The Flesh Made Word

Throughout 1996 the Lounge continued its exponential growth. Hosts that year included Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, the Roots, and Jeru the Damaja. Kalodge received more and more tapes, while Lyricist Lounge increasingly became a liaison between the bedrooms where hip-hop dreams are born and the boardrooms where those dreams are (sometimes) made manifest.

"Before we started the Lounge," Marshall explains, "there were just records that kids would hear out, a rap video here and there they could catch. Parties were going on, but the majority of music in the clubs was house. It didn't feel like an artist vibe -- not that I knew of, at least. There was no scene. Hip-hop DJs were mix-tape DJs. There was stuff going on in the Bronx [where hip-hop culture first emerged in the Seventies], in Harlem, but we didn't know about it. When we started Lyricist Lounge, we wanted to put people on to what was going on and kinda make a scene for it. Now you can tell there's mad shit going on. There's an awareness that there's an unsigned following out there, and kids that are into hip-hop for the lyrics."

The recent creation of Open Mic Records means that the ranks of the unsigned are shrinking. The idea for a Lyricist Lounge-affiliated record label originated with Perry Landesberg, who approached Kalodge with the concept in 1996. They came to terms, and Landesberg signed on as Kalodge's fifth (and only white) CEO; he began brokering a distribution deal with Rawkus Records that would make Open Mic a reality. "The label is just an extension of the Lounge," Landesberg notes. "We're just showcasing artists on a broader scale."

This summer's Lyricist Lounge tour of the United States, adds Landesberg, is yet another extension. "We're gonna have a twelve-city tour and showcase artists from each city that we go to," he says. Each stop (a Miami date is confirmed for sometime in mid-August) will feature a celebrity host and a few marquee performers (Redman, De La Soul, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli are expected to appear at three or four shows). Unsigned performers will be selected from demo tapes. "A lot of up-and-coming artists around the country don't have an outlet for their creativity," explains Landesberg. "We're gonna bring it.

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