Evans: 'It comes down to filling the void that is there right now with local hip-hop.'
Madison hip-hop artists may finally have a supportive local venue thanks to a collaboration between two local figures with a passion for the genre. Joining the payroll at the Frequency is Shah Evans, an independent concert promoter who's also the vice president of the Urban Community Arts Network (UCAN), an organization that advocates for Madison-area hip-hop acts. Evans will serve as a booking agent and social media specialist, bringing local hip-hop artists to the Frequency's stage with the blessing of owner Darwin Sampson.
Sampson's landlord, Larry Lichte, had been wary about allowing hip-hop at the venue, but things have changed over the past few months. Evans says local media attention helped clarify some of the misconceptions and problems dogging local hip-hop artists, noting that Lichte "came down and talked to Darwin about hip-hop and started saying maybe he doesn’t understand everything."
Evans was impressed by Lichte's change of heart.
"He wanted to understand; he became very open-minded about everything," Evans notes.
Sampson's relationship with Evans has been building for several years, and the two have exchanged numerous emails about how to bring hip-hop to the venue. They've also met to discuss ways break down stereotypes about the genre.
"When I knew we could start bringing hip-hop back to the Frequency, I knew it would be a slow [process]," Evans says.
He agreed to promote a July 7 show with Cage and Sadistik to ensure it went smoothly. In the process, he saw an opportunity that could benefit his own business as well as Sampson's: He could book acts through the Frequency instead of doing it as an independent entity.
"I said [to Sampson], 'It would be a lot easier if everything's going through the Frequency. I'm willing to take less money booking the acts... This way local acts can actually get paid,'" Evans notes, adding that the focus will be on Madison hip-hop artists rather than touring acts.
"There's a need for it, and it comes down to filling the void that is there right now with local hip-hop," he explains. "Darwin’s all about the local scene. He always has been about the local scene, and he wants to change people's perceptions of it. So that's my job: to bring in local hip-hop acts and make sure they run smoothly."
Evans will continue his role with UCAN and keep running his own promotion business.
"Darwin isn't making me stop doing shows elsewhere. But for conflict-of-interest reasons, when there's a UCAN show, I'll be there as a promoter, not working for the Frequency," he explains.
Evans will handle all of the venue's the hip-hop booking for his first few months, in addition to updating its website and overseeing its social media efforts. After that, he'll begin booking artists from a variety of musical genres. He also looks forward to working with others who book and promote shows.
"Sometimes we'll have [another] promoter work with us," he notes. "If a new promoter comes in and wants to do a show... I know what to look for."
Evans predicts that making hip-hop an integral part of the Frequency's lineup will have far-reaching effects for the artists who call Madison home. He also hopes it will boost his career and raise the profile of the venue.
"I've been in Madison six years, and I've never seen this done," he says. "It's a good look for both of us."