Houston has a rap pedigree that goes back for generations. Dallas has also produced great hip hop, and the same goes for San Antonio. Austin’s contribution to music, on the other hand, has gravitated towards guitar picking and live outdoor festivals, a reputation we’ve been happy to embrace.
Pay closer attention to what’s happening with our live music scene, though. Austin Mic Exchange is rewriting what it means to be the Live Music Capital of the World by growing a DIY hip hop culture right here in Austin, Texas.
Everybody’s Invited to Austin Mic Exchange
Austin Mic Exchange began in 2012 with weekly open mics at Spider House Ballroom. It has been going strong ever since, every Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The stage is open to anyone brave enough to pick up the mic, so you’ll see artists of all types perform. You’ll see lyricists twist multi-syllabic bars right after a rap group walks off stage. Austin Mic Exchange doesn’t discriminate based on what’s hot right now, or what some critics would call “real rap” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). If you’re an artist, there is a place for you here.
Every time I go, I see the group cheer on at least one novice with close to no live experience. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to get on stage to perform for the first time. Austin is lucky to have such a supportive hip hop community through Austin Mic Exchange.
Growing Our Own Hip Hop Legacy
We can’t draw on a long tradition of hip hop like Houston, so we have to build our own. Austin Mic Exchange helps grow the genre be giving artists a safe place to experiment. That’s how culture is established, by locals collaborating and experimenting long enough to find their voices.
The open mics tend to be straightforward. If you have a song, you sign up on the list and bring your backing production. The DJ calls artists on stage for the opportunity to perform. There is no fee. Most of the performers are local acts that use Austin Mic Exchange as an opportunity to hone their craft and network with other musicians.
This open and welcoming atmosphere extends from the people running the show to the people watching it. Even if you bomb on stage, it’s not a big deal. That’s part of the process. I love checking in with Austin Mic Exchange every now and then to see how the artists are evolving. It’s an awesome thing to see first hand.
There’s something charming about the underdog quality of our budding hip hop scene. Slowly but surely, it is growing in a city that doesn’t have a lot of appreciation for the genre. Every year the scene gets a little bigger, with more Austinites being introduced.
If hip hop is similar to any other genre of music, it would be punk. The ethos of both genres are fundamentally DIY: give young, passionate people a creative outlet to express themselves musically, and see what happens. What you end up with can be political; it can be angry; it can be good music that hits something inside of you. It all starts with giving a community the means to create music and experiment. This is what Austin Mic Exchange brings to Austin.
2908 Fruth St. – Website
@DustyVegas wants to know:
Which hip hop artists have you seen performing in Austin?