The death of the radio star, it seems, was just the half. Video has had far-reaching effects on music, particularly on hip-hop, where it’s helped transform the culture into one based largely on what was once a cardinal sin: biting. Since the beginning of March, Tableek, one of two emcees from the Springfield, Massachusetts-based group Maspyke, has been leading a thirty-plus-date tour designed to infuse hip-hop with a sense of independence — in the artistic, spitting-insightful-lyrics-and-exploring-new-sounds sense. The Video Trapped the Rapper tour — on the road until the final scheduled stop in New York on April 18 — includes performances by Percee P, Earatik Statik, Kev Brown, Doujah Raze, Count Bass D, including a host of guests along the way, such as veteran Sadat X. We sat down with Tableek to talk about his brainchild, a tour that is out to prove that hip-hop is and always will be a grassroots operation at its core. Forget chauffeured limos or kitted-out trucks when the Video tour rolls into town: It’s very likely that one of the emcees is behind the wheel himself.
Is this actually the second Video Trapped the Rapper tour?
Tableek: Yeah, this is number two. Last year we went out with me, Earatik Statik, a group out of Puerto Rico, Ciencia Fixion, and another cat from Bed Stuy — H the Great. That was the really, really independent tour. I mean, I have a certain audience and Earatik has their audience, but the group from Puerto Rico had never even been here before. But they would send an e-mail and like every Puerto Rican in Madison, Wisconsin would come out the woodwork and shit. So they had their little contingent at every show, so that was cool.
Where did you guys go on that tour?
Tableek: Everywhere east of the Mississippi that you would want to be at. A good twenty-six spots.
How did you know what spots to book?
Tableek: Well, there are places that I knew from touring with my group, Maspyke. And then it’s process of elimination, looking at where other tours like yours may have gone before. As far as hip-hop is concerned, if I see someone that I know went out to fucking Vail, Colorado, I know there’s a good chance that people out there are going to like what I do. I try not to hate on anybody who’s out there working, you know? Because even if I don’t necessarily like their music, they’re expanding the genre and creating an opportunity. I think there are definitely artists that are hurting what’s going on, but those are usually the cats that aren’t serious about it to begin with.
So this whole thing started with you?
Tableek: I spearheaded the tour, and it’s kind of like my pet project. I think the Internet has really allowed people like me to do something like this and not have to go to anybody else.
It definitely makes information more available and makes it a lot easier to communicate.
Tableek: Yeah, but there’s always problems. Like right now, I was working on sponsorship and it didn’t work out the way I wanted, and so now I can’t even bring [Maspyke] out on the tour.
Tableek: Cats want to get paid and they don’t want to commit unless certain things are in place, so Maspyke as a group is only going to do a couple dates.
But the way the tour works, you have a different lineup depending on where you are, right?
Tableek: Well, the people who are doing every date are me, Percee P, Earatik Statik and Asamov.
What about the other people involved?
Tableek: Words is doing three dates [Wordsworth has since had to pull off the tour due to scheduling difficulties], Sadat is doing the last five dates. In between we’ve got Kev Brown, there’s a cat named Approach We’re trying to get Count Bass D on a couple of dates. I’m really trying to make that happen, but if it doesn’t I’m definitely going to try to go out with him in the fall. Me and him have been clicking and connecting for a minute now, but we haven’t really been able to put something together yet. Because I love his music and we’re definitely on the same wave length in terms of just trying to stick to your own vision.
And Percee is Mr. Independent Low Budget
Tableek: Not anymore! Not with Stones Throw. I’ve got high expectations because we had done some things with Percee in the past. Like we used to do this thing in Massachusetts called Smoothies and Blunts. We did that three years in a row, and he came to the second one and just rocked it.
He’s actually the kind of emcee who gets his point across better live, I think.
Tableek: Yeah, and after that I had always wanted to do something with him again. And his record is going to be coming out soon after that, so it’s just going to help him even more.
What is Kev going to do? I love his beats, but what is his show like?
Tableek: Oh, he’s a dope performer. He raps, too, and has a nice stage presence. He’s funny and he usually has either Kenn Starr or Cy Young with him. So he’ll be out there for between, say, seven and nine dates, mostly in the South.
This isn’t a small tour, either. How many dates do you have?
Tableek: Right now there’s like thirty-four.
That’s big, man.
Tableek: Well, one of the things we really want to do is make this something we do every year. We want to really establish ourselves in as many places as we can, because next year’s tour will be a little more condensed and hopefully we can get one bigger act and get the sponsors more on board.
Do you have anyone in mind?
Tableek: Right now I’m considering Immortal Technique or Psycho Realm out on the West Coast, because they have a bigger base out there. And Immortal Technique because I can feel what he’s talking about and my son likes him. So I’d get a lot of cool-points from my kids for doing stuff with him. But I’ve got a whole list of cats I’d like to potentially get involved. The thing is really convincing them that you’re going to be able to get them what they need, and that means getting the sponsors involved earlier so things can be booked more in advance. I got things together early this year, but I’m thinking of getting started in late summer this time.
Are there any plans to make a record that will represent the tour?
Tableek: We’ll definitely have a mixtape with all the artists mixed by a deejay.
Who’s going to do that?
Tableek: The deejay who works with me, Oh Henry. Young cat, he’s got a lot of skills and he actually kind of studied under Roddy [deejay for Maspyke]. But we’ve got a little label thing through ABB, so if not a compilation then maybe some kind of a DVD. But I’m still working out how we’ll actually do the film aspect of it. I want to set up at least a couple of places where we can film whole shows and put that together with some on-the-road stuff. I’ve got a tour manager and I’m trying to convince him to do some camera work, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing you gotta do so… But it’s hard, because if I was going to do it right there’d be at least three or four cameras. But that’s money
And I think there’s enough bootleg-style hip-hop DVDs out there already, so unless you’re going to be able to do something
Tableek: Good, I know.
