Proof Detroit hip hop is blowing up: Proof. The flannel-throated Detroit MC, member of 5 Elements (“Searchin’”) and Eminem/Bizarre’s Dirty Dozen collective of rappers, won hip-hop mag The Source’s freestyle battle competition last month in New York teamed up with 12 Tech Mob DJ Len Swann, beating out unsigned MCs from both coasts. Look for Proof’s solo full-length, as well as releases by the Dirty Dozen, soon.

Proof’s win completes an arc started when the nation’s attention first turned 313-ward when Slum Village’s John Doe produced spare, jazzy tracks for Busta Rhymes years back. His Detroit version of the East Coast’s spare-beats landed SV on A&M with a Busta-featuring single on the radio last summer. Detroit’s leading 1999 hip-hop export is Eminem, 24-year-old Marshall Mathers. After a year of hard rhyming that included cameos on records by Da Ruckus, Bizarre et al. and pushing his Slim Shady EP, he’s signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath/Interscope with his Marilyn Manson/Bill Clinton-parodying “What’s My Name” video, the second most played clip on MTV. And, while, yes, Mathers is white, his skills-first entry in the national hip-hop arena (he’s won national MC battle competitions and the Source’s “Unsigned Hype” award) and his, uh, subjective lyrics, add a crucial street-cred to the ICP/Kid Rock/white-rappers-from-Detroit lineage. He’s also paving the way for skills-first Detroit rappers such as Da Ruckus and Third Kind. (Both have strong records — Da Ruckus’s We Shine is the best pro-Detroit hip-hop anthem of the last two years — on Federation Records; more info: 888-924-3574).

So why is Detroit hip hop blowing up? Tastes have moved away from the boasting and toasting of the usual coastal playaz as unconventional acts like Timbaland and Outkast have expanded the usual Jeep-beat vernacular with new styles. And, for Detroit’s part, skill level is finally matching output. After a year of ICP, Eminem marks a return to street sensibility over sample-heavy sound biting that Detroit producers have shied away from anyway — the D’s underground aesthetic is a more vital alternative to mainstream rap. Nirvana, here we come. As Mixmaster Mike says, “It’s all about skills now.” Eminem’s debut drops Feb. 23; look for a Detroit record release party Feb. 28.


Detroit promoter and former Plus 8 party co-conspirator Tim Price has launched his own Out Of The Box Records label along with producer Boomer “Omegaman” Reynolds to release tracks by Detroit old-schoolers Mike Huckaby and D Wynn. The first 12”, Reynolds’ “Everybody Loves” is a hard-partyin’ house anthem with a B-side that dips tastefully into techno history for its sweeping strings. Available by the earful at a club near you. For more info: www.outof-thebox.com.


Fans of turntablistic bands are advised that the funky-not-funk Soul Clique, a DJ-featuring band of P-Funk sidemen, make a return visit to Hamtramck’s Lush Feb. 19, playing two sets as part of FM-fatale Liz Copeland’s weekly overnight-playlist fest. Info: 313-872-6220.


Ever listened to either of Planet E artist Common Factor’s great house-tech EPs and thought, “Boy, this’d make a great soundtrack”? Planet E is asking aspiring video directors to return the favor with its Common Factor Video Contest. Just use a CF track to score your film idea, dupe it onto tape and fire it off to Planet E at 139 Cadillac Square, Suite 601 Detroit, MI 48227 by March 10. The winner’ll be used as the actual video, and before you know it, you’re the Hype Williams of the dance underground. More info: 313-965-4227.


Last month, a rave promoter, irked by the strict enforcement of an 18-and-over policy at December’s “Wishlist” party (500 kids who didn’t have ID were denied entry), retaliated by throwing a party called “500 Kids Without ID.” Apparently rejecting other police-attracting names like “Curfew Breakin’,” “These Baggy Pants Are Good For Hiding Drugs, Better Bring The Red Rubber Glove,” or “Young, High, And Able To Make Bail,” the party flyer featured a Japanimation character licking a huge pill. Crackdown-weary ravers stayed away in droves; not even 500 kids — with or without ID — showed up.

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