HipStory brings inclusive house party scene online

Muñeca Diaz remembers her favorite HipStory house party. After Boston’s BAMS fest in 2018, Diaz, who was then an intern with digital media production company HipStory, came to the party knowing almost no one. Working the door to the event, which featured performances by Bakari J.B, Anson Raps, Anjimile and Dzidzor, she remembers the inclusiveness of the scene.

“I was super shy and reserved, but the second I walked in, everyone was welcoming and warm,” said Diaz, who is now the booking and outreach manager at HipStory. “I saw how eager everyone was to hear the music and be a part of the experience. It felt like a real house party. It felt like being with family.”

A digital media production company with deep roots in the Boston music community, HipStory now has the difficult task of recreating the magic of their house parties without the house.

With no studio or club to gather in, HipStory has moved the series online, hosting its third virtual bash on Saturday night — find the organization on social media or at hipstory.org. A “PayWhatYouCan” event with proceeds benefiting local grassroots organization City Life/Vida Urbana, the week’s installment features radically strange and creative Mass hip-hop artist Pink Navel, Portland producer-rapper-singer-innovator Just Plain Jones and Boston-based singer-songwriter Steve Chandy.

  • JULY 31, 2020 – Singer Steve Chandy, aka Barefoot Chandy. Photo courtesy HipStory production company

  • JULY 31, 2020 – Artist Patrick Jones, aka Just Plain Jones. Photo courtesy HipStory production company

  • JULY 31, 2020 – Hip-hop artist Pink Navel. Photo courtesy HipStory production company

For Pink Navel, online stages create a lifeline to work and art.

“I went from going on at least two tours a year to having all mine and my colleagues’ shows canceled,” they said (Pink Navel uses they/them pronouns). “With this comes worry of course, and scheming on how those lost funds will be made up for. However, what also happened was a full stop on performance opportunities, something that I personally hold dear. I rap and perform rap songs because it gives me a fire that no other activity on this planet does. So, honestly, I’ve been accepting every offer I get for internet shows and streamed events, because I’ve been clutching to that part of my life that has been obstructed and halted.”

The party is a chance to connect with an active audience. Since its inception a decade ago, HipStory has been building bridges between fans and acts that don’t neatly fit into any genre (this makes sense considering singer-songwriter-rapper-filmmaker Cliff Notez co-founded the organization). Diaz makes booking people of color and nonbinary artists a priority but the bottom line is that every act has to crush it with unique energy.

“Because of prejudice and stereotyping, some people assume that if a musician isn’t a straight man, they aren’t killer rappers or artists,” Diaz said. “I’m a female bassist, and I know what it feels like to have people believe you can’t play just because you’re a girl. A lot of the artists we book can rap circles around men but haven’t been allowed to show people that. Once they have this platform and space to perform, they consistently show people that they’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Pink Navel typifies HipStory’s approach. Nobody has ever sounded like they do.

“I like to use the powerful spellcasting technique that is rap to bring forth genuine whimsy and joy to myself and others,” they said. “I do this mainly by rapping about online subcultures, heartfelt feats and my own bubbly world. When I play my songs it is like laughing gas, except there are no chemicals involved. I aim to connect pathways that no other rapper has even pondered, I listen to Randy Newman every day.”

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