Recognized for Rappin’

1987_regHip Hop Underground author Anthony Kwame Harrison reflects upon being an emcee in the Bay Area music scene

It was a magical feeling the first time I was recognized outside the scene as an emcee. “Wasn’t that you rappin’ at the Justice League the other night?” a guy in a yellow jacket yelled to me at the corner of Fifteenth Street and Church.  Then there was the time I managed to talk my way into a deejay booth freestyle cypher going on at a Lower Haight Street hip hop club.  All the other emcees on the mic that night were much more club-hit oriented in their deliveries.  They certainly weren’t fans of more avant-garde rapping styles like mine.  The moment I got on the mic, the deejay, who had had his back to me the entire time, turned around like “who the hell is that?!” After a minute or so some of the other emcees started tapping me on the shoulder to get off.  I got off and immediately exited the booth. Outside one of the regular emcees from the weekly open mic I took part in was waiting. “Thank You!” he said with a clasp of my hand and a quick embrace, “for bringing some flavor to the mic.” In the book these types of stories are kept to a minimum.

Participating in a scene so saturated with racial symbolism and meaning teaches a person a lot about race and ethnicity in the multiracial metropoles of the new America – especially when you pay attention. I’ve always paid attention, and been a little daring in testing race’s boundaries. Hip Hop Underground captures this, and shares the stories from the clubs, house-parties, open mics, record stores, curbsides, and recording studios of an important period in one of the great underground music scenes in America.

For video of emcee Mad Squirrel (aka Anthony Kwame Harrison, visit:–QT6aE6CJY

For more information about Hip Hop Underground, visit:

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