Since 2013, Lord Gremithy – aka Grem – of hip hop duo DirtyDurdie with partner/producer Dirty Ice – aka Golden Sasquatch – has been hosting a freestyle rap and break battle called The Culture Games with the sole intent of bringing out the creativity in others. It’s a space where performers are given a platform to improvise, challenge, and push themselves into an active scene. At its core, The Culture Games, happening on April 26 at Alchemy, pushes artists to explore the purest form that hip hop can take.
“Ninety-five percent of rap battles are written, rehearsed, and performed over no beat, with gun bars and thousands of ways someone can kill me or my family in a rhyme. I knew that this wasn’t all that rap music had to offer to the people,” Grem says. “People keep calling it ‘old school’ and ‘washed up.’ All of the negative responses, all the doubters, and all the haters of the pure art form is what truly drove me to try something new. Finally, I asked myself, ‘What event around here, or anywhere, has both freestyle rap battles and breakin battles under one roof?’ Did the research and said, ‘Nothing like that is happening anywhere I know of. Okay, let’s make it happen!’”
The Culture Games have become a kind of ritual for Grem to bring together the diverse ages and cultures represented in the PVD hip hop scene, allowing every performer to come as they are and express themselves in any way they see fit. The power of giving people a supportive platform to perform is not lost on Grem.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he says. “I truly was underestimating how big this event was. My cousin-in-law [local rapper] Unk-11 was one person who kept telling me I needed to do it more often. He made me see how important it was for the city, for the culture, and for the scene of hip hop on a global scale. In return I told him, ‘If I do this again, you have to enter,’ and from that day on, he started rhyming again after putting it on hold for
almost 10 years.”
For Grem, The Culture Games, hip hop, and freestyling in particular have been a force for active change in the community. “It give kids like me hope, inspiration, and a chance to make something out of nothing,” Grem says. “Building self encouragement, entrepreneurship, and positive ventilation for your soul, whether listening to or creating your own music. It has benefited many people’s lives [while] dealing with poverty and real life struggles that many privileged human beings couldn’t imagine ever dealing with. Most importantly, it’s the voice for the unheard. It’s a way you can create your own job, employ others, and actually make a living, while building awareness on many social issues and telling the truth of street life in the projects [and] ghettos of America.”
With this month’s round of The Culture Games – featuring appearances by DirtyDurdie, Cranston’s own Passionate MC and the AS220 youth group Zu Krew – Grem hopes to see young artists of all ages continue to come out and find their own lane, not focusing only on what media sources tell them is cool, but finding out what hip hop is to them. The Culture Games are a space for creativity and inspiration, inviting people in and letting it happen.
The Culture Games
April 26 at Alchemy
71 Richmond Street