What were some of the better places you went last time?
Tableek: Champagne, Illinois.
Tableek: I always like Madison, Wisconsin.
That’s funny. I’ve heard that before.
Tableek: There’s another place near there called La Crosse, which is a really shitty little town, but we just had a good time there. Something must be in the cheese in Wisconsin or something, because the people there are wild. I don’t know. You wouldn’t really expect something like that from a cheese-producing society such as Wisconsin [Laughs] but that’s how it is. And, of course, I always like going to Atlanta.
Yeah, they definitely have a strong hip-hop community there. But it’s funny: I always assume the best shows are going to be in New York, Philly — the bigger places. But the people there sometimes end up being hardheads who don’t even move
Tableek: Pretty much.
You go to some of these other places, and they’re kind of starved, so you bring them something real and they go crazy for it.
Tableek: Exactly. You talk about New York? That’s the most jaded city in America.
Maybe in the world.
Tableek: They are just not impressed. It’s hard to impress people out here. They’ll come out for people that are established in the game, but for those crowds you have to light yourself on fire almost because they’re just convinced they’ve seen it all before. Straight up.
If you even nod your head or god forbid dance a little bit, people are looking at you like, Relax
Tableek: Yeah, why don’t you relax? Just watch the show. And half the crowd is artists and shit, mad because they’re not on stage.
But you’re ending the tour here right?
Tableek: That’s fine, though, because I don’t have to drive anywhere. Last year we ended the tour in San Antonio, Texas, and we had to drive all the way back to New York.
Why wouldn’t you just fly back?
Tableek: Because we had a van that had to come back here.
So this is strictly a van tour?
Tableek: Oh, yeah, man. Last year was dark side, son. We were in a mini-van last year.
You’ve gotta be due for some kind of upgrade this year.
Tableek: Yeah, we got a fifteen-passenger van. It’s still a van, but there’ll be more room for people. Last year we were working with a fucking Honda Odyssey. Which is a great vehicle. I highly recommend it. But for five and sometimes six grown men? Nah
Not a good look?
Tableek: Let me tell you, driving that van from San Antonio to New York? I never want to do that again. Never, ever, ever again. And that’s not even the worst part. We had stopped in North Carolina, and as we were getting back on the road, we get stopped by federal agents. I’m talking FBI, sheriff, DEA. They stopped us, made us get out the car in the sun, handcuffed us and went through every inch of the car looking for drugs. We ended up making it a light situation. Initially, my man was getting really pissed off, but I just had to tell him that we can’t do nothing right now so we might as well try to have a good time with this. So we started cracking jokes, laughing it up, talking about each other’s families and shit. And they actually found some crumbs of weed in the car, but they said that because we were cool about it they would let us go. And obviously if they wanted to they could have taken us in right there. They went through my drawers and shit, and I was like, “Y’all are some thorough motherfuckers,” but they did what they had to do. That opened my eyes to what could happen, because we were in something that looked like a family van, we weren’t in some pimped-out ride.
But come on, man, that’s down South. You put five brothers in a van and you’re going to get pulled over. But that’s the way to handle it because the minute you start running your mouth
Tableek: That’s how you get shot. It was more of a nuisance than anything. I mean, I still had weed on me, and we smoked that right after the cops left. Word up.
Does everyone take turns driving?
Tableek: Pretty much. You drive ’til you get tired, and then the next man drives ’til he gets tired.
And it’s nothing but artists in the van?
Tableek: Yeah, for the most part, but that makes it fun though. People are bugging out. You bring a little equipment to record. It’s cool.
Has it been hard booking venues?
Tableek: Well, we got lucky with Sadat. Last year we had Ed O.G. host a couple of dates, so it’s good to be able to include veterans of the game. Hip-hop is weird, anyway. Certain places, if you don’t come in with somebody like that, they don’t take you as being credible.
Well, it’s no secret that hip-hop heads are cheap, so you’re coming with the buffet table. That’s a good strategy because people are more likely to come out if they feel they’re getting more for their money.
Tableek: Oh, that’s definitely true. Hip-hop heads are notoriously cheap. Put that on the record. Honestly, I wish I could just pay everybody and make it so everybody would make money and everybody would be happy. But there’s so much politics involved and so much extra that comes with doing tours or even putting out records that it makes it almost impossible unless you don’t want to make anything for yourself. But it’s a give and take. I’m not mad at all. I’ve been able to feed my family and take care of myself making music, so I’m not mad at nobody. I would definitely like to see more opportunities for artists like myself because people do get stuck on this one certain sound, this one artist that’s “hot” or whatever, and you end up with a couple of artists representing this whole genre of music.
We’ve definitely been flooded over the years with people constantly doing the same shit. Een working on this piece remembering Jay Dee, you had one man that created a sound and then a thousand motherfuckers decided, That’s going to be my sound too
Tableek: A thousand on top of a thousand.
Even look at a person like 9th Wonder more recently. He sees a little success and then
Tableek: The floodgates open up.
And then that name associated with the sound is what labels use to try to play this guessing game for what’s going to sell or what’s going to book
Tableek: But again, I understand that. They want to go with a name that they feel that
That rings bells.
Tableek: Exactly. And I don’t even have a problem with that. That’s just how it is. You go to a store, you see soda on the shelf, you’re probably going to buy Coke because you know what it tastes like, you know what it looks like, you’re used to it. But a few people are going to say, “I done had Coke a thousand times. Let me try something different.” And those are the people that we’re trying to get out to the Video Trapped the Rapper Tour.