Rochester — Joe McShann has been bringing hip-hop to Rochester venues for years, but many of them are new.
Last year, hip-hop artist Nur-D headlined the Rochester Civic Music Down by the Riverside concert alongside McShann, who opened for Jay Havoc.
“It was a really fun time and a positive experience,” McShan said. “It also means, ‘Damn, it’s about time.'”
Other shows that brought hip-hop to mainstream venues include Atmosphere at Rochester Civic Theater in 2014, POS at Folager Brewery in 2017, and multiple hip-hop performers at Old Castle.
“I think we’re on the right track,” McShann said, adding that there are more opportunities for hip-hop artists than there were ten years ago.
“There’s still some perception of ‘Oh, they’re going to bring trouble, they’re going to bring trouble,’ and people are clutching their pearls,” he added. “But it opens a lot of new doors.”
Nate Burckhalter, who plays Nathan Smooth, passed through one of them and made his performance debut on May 21, 2023 at the Art of the Avenue in Rochester’s Slattery Park neighborhood.
Both Burckhalter and Makshan have released new albums. Burckhalter released a nine-track album, Extremely Blessed, Exceptionally Bright, last month, while McShann released a 14-track project, The Only Way Out is Through.
Burckhalter said he is happy about his first album, which will follow 2022’s single “10,000 Lakes.”
Burckhalter said Rochester doesn’t have a venue dedicated to hip-hop, but there are opportunities to perform.
“I think it’s more about the people and what they want to see than the venue,” he said.
He added that interest in hip-hop music is growing locally.
“I think we’re just a little bit closer to having big events and events to take us to another level,” he said.
Burckhalter’s performance in a short live version of “10,000 Lakes” was well received. At the time, he did not perform any songs from the new album.
“I like to soak things up before I play them live,” he said.
McShann said it would be good to open more doors for new performers like Smooth. He said his work ethic is already creating opportunities for the up-and-coming artist.
“The only way out is through”
McShann’s album The Only Way Out is Through is the culmination of three turbulent years, including a pandemic, the loss of friends and a statewide investigation into racial injustice.
“We have these traumas, but we don’t spend a lot of time dealing with them, we just keep moving forward,” he said. “Everything happened in quick succession.”
McShann said he also made the album to reflect on the past three years and help others do the same.
“It’s going to be as hard work to get back on track as it is to get over it,” he says. “And you can’t improve the situation unless you get over it.”
The project included collaborations with various artists, including cover art by Bobby Mullins and guitar tracks by Fires of Denmark’s Mike Terrill.
“Very blessed and very bright”
After releasing the first single, Burkhalter began working on a full-length album. It’s “very blessed, very bright”. He began working on the songs for this project to give more context to his upcoming album. He first completed this short album at Hideaway Studios in Minneapolis.
For the longer full-length album, Burckhalter said about a third was completed.