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Local news: Producer Judah on "Bridging the Gap"

JudahLocal producer Judah documents the history of DMV hip-hop in his new documentary. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Back in November, in-demand D.C. beatmaker Judah organized a “DMV Day” photo shoot, a huge group portrait of DMV rappers inspired by Art Kane’s 1958 “A Great Day In Harlem” photograph. After pulling together that huge gathering of old school and new school D.C. rappers - everyone from Black Indian to X.O. - Judah decided to make a documentary, “Bridging the Gap,” a history of D.C., Maryland and Virginia hip-hop.

The producer tracks hip-hop in the D.C. area from its go-go beginnings through present day for the project, which screens April 17 at the Historical Society of DC. "Bridging the Gap" is a comprehensive, informative look at the scene - and it runs only 20 minutes long.

Click Track talked to Judah about pulling off the trick of telling the story of DMV hip-hop in less time than average sitcom episode.

The documentary covers a lot of ground, but it’s only 20 minutes long - why do something short? Was that always the plan?

Yeah, I gave my input and with the director, Andre Banks of ABB films [and Sophia "The Historian" Nelson of Ordinary People Books], we came together and decided to keep it as short as possible. We didn’t want to start losing people’s attention and have all the information start meshing together. We wanted to get straight down to the information and research, keep it short and quick.

Was part of the reasoning behind the short length to attract people who may not be familiar with the scene? People who may not sit down and watch a two-hour film about DMV hip-hop?

We wanted it to just light off a light bulb, to have people say, “Let me do my research and find out more information on DMV hip-hop.” Just give them a teaser, make them want to start Googling names themselves. We wanted to push them toward that rather than just giving them everything and not leaving room for their own research .

When you do this sort of project, there’s inevitably talk of who is included, who isn’t and why. How did you decide who to include - especially with the shorter length, was it hard to narrow it down?

We brought in a lot of older artists, so those of the newer scene can’t even dispute it. These people set the bar: we brought in older artists, more of the go-go artists/rappers, people you’d see back at the go-gos the open mics. They were here before [a lot of the newer rappers] even decided to pick up a microphone, so they can’t really talk about who was included and who wasn’t when they weren’t even around at the time when these trailblazers were blazing this trail.

You talk about go-go a lot in the film, you mention some of the great go-go rappers, like Fat Rodney and D.C. Scorpio, who are left out of the story of DMV hip-hop a lot of times. How important are go-go rappers to D.C. hip-hop? Are they still underrated?

I definitely think they don’t get credit they deserve - they’re classified as go-go, but they’re rappers as well. A lot tried to make the transition from go-go to straight-up hip-hop - some were successful, some weren’t. Some say go-go overshadowed hip-hop and hip-hop couldn’t reach its full potential in D.C., some say it helped hip-hop. Who knows? Who cares? A lot of the [go-go rappers] are more talented than a lot of the hip-hop artists. People try to draw lines, but who cares? If it wasn’t for go-go, a lot of us wouldn’t have a voice.

In the documentary, you talk to Section 8 Mob and Black Indian, artists who had deals in the '90s and seemed poised to help D.C. hip-hop go national. Now we have Wale and other folks who are making noise nationally - are there just periods when the area is hot on the national scene?

To be very honest, the spotlight is dimming right now. It was the hot thing at one point, when Wale was at the height of his hype, but the light is dimming. For the simple fact of what I call the “put on” factor. Look at every other region where an artist comes out and blows: Rick Ross is a prime example. He came out, got signed, and you see so many other artists from Florida getting deals, so many producers from Florida, like Cool and Dre, doing records for other people. You have DJ Khaled at his height.

So, the label sees potential, grabs artists from the area as soon as possible. Wale had a deal, but I don’t know any other [DMV] artists with a deal.

With the put on factor, if an artist has a major deal, 85 percent of their album needs to feature hometown producers, artists - that’s how you create opportunity and expose the talent in your area to the masses. If an artist isn’t give the chance to create that opportunity, the area doesn’t get put on.

When you look at Rick Ross’ first album, it was 80 percent Florida producers. Gucci is mainly Atlanta producers, then other artists will go to those producers to get the sound. Our artists get deals, but very seldom do you see DMV producers on a project - maybe one or two records, but not the whole album. It happens everywhere else, and it creates opportunity for hometown artists. I think the light is dimming real fast - the buzz surrounding the area isn’t like it was eight months ago or even six months ago.

I think we need another artist signed as soon as possible - we need a few artists signed that have solid, legit label situations and deals - we need that to cultivate our talent here.

“Bridging the Gap” screens Saturday, April 17 at the Historic Society of DC at Mount Vernon Square, 801 K. St NW.

By Sarah Godfrey  |  April 9, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Local news  | Tags: Bridging the Gap, DMV, Judah  
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Knowing the three minds behind this film, the information presented will be of great value to all who come out to see it. Whether you have followed DC Hip-Hop from the days of DC Scorpio and Stinky Dink, gained interest recently, or know nothing about it at all, it's a prideful history that deserves praise and an open floor for discussion on how to strengthen the present situation.

Posted by: DaSolo1MD | April 9, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

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