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WHAT'S THE WORD?: StoryLab program is live

The futures of Tacoma youth and hip-hop are intertwined

Q-DOT: The local hip-hop artist (left) is keeping the scene fresh with his StoryLab classes. Photo credit: Josh Rizeberg

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The futures of Tacoma youth and hip-hop are intertwined. Generally speaking, hip-hop and music are huge outlets of creativity for young people. When I was growing up, there weren't hip-hop classes - may have been a breakdance class here or there, but nothing sustainable. Hip-hop had few if any positive connotations to older people and squares. Now, there are multiple hip-hop classes and programs around the city of Tacoma. Students are now encouraged to enroll and express themselves through hip-hop.

One successful hip-hop program is StoryLab at the Tacoma Public Library. Through grants, Tacoma Public Library hosts recording equipment for young people to learn how to record music, as well as video equipment.

Q-Dot is an instructor at StoryLab. He teaches the youngsters how to make music, record it and even perform it live at a show for an audience.

Q-Dot invited me to watch his StoryLab students' performance at Anthem Coffee and Tea across from University of Washington Tacoma. Larger than the average coffee shop, Anthem sports a stage at its far end. It also serves beer and wine with ID.

A standing-room-only crowd of hip-hoppers, hipsters and cool, moody coffee sippers watched a diverse group of students.

The evening started off with a set of singer-songwriters strumming their acoustic guitars, singing and sharing their souls. Then the night was turned up a bit as the hip-hop segment arrived. The young MC's did better than most grown hip-hop artists I have seen in our city.

Q-Dot has done a good job of teaching the fundamentals of live hip-hop - mostly, that it is wack if ya rap over ya own vocals. If ya do that, it's not a live show - it's cheating your audience out of seeing true MC skills. A live show should be an MC rapping live, over an instrumental track - and thankfully that is what happened at Anthem. All the artists had a diverse, well-rounded style. Be sure to look out for Teeler, Slick R.I.C. and The T.E.A.M. now and in the future.

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