Finding out why the San Diego Music Awards hates Hip Hop music

San Diego Music Awards

As far as I'm concerned, there will always be three hilariously unfortunate constants in San Diego: 

1) Videos of expensive cars getting flooded in Mission Valley;

2) The sight of full grown adults still lining up for Hodad's;

3) The San Diego Music Award hip hop nominees.

The first two, still funny; the last kinda just disrespectful at this point.

In truth, we understand complaining about the San Diego Music Awards is almost as old as the San Diego Music Awards, and with the 2018 SDMA Nominee list being announced over the weekend, it's no surprise that for another year we gotta reclaim our terrible tradition. 

For an awards ceremony that nominated Jason Mraz in 2003 when Jason Mraz should've been nominated, then kept nominating him every single following year cos 'fuck it why not,' there's a lot to be said and discussed. Fortunately, I don't know enough about San Diego Americana (almost positive that's a coffee style) or San Diego world music (for sure positive that's just a contradiction) to talk shit about the whole awards show. Instead, we're sticking to what we know: that Hip hop category.

THE 2018 HIP HOP NOMINEES: Bloodstone; Direkt Message; DJ PNutz; DND & Rick B; Parker Meridian; The Microphone Doctors; Vokab Company.

Let me just begin: I in no way mean disrespect to anyone on that list, and by the grace of Allah, I hope all their dreams come into fruition, but foreal, ya'll gotta be fucking kidding. As far I can remember, Access Hip Hop closed in 2016, and the style of rap that reigned supreme through those doors ended almost a decade before it. Now just who the hell is going to tell the SDMA?

Of course, this criticism is nothing new. One whole decade ago, the San Diego Reader published a piece criticizing the ceremony for it's cultural illiteracy regarding the hip hop scene in it's own backyard. In the piece, San Diego rap vet Blame One states, "I got nominated twice [in the past]. Second time, I didn’t even bother to show up.… Those cats don’t intend on helping out because they have no desire to understand hip-hop culture.” In 2009, at the time of publishing, the Hip hop category had been on it's twelfth year of inclusion in the ceremony. In the ten years since the piece ran, still nothing has changed.

So, who's to blame? I guess it's a little more complicated then that. 

In 2018, the San Diego City Beat ran their annual 'Best Of' voting polls. I like the City Beat, their writers, and their editor-in-chief, Seth Combs, a lot. With authentic representation in food, venues, bars and more, I also really enjoy reading their 'Best Of' picks. That was at least until I went through their list of Music categories—eagerly ready to vote for Amon, Eddie Zuko, Rossi Rock and more—and realized not only did these mfs leave off the greatest rappers in San Diego, they also conveniently left off 'Rap' as a genre altogether. 

Of course, the usual suspects were listed, acts like Robin Hinkle and The Bayou Brothers—and don't get me wrong man, I love to catch a dope ass 7pm zydeco set at House of Blues Mardi Gras every now and then—but to ignore literally the most popular music genre in the whole world (confirmed as of 2018) and pretend the shit ain't even going on in your own city isn't just a mistake, that's a damn calculated measure set in place to completely erase a culture. That, or at the very least, prevent it from ever growing further. In my eyes, both are a crime.

As an advocate of both music in San Diego and spending my spare time in vain, I wrote a letter to Combs and the paper. Here's a portion:

"If you haven't checked recently, it's not all amateur hour at the Epicentre anymore. South Bay's Rossirock just released an album on MadeinTYO's renowned label; Lemon Grove's Rob $tone just finished a national tour with Migos, Wiz Khalifa, and Snoop Dogg; Eddie Zuko recently received a virtual co-sign by Kendrick Lamar's Topp Dawg Ent.; San Marcos' Coastal's music is a playlist staple for major acts like RL Grime and Joekay [EDITOR'S NOTE: the polls also left off 'Electronic' music but that's a whole 'nother story]; etc. The list can go on and on.

I understand maybe the demographics don't exactly align, but as a weekly that positions itself as the more progressive, alternative and youth-oriented paper, a complete erasure of a large portion of San Diego's music scene is irresponsible. I know your 'Best of' list isn't the be all and end all, but for once, can we have a goddamn city-wide contest that actually acknowledges those making legitimate strides in black music? Cos I know damn well the San Diego Music Awards isn't it."


Within the hour, I received a reply. 

"Hi Andy. Thanks for this and I totally hear you. This isn't my department, however, and the contest is run entirely by the publishing side of the office. It's kind of an unspoken rule that they don't tell us what to write about and we don't tell them how to do their job. I will let them know tho that this is pretty ridiculous."

Well, that's fucking weird, I thought. A 'Best Of' awards that claims to be representative of a local youth-oriented magazine, yet nobody on the youth-oriented magazine has any input on the actual awards. That shit just didn't make sense. Who was this publishing side that maintained a grip on what music was being granted awards at the end of each year? Why were they so adamant about snubbing hip hop music? Of course, some digging into the magazine's publishing led me to one source: [NAME REDACTED].

[NAME REDACTED] is the City Beat’s publisher, though this information doesn’t seem to be readily accessible online. Who knows why. The only thing we do know is that [NAME REDACTED] not only runs the publishing for the City Beat, [NAME REDACTED] also just so happens to be the lead promoter for—yes, that's right you guessed it—the San Diego Music Awards. The same awards show that has almost made it an effort to drop the ball in terms of honoring local hip hop every single year.

So, we ask without malice: what is it? Why does [NAME REDACTED] and his award ceremony intentionally disregard the genre? Better yet, has this intentional snub by proxy of awards ceremonies and publication actually assisted in preventing local hip hop from flourishing within a larger media landscape in the city? With the print connection made clear, our biggest concern isn’t whether some rappers get a trophy or not, it’s in determining just how far this bias goes.

As cultural writers within and of the city, the musical history of San Diego is endowed by our coverage and archival. Award ceremonies may not mean shit, but writing names into history carries larger implications than just a trophy. It gives leeway for future generations to study their predecessors and build from their legacies, and with hip hop music showing no signs of decreasing in influence, why not begin taking it’s local talent serious? Why not take the step in covering and nominating those who deserve to be recognized?

Who knows.

All we know is ya'll need to find out how much Vokab Company sells features for. Until then, I guess that's the only way you getting your raps heard at the SDMA.

UPDATE: As of September 2018, [NAME REDACTED] is no longer affiliated with the San DIego City Beat. His role as the promoter of the San Diego Music Awards and his uncertain disregard for hip hop, however, still stand.

- -

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Certain names and details have been redacted for the greater good of starting a conversation and not starting personal shit. Plus, a lot of these mfs rich as hell and could probably sue, so ya’ll can just put two and two together. Thanks.]