AMX and the Growing Hip Hop Movement in ATX

One of the things that surprised me when I moved to Austin four years ago was that in “the music capital of the world” so little hip hop was performed, heard, and announced in the local venues and media outlets. Although the hip hop movement has been thriving in Austin for decades, it has been until recent years that it has started to gain more recognition and visibility. Hip hop is growing in ATX. There is not an identifiable Austinite hip hop style yet such as the one from Houston, Atlanta, or LA, but artists and fans from different areas of town have become more connected and have been strengthening their community. What it seemed to be a fragmented movement with different unknown scenes spread across the Austin metropolitan area are now in the process of becoming a more unified, although still diverse scene. The emergence of the Austin Mic Exchange (AMX) as an open platform for performance and networking provides a good example of how the hip hop movement in Austin is evolving and how hip hop creative entrepreneurs are leveraging (and remixing) the resources available in the city in order to support their local community and movement.

Austin Mic Exchange (AMX)

Since 2012, every Tuesday night, local MCs, DJs, and fans get together at the Spiderhouse Ballroom in 29th St. and participate in a free open mic event that last for almost 3 hours. Approximately 25 acts are performed each night. The performances vary from single to duos to whole crews of MCs. My favorite part of this scene is how diverse and open it is. The open nature of the AMX platform supports all kinds of hip hop artists with different styles, colors, ethnicities, skills, genres and ages. Anyone can sign to be on the stage at AMX, and anyone can also enter the Ballroom. Both for free. Even youngsters under 21 can participate on it and in fact, some of the AMX regulars are young people who recently graduated from high school. The low barriers to entry to AMX have made this scene an important platform for the convergence of both aspiring and advanced hip hop artists that come from all areas of Austin to listen, perform, connect with peers and with fans, and engage in a lively exchange of ideas and artifacts.

Adam “P-Tek” Protextor, a young rapper who moved to Austin from the mid west in 2008, together with Miss. Manners, a Virginia native and the host of the local KOOP hip hop hooray radio show since 2007, started AMX in 2012 with the idea of supporting the local hip hop community and create a space where the fragmented Austin hip hop scene could meet. AMX has proven to be quite successful not only locally but even regionally. Every week the venue of the Spider Ballroom, a hybrid of a bar, a theater and a disco club, is packed with an audience of approximately 60 people that are a mix of fans and hip hop artists. P-Tek is the regular host. He is on the stage introducing the performances of all the MCs who wrote their name in the sign-up sheet and he also is the one who opens and closes the event inviting MCs to get on stage for a freestyle session. This kind of freestyle communal performance is one of my favorite parts of AMX. The stage can get as crowded as with 30 MCs and each of them rhymes 8-bars verses and then pass the mic to the next, creating a sort of collective poem in which all the voices are interlaced. AMX is also quite flexible and can change its open mic format and become an MC battle, or a special Bloc Party with famous local hip hop artists performances. This kind of flexibility has turned out to be succeful for attractig more local hip hop artists and fans.

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