you are not an artist you should take a second and check out some local concerts and artists. Sure they don’t have the money and material things that the majority of our favorite artists possess. But give them a chance because you never know when you might catch a rare glimpse of a star in the making.