by Dan Taylor from "PressDemocrat.com"[http://707.pressdemocrat.com/2013-03-06/featured/hip-hop-is-here-if-you-know-how-to-find-it]:
Hip-hop music dominates the national charts and air waves, movie soundtracks and TV commercials. But to find it locally, you need to know where to look.
The beat, the dance moves and the rhythmic, spoken rap solos are pervasive here, yet it’s easier to find the musicians than venues to hear their music.
“You cannot deny that hip-hop is firmly a part of American culture,” said Tom Gaffey, general manager of Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater. “It’s here. It’s real. It’s a very accessible art form for people to perform on their own.”
While there’s no major Sonoma County venue devoted solely to hip-hop music, regional and national stars play here fairly often. New York rapper KRS-One will perform at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma this month, and Kansas City rap king Tech N9ne plays the Phoenix Theater in April.
And local artists abound, many of them reaching their audiences primarily online. Some of them perform at venues around the greater Bay Area, where they often encounter fans they already know.
“There’s a lot of hip-hop fans in Sonoma County. I see a lot of these people in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose,” said Santa Rosa rapper Will Cunningham.
Cunningham performs under the stage name Really Real with fellow Santa Rosan Sean McBride, known as Bobo. Shortly before the last Super Bowl, they recorded a video tribute to the 49ers called “Roll Call,” which won them some exposure on YouTube.
Sometimes, Sonoma County hip-hop artists seem to outnumber local fans, joked Evan Phillips, who has performed as rapper Truth Live and runs the Society Culture House nightclub in Santa Rosa.
“I would guess there are 500-plus people who rap and do hip-hop around here,” Phillips said, “but there’s no specific outlet that can champion it.”
DJs spin hip-hop music at local clubs, including Phillips’ Society club, but live rap shows are less common.
Gaffey was among the first promoters in the North Bay to recognize the style’s potential, booking Oakland-born rapper Mac Dre at the Phoenix in 1989.
“It was a great show,” Gaffey recalled. “I’d never seen such an incredible scene in my life, so we’ve been doing hip-hop once a month since then. Our audience has always been here for hip-hop.”
Last November, the Phoenix booked top rapper Snoop Dogg, who did his rap act there despite his recent conversion to reggae, complete with a new name — Snoop Lion.
“Man, he was smokin’,” Gaffey said. “He’s still got it.”
Local hip-hop fans and artists agree that one reason the Sonoma County hip-hop scene might seem subdued is lingering public concern over violent incidents at or near hip-hop shows in the past.
“Really, our hip-hop crowds are much mellower now,” Gaffey said. “I think we have a handle on it.”
“A lot of artists want to rap about drugs, sex, alcoholic and violence,” local rapper Cunningham said. “We’re trying to promote the positive options we have in our lives.”
Criminal cases involving rap stars get big play in the news, said Gabe Vaughan, owner of Santa Rosa’s Apt. 3 Records hip-hop label, but that’s not necessarily representative of hip-hop in general.
“You can always have a few rotten apples,” he said.
UPCOMING HIP-HOP CONCERTS
What: Hip Hop Medicine Nation presents KRS One and Souleye, plus Zahira Soul, “The Pure Soul Songstress”
When: 9 p.m. March 15
Where: Mystic Theatre, 23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma
Information: 765-2121, mystictheatre.com
What: Tech N9ne, with Brotha Lynch Hung, Krizz Kaliko, Kutt Calhoun, Rittz and Ces Cru
When: 8 p.m. April 1
Where: Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St., Petaluma
Information: 762-3565, thephoenixtheater.com