3 Questions

3 Questions with New Mexico Hip-Hop Awards co-director Chris Soveranez

Rapper, producer and promoter Chris Soveranez (aka Sove) knows a thing or two about hip-hop in New Mexico—the guy’s been making and recording it here since pretty much always. Soveranez, who runs nonprofit LLC and studio Black Diamond Productions, understands there’s a glut of talent around the state just waiting to be discovered by everyday people, and that’s part of the reason he’s helping to reignite the New Mexico Hip-Hop Awards (5 pm Saturday, Jan. 21. $15. Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W San Francisco St., (505) 988-1234). Technically, a similar event took place back in 2011, but, Soveranez says, the upcoming iteration at the Lensic will be a classy red carpet affair packed with statewide hip-hop royalty coming together to celebrate the art form and, hopefully, taking steps to legitimize hip-hop in New Mexico. We spoke with Soveranez to learn more about the fledgling awards show. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

What made this the right time to kick off the New Mexico Hip-Hop awards?

I don’t know if you’ve heard about what [Albuquerque radio station] The Hustle 101.3 is doing, but they have this thing called The Thursday Throwdown, and it’s a shot for local rappers to get their music on the radio in the regular rotation—not just one time. That started this culture of trying to compete, and also recently there have been a lot of lists going around with the top artists in New Mexico. I just had the idea to make it official. The New Mexico Music Awards has a single rap category, so one thing we’re doing with this is there are 25 different categories, and five of those are voted on by the people. The other 20 are voted on by various artists, radio personalities, station owners from across the state. We wanted to throw this event for the state.

Do you think it’s sustainable moving forward?

We’ve already counted this year as successful enough to go ahead and schedule at the Lensic for next year. We’ve got the whole bottom floor sold out right now—there are still tickets for the balcony. I do think it’s sustainable. We’re getting artists and radio station personalities from across the state, so it’s not just coming from [the organizers].

We had an event prior to the awards called Tryouts—and that was just doing tryouts to find the artists to perform at the awards—and a whole lot of people showed up to that. As an artist, I’ve done a lot of shows, and New Mexico doesn’t always like to give love, but we’re starting this culture where we’re trying to help each other. There are still the haters out there. We published our list of nominees and there was some backlash, but I do think it’s sustainable, especially once everybody realizes what kind of classy event this is. It’s at the Lensic, we’re going to have red carpets, a...photo wall for the photo ops; we’re going to have photographers out there to take people’s pictures. We’re encouraging people to dress up formal, too. It’s not required, we’re not kicking anybody out, but I know a lot of people will be showing out.

What do you wish more people knew about hip-hop in New Mexico?

For me to really answer something like that, I kind of want to change the question a little bit. I think the reason the local scene doesn’t catch on well is because people can be quite lazy about setting up shows. This isn’t every time, but at a lot of local shows, they sound horrible, the promoters are getting literally whoever to do stuff. I feel like there should be some type of group here in New Mexico that showcases the real talent, the people actually trying to make a living off music—not just ‘I went and got high at the studio, and now I’m going to go perform at the club.’ I’m sure it’s that way everywhere, but it’s oversaturated with people who are not really into hip-hop, they’re doing it for clout. It’s a lot of people who want to look cool, and that’s what hip-hop is—the ultimate cool.

I see it go differently in other kinds of music. When you’ve got a band, you need a professional sound guy or you can’t understand what’s going on. When it’s hip-hop, a DJ shows up with two speakers and an iPod and says, ‘let’s run it.’ [Black Diamond Productions has] a live sound and performance package that we do with lasers, lights, anything but smoke. I want to make New Mexico proud and show people there are talented people here. That’s one of the big things with the awards, too. It’s not necessarily to judge people, it’s more to showcase the people who are doing well. It’s not to downplay the people who didn’t make the list, it’s to showcase the people. It’s going to be a very tight show. And we’re a nonprofit LLC. All our donations go to the event and any profit made will go to the Boys & Girls Club of New Mexico.

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