A Great Day in Detroit (hip hop)?
If you happened to be at the African World Festival at Hart Plaza on August 22 you might’ve caught Merciless Ameer reconnecting with the ever-beautiful Nikki D. You might’ve seen Supa Emcee trading cell phone numbers with Money Wells and a passerby asking Awesome Dre for his autograph.
See, the scene was a mix of Detroit hip-hop legends and newbies congregating and making history — all at the same time. In a few short minutes, a shutter would click and the 58 Detroit hip-hop artists would be immortalized.
“This is over 20 years of hip-hop history right here,” said historian Khalid el-Hakim, who organized the event.
In 1958 Art Kane captured some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time in A Great Day in Harlem. In 1998, New York gave us A Great Day in Hip-Hop and Atlanta hip-hop artists followed suit in 2005’s Great Day in Atlanta. A Great Day in Detroit was significant because of who wasn’t there as much as who were there. Missing were most famed Detroit emcees Eminim, D-12, Slum Village and Kid Rock. Local mainstays Trick Trick, Esham, Dice and DJ Lynn Swan were also absent along with local legends Detroit’s Most Wanted, Chaos & Mystro, and AWOL. “I reached out to all these people and a lot of them said they’d be here but in the end you never know who’s going to show up,” el-Hakim said, shrugging his shoulders. “But I just wanted to pay tribute to the pioneers of Detroit hip hop. Our hip-hop artists have made many contributions to the hip-hop culture and often times we are overlooked.”
Detroit’s hip-hop community has always fought for local support, major label deals and flat-out respect. You can argue that no Detroit hip-hop artist made a national impact until the late ’90s with the emergence of Slum Village and Eminem. But, truly, those who fought hard in the ’80s and early ’90s made first impressions in local hip hop, creating the platform and fanbase for others to follow — we’re talking Em and Rock and Dilla, and now such emcees as Finale and Invincible. Most days Detroit’s underground scene is a-buzz with reports of beefs and shootings. But August 22 was all about nostalgia and progression and passivity and creation. The photo below shows three empty chairs. Those are for J-Dilla, Baatin and Proof. (The Kahn Davison photos ware taken at Hart Plaza in front of Khalid el-Hakim’s Black History Mobile Museum, memorabilia on wheels.)