ObSceNE: A Tribute One Year Since Its Inception

I’ve written it before, and I’ll likely write it again. ObSceNE is one of the most important things to happen to North East hip-hop. Not just recently, not even just during my time covering the sceNE but ever. 

Hash Rotten Hippo had already cemented Grant Seymour’s legacy in our culture by giving social media promotion to local artists. If Hash’s Facebook page became an unofficial online hub for hip-hop artists from the North East of England, ObSceNE became the official real world hub for the culture. 

It’s been a year since the first ObsceNE took place in Gateshead’s Arch Sixteen Cafe. Sadly, it would appear the open mic event has been put on hold, but I think everyone who has ever gone to an ObSceNE is hoping for its return in the near future. Although I didn’t attend every ObSceNE, I loved every one that I experienced. There’s a lot of love given to ObSequel, which I missed, but I still remember being awestruck this time last year for the opening. Nobody quite knew what to expect – including Grant himself. 

While the open mic event in Arch Sixteen Cafe would become known for giving a platform to fresh up-and-comers like NE Dons and Eum, that first ObSceNE brought everybody together. From the OG hip-hop heads to the new school grime MCs and everybody in between. Across ObSceNE’s initial nine month run there were some iconic performances. That’s not to say there weren’t some forgettable sets, and some were memorable for all the wrong reasons but they all added to the charm of ObSceNE. Watching the development of a newer artist becoming better and better each month was wonderful. 

During a first-watch of Eum’s ‘Long Roads.’ video, I marvelled at how great he’s grown in such a short space of time. From a teenager observing the SceNE from the sidelines to a young man hotly tipped as one of the best emerging talents, making fans of Rick Fury, King Hippo and 90BRO. Without ObSceNE, Eum’s talent would have shone eventually but I’m not sure we would see him reaching his potential at such a rapid pace. 

Eum exemplifies something Grant told me in an Facebook Messenger interview about his hopes for ObSceNE. It was always supposed to be way more than an open mic. Even though music was always centre stage, the social aspect to ObSceNE was key. Even though Eum’s link-up with King Hippo came at another event and 90BRO knew about the Macabre.Blossoms rapper prior to their monthly Arch Sixteen meetings, being able to mingle with other heads from the North East at ObSceNE undoubtedly helped sew the seeds for Eum.

Another initial motivator behind putting on open mic events for Hash was to give rappers a chance to develop their performances. A year ago local rappers would often complain of a lack of opportunities to support bigger artists when they come to the city on tour. The problem was, promoters had no idea how many of the regions MCs could put on a show outside of a select few who were already getting bookings. They soon woke up after the first ObSceNE and the buzz online after each event. Considering one of Newcastle’s biggest gig promoters wanted to take ObSceNE on, its testament to the impact the open mic night had on North East hip-hop.

Of course, Hash made the right call not moving ObSceNE. Arch Sixteen Cafe was perfect. Intimate and independent, the venue was integral to ObSceNE’s success. It’s important to note that while Grant deserves all the plaudits he receives for making the open mic night work, he wasn’t alone. 

Wu-Tang Pam has a place in all of our hearts because of how welcome she made us all feel even though there were plenty of reasons to shut the show down on a few occasions. Pam understood the way hip-hop artists seemed to all be tarred with the same brush because of the actions of a few and stood by ObSceNE to ensure a local sub-culture often ignored, and worse, banned from some venues, was given a space to grow and develop. 

Likewise 90BRO’s work as a DJ, and everyone else who put in work behind the scenes of ObSceNE for the good of the sceNE deserves more recognition. But recognition for themselves was never what it was about. I imagine Grant and co., are beaming with pride looking at the line-ups for local music festivals Meet The North and Evolution Emerging. Many of the acts performing at each made appearances and honed their craft at ObSceNE. 

Couple all of the above with the return of E-Mence, the rise of RideMusic, Big Fletch bringing crowds to an open mic night like he was headlining, “Pull out game Excalibur”, North East hip-hop being featured in Fly Emirates’ in-house (on-plane?) magazine and perhaps most importantly taking away the quotation marks and capitalising the NE in SceNE. ObSceNE’s impact is almost unquantifiable. 

Long live ObSceNE, in our memories and hearts, even if not in 2018 or beyond.

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