From MC battles to youth league basketball, Lotus Tribe enjoys the game

Lotus Tribe members (l to r): Diego Chavez, Kevin Hartman, Jason Torres, Jack Sanford, Zack Crater, Louis Alfaro, Max Salazar, and Mark Gonzalez. Photo by Austin Muchemore.
Lotus Tribe Productions, a local collective involved in the San Antonio hip-hop scene, has two things on its mind this week: an MC battle and basketball. And the group is not too concerned with winning, either. For the artists of Lotus Tribe, the goal is to enjoy the game - and that includes recruiting the players, securing a venue, organizing the schedule, getting equipment, and coming together as a team to promote the hell out of an event so that other people can enjoy it, as well.

On Saturday, June 14, Lotus Tribe presents Elemental, the third installment of its quarterly hip-hop shows at Sam's Burger Joint. The seven-hour event will feature the four elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. So where does the basketball come in?

"We're trying to start a basketball league for seventh to ninth graders," says Lotus Tribe MC Mark Gonzalez. "Kids get caught up in negative things in the summer. We want to give the kids who are willing to put the work into it the chance to succeed - and take out their aggression in a positive way." The members of Lotus Tribe are soliciting other local hip-hop crews to sponsor the teams, made up of disadvantaged neighborhood kids from around the city. "We're taking 5,000 to 10,000 fliers into certain neighborhoods around public parks, where there are a lot of kids who need something to do." Lotus Tribe is hosting team tryouts on Saturday, June 15, and hopes to have the league engaged in a game schedule by July 1.

In the meantime, Lotus Tribe is focused on its first love - not fundraising, but showcasing local skills. "Our MC battles generate excitement," says Gonzalez. "We use the battle as a showcase and recruiting technique to hook up new musicians with beats, performances, guidance, and acceptance." The three-round battle at Elemental is designed to discourage combative, in-your-face MCing: First-round participants have to pull a topic out of a hat and flow for a full minute; second-round MCs are up against the beat juggling of a DJ intent on throwing off the flow of the freestyle. During the third round, the final four MCs standing battle it out old-skool-style. In between rounds, there will be DJ sets, b-boys and b-girls, and live graffiti art.

"We look for positivity," explains Gonzalez. "We're trying to create a healthy environment for people to act how they want." In the past, Lotus Tribe encountered problems with club owners

Saturday, June 14
$8 men, $5 women
All ages welcome
Sam's Burger Joint
1330 E. Grayson
who didn't want hip-hop in their venues. After jumping around at various spaces, the group found its home at Sam's Burger Joint. "We just want to be an outlet to anyone out there."

"San Antonio is a big city," says Lotus Tribe MC Jason Torres. "There is a need for what we're trying to do. People don't have to go to Austin all the time." In addition to cultivating the positive in hip-hop culture - which the group has gotten a hold on in its past two years of promoting and showcasing musicians and artists - Lotus Tribe is dedicated to influencing the local youth.

"We all love music - it's not just hip-hop - we're into media and different artistic outlets," says Torres. "One of our goals is to start a professional organization to teach kids about media. All of our profits go toward raising funds for this."

"We feel that working with kids is important," adds Gonzalez. "The structure of our society is governed by our elders, and a lot of what we want heard is left out because we keep quiet. Then too many talented kids in San Antonio don't want to be here because it's too conservative."

For a complete listing of all the talent participating in Elemental - or to get more information about the youth basketball league - contact Lotus Tribe at lotus_tribe @yahoo.com. •