Hip Hop Lives Returns Tonight After Seven-Year Hiatus

Mighty FlipSide Esq. revitalizes a renowned tradition of Philly's music scene.

Philly MC and Hip Hop Lives organizer Mighty FlipSide, Esq. (right) with his Electric City partner DJ SkipMode. (Photo courtesy FlipSide)

Philly MC and Hip Hop Lives organizer Mighty FlipSide, Esq. (right) with his Electric City partner DJ SkipMode. (Photo courtesy FlipSide)

After a seven-year hiatus, Hip Hop Lives, well, lives to see another day at Bourbon & Branch this evening. 

Emerging from the lineage of late ’90s DIY shows, Mighty FlipSide Esq. of Electric City and Stay On The Beat felt compelled to showcase raw rhythm and poetry when such events started dissolving in Philly around the end of the millennium.

During a fortuitous house show in 1998, a few improvised performances by some of Philly’s prominent underground hip-hop groups, like Electric City and Jedi Mind Tricks, catalyzed Flip’s idea for Hip Hop Lives. 

In 1999, the project found its first public venue, which was the basement of coffee shop La Tazza on 2nd and Chestnut — smack in the heart of the First Friday frenzy.

“Little did I know, First Friday was such a big deal in the arts scene, and I consider hip-hop to be high art myself, so why not display it as an art piece on First Friday?” says Flip.

Every month for nearly a decade, both local and touring artists convened in an Philadelphia basement, squarely confronting the allegations that hip-hop was perishing, as bluntly claimed in Nas’s 2006 rap album, Hip Hop Is Dead.

According to Flip, the events functioned using a particular “formula,” which entailed live bands accompanying rappers.

“One thing I realized about it was the cross-pollinization of the MCs, be them local or from afar, with the musicians, who were residents and coming from far away as well,” Flip says. “It was good to mix those things, because those things never talked — and they talked at our parties, which was awesome.”

As the show drew larger and larger crowds, it eventually relocated to Tritone on South Street before eventually settling at Five Spot. But when the Old City venue burned down in 2009, Hip Hop Lives slowly followed, performing its last show on June 5th, 2009.

Now, almost a decade later, the ritual has risen from the ashes.

Besides encouragement from local musician Donovan Ialive, Flip was inspired to bring back Hip Hop Lives as a promotional resource in finding a space for his youth organization, Hip Hop Lives Now, an education program that teaches inner-city youth how to establish a music a career.

“Currently, I’m looking for a new home for the children’s program, and essentially, the reason why we’re bringing Hip Hop Lives back is to spearhead and start that program,” Flip says.

Featuring local band Philly Slick, tonight’s show encompasses that original “formula,” but with a scandalous twist. The show’s headliner, Detroit-based rapper Elzhi, finds himself in some hot water at the moment after raising almost $40,000 on Kickstarter for an album that’s yet to be released.

According to Flip, Elzhi was picked for the performance prior to the controversy emerging.

Other acts this evening include Flip’s Electric City and local rapper Armpit. The 21-year-old musician is another element Flip factored into his formula: including at least one artist under the age of 25 in each performance, fostering his mission for youth culture.

Flip’s inclusive objective does not limit itself to youth. From the infancy of his idea, Hip Hop Lives served as a platform where a scope of backgrounds — from musical to cultural — could commune.

“When we started the party, it was a way to just bring people together. And currently, the world is just so divisive. It’s so much about separating people, politically and emotionally,” Flip says. “So, I think Hip Hop Lives is a thing in my life that really unified lot of people. I want that to be the thing that I give to my immediate community and hopefully the community at large, including young people — including all people.”