Manifesto destiny

Five years ago this week, a group of 40 to 50 San Antonio hip-hop enthusiasts gathered at the Ellis Bean warehouse in Southtown to lay the groundwork for an underground movement.

Armed with a seven-page manifesto and some snazzy T-shirts bearing the name Prhymemates, the group’s brain trust — DJ Scuba and emcees Mic Dagger and Cros-One — had an ambitious plan: “Prhymemates is an organization dedicated to establishing and nurturing the overall hip-hop scene by means of collaborating with fellow artists and enthusiasts, while coordinating events and projects that will serve as a platform for exposure,” their mission statement read. Five years later, that goal still rings true.

“Basically we had been brainstorming in the studio about the fact that everybody was working on projects and art and music, but overall there was a general lack of hip-hop scene, per se, in San Antonio,” says Steve Balser, aka Scuba. “There were weeklies going on with the DJs and a couple of local crews but there was nobody tour-wise ever coming through San Antonio. We’d all go to the same shows in Austin and see the same 50 and 60 people from San Antonio and we just reached the point where we thought, ‘Wait a minute, we’re a bigger metropolis than Austin is. Why are they getting all the shows and nobody here is doing anything?’”

The initial concept for the Prhymemates was simple. Artists and general supporters could sign up for a membership, pay monthly dues of $20 and receive benefits like free entrance to all Prhymemates shows, free music and T-shirts, and the chance to participate actively within the burgeoning scene. According to Balser, after about a year the group developed significant momentum and enough of a following to secure corporate sponsorships from companies such as Scion and Red Bull and forgo monthly membership dues. They currently rely on less than 10 individual who they can “count on” or “are really down for the cause,” after topping out with about 20 members after the initial meeting.

The list of acts the Prhymemates have brought to the Alamo City is impressive, at least in indie hip-hop terms: the Micronots, Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Mr. Dibbs, Eyedea and Abilities, Jedi Mind Tricks, Quell and Typical Cats, Del the Funky Homosapien, Aceyalone, Abstract Rude, 2Mex, the Triple Threat DJs, Psalm One, and MC Paul Barman. The crew also worked promotions when Talib Kweli, MF Doom, and Snoop Dogg finally decided to roll through town.

“The main thing is always going to be Clogged Caps,” says Balser, referring to the organization’s annual international graffiti festival. “It’s amazing how people get so caught up in their everyday life where everybody has so many responsibilities and the stresses of life in general and they can’t always help out for every concert, but when Clogged Caps happens, everybody who’s been down with this crew drops what they’re doing and says ‘What do I gotta do?’”

Clogged Caps, the group’s signature event (founded by San Antonio graffiti icon Supher), has played a major role in getting the Prhymemates name recognized outside the Alamo City and Texas. All of the 13 goals set by the crew five years ago have been accomplished in one capacity or another, or slowly evolved through growing pains.

Still, the organization is not without its detractors. There are some who have branded the Prhymemates as homophobic due to some questionable content on their message board. Balser’s response is that “the Prhymemates are by no means a bigoted organization.” He quickly points out that some of their events have taken place at local gay bars and that “the Prhymemates message board is by no means a true representation of the Prhymemates.”

Then there are those who point out that African-Americans are not strongly represented at Prhymemates functions, either in the crowd or onstage, which raises eyebrows about authenticity, particularly in an art form rooted in the African-American experience. Hip-hop culture unquestionably transcends race and several ethnic groups had a part in its creation, from graffiti to b-boying to the development of its musical components, but regardless of the boundaries it has crossed, rap music is still at its heart black music.

“To each his own,” Balser responds. “There’s not a lot of people who are really into what we do. What I think you need to do to come up with a question like that, you’d have to have numbers to break down San Antonio’s racial divide. What’s the percentage of African-Americans in San Antonio, versus Latinos, versus Caucasians, etc. For the majority of the stuff that we bring down, the national and regional touring acts, we’re looking at maybe 100 to 300 people. You can go out to a club where they’re gonna be playing all the current radio hits and it’s a whole different story. Bottom line is it’s hip-hop.”

For now, the Prhymemates are deservedly ready to celebrate the strides made over the past five years and focus on the positive elements of their influence over San Antonio. The crew is responsible for bringing a slew of amazing acts to the Alamo City which otherwise never would have stopped through, and facilitating personal connections to the artists that last long after they are gone. There are now more alt-hip-hop shows on college radio in San Antonio than before their existence, and the organization is also basking in the glow of the Yard, a new retail outlet owned by Prhymemates architect Mic Dagger, and generally viewed as a Prhymemates endeavor.

To mark their anniversary, the crew is bringing Bronx graffiti legend Cope 2 back to San Antonio and Southtown. It’s a move that rightfully brings everything full circle. 

Prhymemates Fifth Anniversary Party
10pm Sat, Jul 21
Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar
1033 Ave. B