SXSW 2012: Reflections Of A First Timer

Have you ever experienced the bowl of cereal dilemma? You know, that perpetual frustration you feel when you have either too much milk in the bowl, or too much cereal and not enough milk in the bowl, so you continuously pour additional amounts of the one that you are lacking into that darn bowl...until you have literally eaten tons more than you planned, all in the name of evening the milk and the cereal up?

This happens to me with Lucky Charms a lot, and conversely, I tend to feel the same thing with Hip-Hop.

My first South By South West (SXSW) experience was something unimaginable before I actually saw it for myself. I had been prepped by so many and yet, nothing prepared me for what I was going to come across when I got there. It’s the type of thing people discuss in front of you and then say, “You just had to be there!” And you always wish that you were.

This thing, this hodgepodge of people, events, and music everywhere you turned was awe-inspiring. There were people that took your breath away for various reasons. I saw everything from a Black girl in Black-face, to Asian Dancers doing acrobatic flips in the middle of 6th Street.

But the music was something that took hold of me and physically changed who I am fundamentally. I watched this Hip-Hop stew simmer and thicken over the last week in Austin, knowing that as the days went on and it was allowed to just bubble and cook, all the different components would eventually become one. I could not have been any closer to the truth if I tried.

During the course of the last week, I watched so many different components of Hip-Hop come together. We observed a pot full of: Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Jean Grae, Wiz Khalifa, Slaughterhouse, Kanye West, Mystikal, 40 Glocc, Raekwon, LeCrae, Weezy, Soul Khan, 50 Cent, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Nas, Homeboy Sandman, Jon Connor, RoQy TyRaiD, Boog Brown, The Bodega Brovas, Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, MGK, Bun B, Smoke DZA, Mobb Deep, Brother, Ali and so many others that made our stew a homogenous one-pot wonder, perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of each genre of Hip-Hop music!

Whether we are speaking of DJ Premier, DJ Spintelect,Young Guru, or DJ Charlie White, the DJs and show hosts definitely went all in to keep the various parties, showcases, and events running smoothly, meanwhile keeping everyone entertained. Some had to do a little bit extra in order to make that happen, and they stepped up to the plate flawlessly when called upon. Young Guru was definitely no exception to that rule, and everyone at the Breeding Ground event at the Vibe House was thankful for this at various times during the evening on Friday.

I saw a sea of Hip-Hop enthusiasts, all enthralled with what they were hearing. Whether they were in the streets or in the nicest of venues, heads were present and they brought the passion out in us all. Each venue set forth a different sentiment, and all of them were successful in showcasing something for everyone flowing across their stages.

I was mystified at the fact that even I, Skyyhook, the Hip-Hop cynic, was bobbing my head right along with the majority of others in every show that I went to regardless of the artist on the stage. I opened up and allowed myself to enjoy the music across all platforms. I am proud of this, as it was a long time coming for me. I allowed myself to experience the music in its purist phase, and whether it was a plush venue with couches and candles, or a grimy spot with backpacks as far as the eye could see, I heard the music in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself to in a long time. A few artists got a new fan this past week, but I’ll keep that part to myself!

Lastly, I got the distinct pleasure of walking along the streets of Austin and hanging out in the venues with the Senior Management Team of I got to learn lessons that no panel or seminar could have ever given to me. For this, too, I am truly grateful. This was the experience of a lifetime because I was able to see the complete picture of SXSW through the lens of all parties - this is truly rare.

My bowl of Hip-Hop cereal was the perfect amount of milk and cereal. At times, it was overrun with a few unnecessary bits, but for the most part, it was a little bowl of Hip-Hop heaven forever known as SXSW. For all of its differences, in the end it was all one thing, Hip-Hop…it was All Hip Hop.

Skyyhook is CEO/FOUNDER/General Manager of Skyyhook Radio and a contributor for Follow her on Twitter (@SkyyhookRadio).