CMJ’s Import/Export International Hip Hop Showcase Demonstrates Genre’s Worldwide Appeal

MC Melodee performs at the 2013 CMJ Import/Export: International Hip Hop Showcase
MC Melodee performs at the 2013 CMJ Import/Export: International Hip Hop Showcase

MC Melodee asked me where the stage manager was, politely, sweetly. Her cute, honey-brown skinned face framed by long, rambunctiously curly hair. We spoke a few minutes after that, before she hit the stage, as she worked out the butterflies likely fluttering throughout her nervous system.

She seemed like a nice girl.

And then, it was her time.

Touching the stage, she immediately exploded into a hearty-voiced, emphatic rapstress, morphing from eye-twinkling jokester, to a fiery purveyor of lyrical prowess and powerful flow over old school-infused beats. The influences of veteran female MCs Lyte and Roxanne Shante were clear, but not overpowering.

The lyrics were a mix of braggadocio and thoughtfulness. The beats were a mix of classic instrumentals and creative head-nodders, provided by world renowned production/remix team Cooking Soul.

Girl power, sure, but more important, MC Melodee is an MC that embodies the classic values of hip hop music, an obvious reverence for the roots of the music and associated culture. Female or not, MC Melodee is an MC of the highest order, one that knows how to move the crowd in the tradition of all those who came before her.

Oh. And she’s from The Netherlands.

This vibe was repeated through the evening, prior to, and after her performance, as several artists from around the globe touched the stage at DROM for the 6th annual incarnation of Import/Export: International Hip Hop Showcase, as part of the monstrous CMJ Music Marathon.

Some, like MC Melodee, England export Ikes and Canadian upstart Devon Tracy spoke perfect English. Others, including Russia’s Krussia, stuck mostly to their native tongue but could certainly communicate well enough to engage the small, but engaged assemblage, all who clearly understood the appeal of hip hop from an international perspective.

As I wrote about in my recap of L’Original Festival, a yearly celebration of hip hop music and culture in Lyon, France, there is a certain appeal to viewing hip hop artists from other corners of the globe. Even with a language barrier, true fans of the music gain new perspective when watching how the influence of this uniquely American artform has directed the musical careers of performers located thousands of miles away, geographically and culturally.

This was personified perfectly by the performance of Rude Beats, hailing from The Netherlands, who put on an absolute clinic on combining beatboxing, live looping, instrumental and vocal styling. With a bit of help from technology, Rude Beats (who was personally perfectly un-rude) weaved rap and R&B styles throughout his impressive performance, proving himself a true modern hip hop renaissance man.

The host country was represented by songstress (and sometimes spittress) Adrienne Mack-Davis, who commanded the stage with her heartfelt delivery and personable down-to-Earthness. Joining her for a couple of spirited numbers, Jim McMcElwaine on saxophone and a rapping Felecia Cruz, all while DJ Mikey Fresh adeptly held down turntable duties.

Adrienne Mack-Davis
Adrienne Mack-Davis

For some artists, the “Southern” influence of mainstream U.S. hip hop music was noticeable, but most seemed to incorporate modern re-imagination of traditionalist hip hop production, a trend we’ve been following, particularly with New York artists and other, less-trap-music-influenced acts throughout the country.

That being said, there was certainly hip hop and hip hop-styled music for everyone in attendance at Import/Export (including the hundreds tuned in via live video streaming technology), and while the concept of a New Yorker discovering a new hip hop artist to follow at a showcase highlighting international artists might seem a bit counter-intuitive, it should not be.

In fact, as we watch the International hip hop scene grow, both in terms of grand overseas events and festivals as well as the interest by American audiences, the Import/Export: International Hip Hop Showcase is a perfect example of the type of event that hip hop purists, traditionalists, younger, open-minded fans and general music aficionados should absolutely attend and support.

Import/Export: The International Hip Hop Showcase, which took place during the CMJ Music Marathon festival on October 17, 2013, was presented by The Bloom Effect and INDMusic.