Kiran Vee of New Age Narcissism performs at MilMag Live

Meet the Local Musician Bringing a Massive Hip-Hop Tribute to Milwaukee

More than 20 local performers will take the stage at the event.

One of Milwaukee’s most up-and-coming musicians is joining forces with two of the city’s most respected arts organizations. Kiran Vidula – whose stage name is Q the Sun – has teamed up with Black Arts MKE and the Marcus Center to pay homage to the men and women who helped turn hip-hop into the cultural juggernaut that it’s become today. 

The show, Hip Hop DNA Volume 1, will take place at the Wilson Theater in the Marcus Center on Sept. 12, at 7:30. We caught up with Vidula in advance of the event to hear more about the show, his musical influences and the history of hip-hop more broadly.

Hip-hop has been around for nearly 50 years and is at least as relevant now as it was in the 1970s. What gives it its staying power?

Hip-hop is a combination of all music, from blues to jazz, rock, soul, funk, disco, classical and traditional forms. By sampling, reinventing and recombing recorded music, so many different influences and cultures and textures and time periods can co-exist at the same time.

How has the genre’s sound evolved since its inception?

The sound changes as the technology evolves, and the technology evolves based off how people decide to use it, or find new ways to use it. We started with our bodies, and nature, then started making drums and other instruments, all the way up to present day, having computers. That evolution is reflected in the sound. Also the ways people consume music effects the sound, whether it’s in a car, a venue, at home or through earbuds – different styles evolve from the environment and emotions they’re meant for.

Which musicians have influenced you the most personally?

To name a few who we’re paying tribute to in the show: George Clinton, Nina Simone, Kanye West, Q-tip, Kendrick Lamar, Harry Belafonte, Metro Boomin, James Brown, Timbaland …

and others not in the show: Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Flying Lotus, Madlib, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Ayers, Tracy Chapman, Kishore Kumar, AR Rahman, Outkast, Radiohead.

Does Milwaukee have a strong hip-hop scene?

Lot of talent, lot of creativity and energy, not many opportunities to grow, develop and build … we’re working on that though.

Why did you want to put on this event?

I wanted to give people a different view of what hip-hop is, a culture so near and dear to me. The mainstream view of it is so basic, and we often only think of it in one way. I wanted to expand how we look at hip-hop – I want to present it as the quintessential American music, because it includes all other music within it, and it’s about freedom, progress, creativity, individuality, community building, knowledge and positivity.

I think presenting the music in this way, in a professional theater is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time because I got so jaded by putting so much work into the details of a performance, then performing at noisy bars and venues where half the people are drinking and socializing. I want to elevate the music and the artists involved.

The ultimate point is to celebrate and elevate the MKE hip-hop community that has meant so much – not only to me and my growth as an artist – but to the overall cultural and economic development of the city of Milwaukee. So many doooope artists! Never seen them all together at once. They could all hold down their own show by themselves.

How did you come to collaborate with Black Arts MKE?

I’ve been partnering with them for the past three and half years to bring music production, song-writing, team-building and self-confidence workshops to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School and Lloyd Barbee Elementary.

Which other Milwaukee musicians are involved?

WebsterX, Lex Allen, Vincent VanGreat, Aram Feriants, Avi Gelfman, B~Free, Bony Benavides, Curtis Crump, Quinten Farr, Jesse Carl, Chris Gilbert, Karlies Kelley, Vee Adams, Blizz McFly, Cecelio Negron, Mudy, Shle Berry, Shaddye, YL64, J-Lamo, Marcya Daneille, Kyndal Johnson, Siren and more.

How did you decide which artists to pay tribute to at the event?

This is Volume 1 of Hip Hop DNA, so we are only touching a small leaf on the family tree of hip-hop music, but I mainly made my decisions based off representing every era of hip-hop from the 80s to present day, and choosing well-known songs that use classic samples in creative ways.

What should audience members expect from the show?

Musicians, dancers, rappers, a party, an education, an emotional and dynamic roller coaster. Songs will be presented in the form of medleys, mashups and remixes that focus on popular hip-hop/rap songs from the 80s to present day, and the jazz, soul, funk and disco songs that were sampled to create those hits.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Black Arts MKE and Marcus Center are taking a commendable risk by hosting this show; it’s something new for them, both in terms of the artists, and the content and layout of the material, so I appreciate them greatly for the opportunity.



Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.