Hip-Hop Shop affected by Union loss, relocates to Theta Chi house Thursday.
Hip-Hop Shop organizer Hil Hackworth was only three minutes from home when he was in a car crash that left him immobile for four months.
Last month, he hosted the Hip-Hop Shop for the first time since his accident, during which his ex-girlfriend ran his Honda Civic into a tree.
It’s not the only challenge the monthly event — which aims to encourage creativity through poetry, performances, dancing and graffiti art — has faced.
The event has, for six of its nine years, been hosted at The Union Bar & Grill, 18 W. Union St.
Now, after the West Union fire, the show will be temporarily held at the Theta Chi Fraternity house, 117 E. State St.
“As soon as the fire happened, I was getting tons of people messaging me being like ‘Yo, if you need a place for this to continue this can happen,’” Hackworth said. “I think everyone knows how much The Union meant to me and how much the Hip-Hop Shop meant to me. My main focus was to keep the Hip-Hop Shop going.”
Sam Flynn, president of the Theta Chi Fraternity, a writer for The Athens News and Editor-in-Chief of Interactivist, contacted the event organizers and offered Theta Chi as a temporary home for The Hip-Hop Shop.
The Hip-Hop Shop hopes to find a permanent home at the beginning of next year. Doors will open Thursday at 9 p.m. at Theta Chi. Donations will benefit The Union.
“The Hip-Hop Shop is a place I was looking for when I came to college. Growing up, I didn’t have any friends I could do that with,” Flynn, who also plans on performing at the event, said. “The extra work (of housing the event) comes with a lot of great music and a great community effort so it all balances out.”
As Hackworth rushes to put together an official benefit concert for The Union in late December, Peter “MC Freeman” Vilardi of Twisted Kids, Thursday’s featured performer, has taken up last-minute re-planning. He was on his way to work at 6 a.m. Sunday when he saw flames overtaking The Union and immediately called Hackworth to offer his help in any way.
“(At first) I thought, ‘Oh my God, what is going to happen?’ But other than the change in location, it’s going to be business as usual as much as we possibly can,” Vilardi said. “The venue is a little different, the stage is a little different, but at the end of the day it’s the same Hip-Hop Shop and the same spirit of local hip-hop is going to keep this alive.”
Although a change in location comes with modifications — such as not being able to use the Union Bar’s walls for graffiti art as planned — the majority of the events will remain the same.
“We are anti bullsh-t pop-bubblegum rap you hear on the radio. If you’re trying to rap a song about wanting me to lick your lollipop, get the f--k out of here,” Hackworth said. “We like our music to make you think a little bit more than just ‘move your ass at a party.’ ”
Hackworth plans to bring this level of hip-hop to the show with his partner in crime, Ryan “Emcee Schwartz” Schwartz. The two founded local rap group DysFunktional Family and plan to perform a number of songs from their past with some solo material to back it.
Hackworth said his songs are going to be varied — some fun but also reflecting on love, loss and the year of his accident.
Twisted Kids, which is composed of Vilardi and his roommate, Jacob “61ack4eart” Midkiff, will perform the longest set of the night in what Vilardi describes as “old-school hip-hop.”
The show also opens the microphone to anyone who would like to bring original music on a USB drive to perform. But, Hackworth notes that this comes with an understanding that the crowd is serious about performances that takes hip-hop seriously.
Translation — if you’re bad the crowd will let you know.
“There was tons of college kids that liked to rap about how much money their mom and dad have but there was no place to actually experience real hip-hop,” Hackworth said. “There’s not many places in Athens that give hip-hop a chance because everyone’s afraid of what’s on MTV and BET. That’s why we started Hip-Hop Shop nine years ago — to give hip-hop a real voice in Athens.”