Monday, July 30, 2007

Boston Herald Article on the GU Tour

Hip-hop hits Hub
By Chris Faraone
Friday, July 20, 2007

Ben Herson went quite a bit out of his way to organize the Global Underground hip-hop tour that marches through the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge Sunday night.
The founder of world-music label Nomadic Wax, Herson, a Newton native and Hampshire College alum, traveled as far as Tanzania and Senegal to scout hip-hop talent.
“I went to Senegal in 1998 with a friend just to visit,” Herson said from New York. “In the marketplace there I discovered the hip-hop section. I couldn’t believe how many original artists there were in that country alone.”
Since his first African outing, Herson’s interest in world hip-hop expanded. Through Nomadic Wax, he connected with the artists featured on the Global Underground tour, who include Chosan (from Sierra Leone), MC Eli Efi (or LF, from Brazil) and rapper Laylo (Dominican Republic), Zuluboy (South Africa) and DJ Boo (Philippines).
“In the beginning, we focused on African hip-hop, but now were looking at it as a global label,” Herson said. “World hip-hop has a unique flavor, the flavor of whatever country or culture these guys are coming from.”
Chosan, who was born in West Africa, raised in London and now lives in the Bronx, received American exposure when he appeared in Kanye West’s “Diamonds of Sierra Leone” video. He said his tour mates might come from different backgrounds, but they share a common sensibility.
“We’re all representing the same kind of spirit,” Chosan said from New York. “We’re all poets and performers by nature.”
While it’s impossible to squeeze all international rappers into one category, there are some themes that show up across the globe - themes, one could argue, that have driven hip-hop since its conception in the United States 30 years ago.
“Hip-hop in Brazil is its own political party,” Eli Efi said in an e-mail interview. “Hip-hop in Brazil is the outcry of the excluded.”
According to Boston-based music consultant Erich Ludwig, who regularly collaborates with Nomadic Wax, a universal spirit shines through the language barrier.
“When I listen to these guys,” Ludwig said, “especially when I can’t understand the lyrics, it’s all about the music surrounding the rhymes and the flow behind the rhymes.”
Not every rapper on Sunday’s bill will be twisting foreign tongues. In order to properly represent planet hip-hop from Jamaica to Jamaica Plain, promoters asked globe-trotting Boston duo Foundation Movement to join the tour.
“This tour is about style and world perspective and Foundation was the natural fit for Boston,” said Ludwig, who recently was a presenter at the United Nations-Habitat Global Hip-Hop Summit in South Africa.
Having witnessed firsthand the contributions international MCs have made to rap music, Global Underground organizers hope their tour will dispel some myths about foreign hip-hop.
“These guys aren’t just copying 50 Cent and Ja Rule,” Herson said. “They have their own unique styles.”
“Some people think that because I’m from Africa I’m going to come on stage in a sheepskin,” Chosan added. “But I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy. I always have been and I always will be.”
Nomadic Wax Global Underground Summer Tour, with Foundation Movement, Chosan, Eli Efi and Laylo, Zuluboy, DJ Boo and others, at the Middle East, Cambridge, Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day of show; 617-864-EAST.

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