This year, the annual graffiti extravaganza that is Paint Louis will be just one part of a larger set of festivities focused on hip-hop culture: St. Louis Hip-Hop Week.
The party will last four days, from August 30 to September 2, and comes as a joint effort between event producer Brainchild Events and long-running St. Louis hip-hop group Midwest Avengers. In addition to Paint Louis itself, which will see hundreds of graffiti artists from around the world converge on the flood wall downtown for its 21st year running, the week will feature a film screening and panel discussion on Thursday, a Red Bull-sponsored music showcase on Friday and a live tribute to the '90s hip-hop program Yo! MTV Raps —
featuring performances by St. Louis rapper Nite Owl, We Are Root Mod and some members of Midwest Avengers — on Saturday.
Dwight Carter, creative director for Brainchild Events, has thrown a few different MTV-themed events in the last year, including tributes to 120 Minutes
and Headbanger's Ball
, in which he gathered musicians to perform covers of classic songs. A former manager and booking agent who turned his attention years ago to fashion, Carter, 45, says he simply got the itch to get involved with music again.
"I kind of missed the music end, so I started doing some fun stuff," Carter explains. "Just creating some fun things by musicians that I like and grew up with and most of my friends were influenced by."
Carter has recently put together a Fishbone tribute, as well as one centered on the Beastie Boys called My Posse in Effect. "They're kinda taking off," he says of the latter. "It seems like that's what kind of happens when I put these tributes together: Bands form, and they end up creating these new relationships and friendships."
Following the success of his more hip-hop themed tribute shows, and with local Projects+Gallery's 2016 “Haute Hip-Hop" exhibition
in the back of his mind, Carter set about thinking of ways to educate the masses about hip-hop culture.
"I think that most people are thinking that it's just about the music," Carter says. "And it's about the music, but it's a subculture. Just like punk rock is a subculture. There's a lot of different elements of punk rock and hip-hop that kind of relate together."
John Harrington, an MC with Midwest Avengers and longtime head of Paint Louis, agrees with the sentiment — though he points to a different genre of music for comparison.
VIA JOHN HARRINGTON
John Harrington, second from right, founded Paint Louis more than twenty years ago.
"I think hip-hop is like metal used to be," he says. "Metal used to get a bad rap, but now it's pop music. Same with hip-hop; hip-hop used to get a bad rap, now it's the number one pop music in the world. Hip-hop is really a culture and a way of life that poor people live in the ghettos, and now it's a worldwide phenomenon."
Harrington, 46, likewise laments that the music is the only facet of the culture that casual rap fans connect with nowadays. By combining Paint Louis with St. Louis Hip-Hop Week, he hopes they can change that.
"People just listen to the music and they go home, and they don't really think about the history of it, the past of it," he says. "Most people don't even know, besides rapping and the DJ, they don't even know that rap has four elements."
All four elements will be on display for St. Louis Hip-Hop Week. The MCs and DJs will be present for the musical performances, and the graffiti is already obviously built into Paint Louis. And while there's no specific breakdancing event, B-Boys and B-Girls will undoubtedly make a showing.
Paint Louis itself will be held on Labor Day Weekend, from Friday through Sunday. More than two decades in, the event has an international following — and its efforts have even earned recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records
for "longest mural."
Harrington estimates that 200 to 300 artists will be on hand for this year's showing.
"We bring artists from Australia, Japan, Brazil, we got people coming from Africa, we got Tibetan monks that we bring out every year," he says. "They're from all over, Mexico City. So it's international."
This year Paint Louis will feature fun for the whole family. Harrington points to the Scrap Cans for Kids portion of the event, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, where seasoned graffiti artists will teach kids painting techniques. Balloons and bubbles will add to the idea, as Harrington puts it, of "a big family art experience."
As for Carter, he hopes to grow St. Louis Hip-Hop Week into its own annual juggernaut. The Yo! MTV Raps
tribute, in particular, is one he's sure he wants to repeat annually.
"Eventually we'd like to bring in a theater production team and create the staging to where it's like an MTV VJ set, and eventually make this something that happens every year," he says. "I can see this being at the Fox Theatre."
In the mean time, though, he just wants to add more facets to the week's lineup.
"We're trying to build every year into adding more programming," he says. "We would like to add a fashion element next year, more film, more dance. But you know, it's baby steps, trying to get the idea out there."
See below for the full lineup of events for St. Louis Hip-Hop Week 2018:
Thursday, August 30: Film Series and Panel Discussion
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Webster University
Film: Paint Louis Documentary, Graffiti Limbo
Panel: Filmmaker, Brent Jaimes, Founder of Midwest Avengers and Head of Paint Louis, John Harrington, and a graffiti artist from Paint Louis
Expected Attendance: 100
Ticket Costs: $15 General Public, $5 College Students
Friday, August 31: Red Bull Music Showcase
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The Ready Room and Taha’a Twisted Tiki
Expected Attendance: 800
Ticket Costs: $10 in advance, $15 at the door
Friday, August 31 - Sunday, September 2: Paint Louis
Location: Flood Wall
Expected Attendance: 2500-3000
Ticket Costs: Free
Saturday, September 1: Yo! MTV Raps Tribute - Songs by Public Enemy, Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J and more.
Time: 9 p.m.
Location: The Ready Room
Expected Attendance: 300-500 Ticket
Costs: $15 in advance, $18 at the door
Venue and ticket information available at brainchildevents.com