Hip hop/spoken word rocks women’s music fest


With the absence of the B-Girl Be Summit and an abbreviated installment of Yo! The Movement, this hasn’t been the best summer for forward-thinking hip hop devotees. Both annual events raised the bar: B-Girl Be Summit is about women seizing hop hip as a means of self-empowerment and, not coincidentally, an alternative to sexist exploitation. Yo! The Movement, helping youth utilize the genre as a self-affirming outlet, has done more for urban-oriented kids than all the stay-in-school-don’t-do-drugs lectures you can throw wasted breath at.

Looking at the local hip-hop scene with a glass-is-half-full approach, hopefully next year’s B-Girl Be Summit will return and Yo! The Movement can finance a longer run. Meanwhile, part of the first annual She Rock Festival offers first-rate-fare hip hop and spoken word, showcasing the likes of Tish Jones, Ill Chemistry, Debra G. of Copasetic and more.

For a bit of background, after eight years on the scene, Debra G. got the impassioned idea to put together a festival dedicated to showcasing women in music. When ace rocker Shannon invited Debra G. to a show at Pi Bar, one thing led to another and, at length, a fait accompli.

Most of the two-day festival is music, but a good six hours is devoted to ladies of the word. Steph Devine (SD) is an established name behind the Twin Cities scenes, manager to R&B rockers The New Congress and, regionally, to hip hop icon Desdamona. She helped promote She Rock Festival and, wearing her other hat, will step behind the mic to sing a set of what she dubs funk ’n’ soul. Devine took time out of all her duties to speak with the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) about She Rock Festival.

MSR: How’d you get involved with She Rock Festival?

SD: Debra G. and Shannon Johnson [who fronts the band] Kymara were at Pi Bar. They saw a hip hop hop artist, which inspired Debra G. to meet more female musicians. Debra wanted to create an all-female festival. She mentioned the idea to Shannon, who thought Desdamona would be interested. Desdamona brought the idea to me.

MSR: There’s an impressive lineup.

SD: Debra asked Shannon Blowtorch, entertainment coordinator at Pi, if she could hold the event at Pi. Shannon from Kymara asked Shannon Blowtorch to be involved in planning the event. They [made] a list of performers [and] different genres to create a variety for the event. Shannon Blowtorch also secured sponsorship from [retail store] Smitten Kitten.

MSR: Are you expecting the venue, Pi Bar, to be a strong factor in drawing a two-night crowd?

SD: Yes. Pi is willing to help with making She Rock an annual event. The event promotes the club as well. It’s a newer club [that is] doing well in its early stages. Pi is known for bringing in stellar female talent.

MSR: What will go into deciding whether She Rock Festival has a second year?

SD: This will be determined by the success of the festival and support from the community and press. The hope for She Rock festivals in the future is to create a block party event with workshops to learn about the music industry and business for aspiring musicians of all ages, male and female.

We hope at some point to bring in a national female artist to headline the event. The goal in having a national artist would be to gain more exposure for the event and the local musicians involved. However, we want the majority of talent to be female musicians from the Twin Cities [while remaining] open to having female musicians from all areas looking to be involved.

MSR: We didn’t get a B-Girl Be Summit this year, so She Rock is filling at least part of an important void, yes?

SD: The hope is for B-Girl Be’s return next year. That festival is also needed in our community. We hope we can fill somewhat of a void. We also hope to work side by side with B-Girl Be.

The She Rock Festival, at Pi Nightclub, 2532 25th Ave. South in Minneapolis, begins on Friday, September 19, at 7 pm and Saturday, September 20, at 3 pm with a DJ spinning until 2 am following performances. Tickets are $10-$15. For more information, call 612-877-4368 or go to www.myspace.com/sherockfestival.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to dhobbes@spokesman-recorder.com.