The Ohio Valley Hip Hop Awards branched out of an organization called the Ohio Valley African American Students Association (OVAASA). Wheeling native Ron Scott Jr. founded the organization which has a mission is to "advocate and promote educational achievement, higher learning and scholarship opportunities for the African American students in the Ohio Valley.”
Scott isn’t exactly a hip hop artist himself, but he and a group of self-proclaimed co-conspirators decided the association needed more emphasis on the arts, so they created something called The Movement. The goal: grow the hip hop scene in the valley. It started with a series of showcase events.
A New Opportunity
Ron Scott: We did [showcases] for three years and I was amazed at how many people would come out to perform and that was ALL THEY did with their art ALL YEAR. No venues would let them perform; they didn't have a way to sell their music; and they didn't even have much access to recording equipment. They were working all year, and would perform their hearts out, it was all they had. I wanted to give them more. I was thinking the same principals for OVAASA where I wanted kids to do more with their education by recognizing what they had done already. I figured, if we recognize them maybe that will be more motivation for them to want to do more. So the Ohio Valley Hip Hop Awards were born.
Q: What kind of a ceremony will it be? What will the event be like?
I guess I'm ripping off all of the award shows I’ve ever seen in my life. So kinda like the Grammys and the BET Awards. We’re going to have an audience, performances, presentations of awards. We even have clips of each nominee and we asked them a few questions for each category. It shows each nominee and lets them talk a little bit so you kind of get to know them.
We even have two specialty awards that address the community service portion of everything, because I didn’t want it to be just straight music. And we even partnered with Cloud 9 Salon & Spa; there’s a modeling competition. Those winners not only get a contract to do some print ads and some hair shows with Cloud 9, but they’re going to be in the Wheeling Christmas parade this year.
Q: How many hip hop artists are we talking about?
Scott: We have 19 artists. That’s all the nominees, and the artists who participated in the promotional cypher we did. Altogether we have 19.
The awards feature artists from West Virginia:
- Hancock County
- Brooke County
- Ohio County
- Marshall County
- Wetzel County
- Jefferson County
- Harrison County
- Belmont County
Q: You recently wrote and recorded a cypher, too. So explain what a cypher is and tell us about yours.
Scott: The cypher is one of those old staples of hip hop where artists that want to rap and - it has nothing to do with the business sort of side of hip hop. Artists stand in circles, either someone would beat box or freestyle accapella, and guys that think they got lyrics would just sit in the cypher and just go. It’s very different than battling because you’re not going against anyone; you’re just trying to show off and show your skills.
When the BET Awards started happening, they started recording and showing it and I always loved it because it was a raw side of these artists.
And as much as I love rap music, I could never do it like I wanted to. But when we were at the cypher recording the one for these awards, the guys just started tapping me. I spent probably 30 days trying to write a very small portion. Because, they measure in bars - everybody else is writing 16s, 32s. I think mine was about nine, maybe nine or eleven bars. But don’t get me wrong - it is eleven bars of fire. One of my proudest moments.
I give my son a bath sometimes (my one-year-old son) and I will just play it. And my other two will come in and they’re digging it, like, ‘Yeah, that’s my dad rapping!’
Scott: I think a lot of folks think [hip hop] is just gangster-y stuff where 100 people are getting shot in the face. And that isn’t the case. Everybody isn’t rapping about shooting. Everybody isn’t rapping about selling drugs. The best artists are rapping about their lives. And if that’s what they grew up in, that’s what they rap about. So I’m hoping people don’t get swayed by what they think hip hop is or what they might have seen on a couple of news shows or some videos. If they have any interest at all, just come down, check it out, and see if it’s what they thought.
Q: So if you aren’t a rapper, why pour so much effort into this? What’s in this for you?
Scott: I think my biggest motivation is seeing people pursue a passion. I love art and I love academics as well, but the only thing I love more than that is seeing folks DO something that they WANT to do. Most of these artists that are being honored haven’t received a dime for doing these things that they love. They’re spending out of pocket for studio time, for blank disks to burn. They’re spending their money and never getting recognized. They’re solely doing it because they LOVE it. And nothing drives me more than giving somebody a little push toward something that they LOVE doing.
There are too many folks out here today that go to work every day, or just live their life hating what they do, or fantasizing about doing something that they love. My opportunity to give these guys a chance to do it, and sit in a room full of people that will clap for them, and say ‘You are the best,” or, “I loved your CD the most,” that will do it all for me. I don’t need any other reward at all. Just to know that these folks are doing it is enough for me.
Ceremony is in the ballroom of the McLure Hotel, Saturday, February 20, 7:30 p.m.