When Christian “Rich Robbins” Robinson first came to Madison for college he didn’t think much existed beyond the UW campus. As a First Wave scholar and Hip Hop artist, this included the city’s Hip Hop scene.
“As a university artist you’re not really shown the community art scene,” Robinson told Madison365. “When I first came to Madison I thought that was it, I thought the campus was everything in Madison.”
But after six years of pursuing and perfecting his craft in the city he learned just how robust the city’s Hip Hop scene is.
“I quickly learned that there are people grinding and even those who have national clout in Madison, but just aren’t on the campus,” he said.
It was a lesson that led him to intentionally creating and joining spaces that bridge the gap between local and university artists.
Caution: some explicit language
This includes the upcoming 808s in the 608 Hip Hop festival at the Union Terrace on August 12, which will feature local and university artists and combine the two scenes. Madison365 is the media partner for the festival.
“When I heard about this show it was exactly what I wanted to do on a large scale, so I was like, ‘yes let’s make that happen,’” he said.
Robinson is originally from Oak Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and began his artistic pursuits through his involvement in well-known artistic spaces like Louder Than a Bomb, the largest youth poetry festival in the world, and Young Chicago Authors, where artists like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa got their start.
In reference to his roots, Robinson’s first album, Nimbus, featured primarily Chicago-based artists, but in an effort to bring together campus and community Hip Hop scenes he put on a collaborative concert called Nimbus 2.0 which replaced the Chicago artists with local artists. The concert featured 16 local performers and packed a venue of more than 300 people.
“When I first started there was no effort to combine the two worlds,” said Robinson. “It was like campus versus local artists, but that’s changed a lot and campus artist are starting to collaborate with community artist to the point that it’s just a Madison Hip Hop scene instead of being two worlds, which is really dope and very necessary if this place wants to have any say in what happens in the Midwest region of Hip Hop.”
For Robinson expanding beyond the confines of the campus allowed him to grow and explore more as an artist.
“As an artist on campus you get your core fan base, you get the same 25 people who come to your shows every time and they’re usually university affiliated and that’s dope, but it’s really weird being a Hip Hop artist on a white campus because the campus consumes Hip Hop differently and you kind of have to appeal to that if you want to be popping,” he said.
Robinson has released two albums so far, “Nimbus” and “All This Gold” and considers his music to be “alternative Hip Hip” which can exist more comfortably in a larger, local setting. As an artist Rich Robbins also makes intentional choices not to use certain derogatory words in order to create a more welcoming environment.
“I want everyone to be comfortable at my concerts and all of that influences the music,” he said.
For Robinson, participating in 808s in the 608 will be his way of culminating his artistic pursuits in Madison as it will be his last show before he and his team move to Chicago.
“Coming to Madison through First Wave molded me into a full time artist and made it a possibility for a career,” he said. “I feel like we did what we came here to do and we made an impact.”
Robins will debut new material during his set from his upcoming project, What an Awesome Love.
“Since this is my last show I want this to be crazy, it’s going to be an experiment,” he said.