Local Rhythms – Homegrown hip-hop tells the Granite State’s story

When I moved to New Hampshire 30 years ago, I knew the state had nuclear power, no taxes and a deep-seated hatred of bottle deposits – but not much else.

You could turn on the radio and hear songs about New York, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles and my hometown of San Francisco.  Aside from a few from obscure folksingers, none existed for my new home state.

That changed last week, and with a hip hop song, no less.

As I write this, over a half million people have streamed “Granite State of Mind” since it hit YouTube a week ago. Jay-Z and Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind” has been parodied before, from Minnesota to New Jersey.

There’s even a Twilight version.

But Christian Wisecarver and his comedy troupe Super Secret Project have made the best by far.

I guess now Jay-Z knows what it’s like to be sampled.

When the video begins, you expect a joke, but what lingered for me were the wonderful facts about New Hampshire peppered throughout the song.

Did you know the alarm clock was invented here?

The song lists famous people from New Hampshire, including a few you’d expect – Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and SNL’s Seth Myers.

“We’re funny [expletive] here,” raps New Hampshire native Wisecarver.

First man in space Alan Shepard’s East Derry origins were news to me, however.

To really appreciate the song, it helps to have lived here awhile. It’s the only way you’ll get inscrutable to outsider bits like the name-check of wronged weatherman Al Kaprielian.

But even a weekend-only flatlander knows the truth in this verse:

“We like to say what’s up guy? It’s the way we say hi. In February, it is good to know a plow guy.”

Speaking of snow, the song’s middle section features Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, a poem written in Vermont but adopted by its neighbor state – a fact the rapper duly notes.

Gratefully, there’s no attempt to resolve the question of Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney’s real hometown.

How is it a million Beach Boys tunes never accurately describe California, but a rapper somehow cuts to the core of a very white state? I’m not talking just about the snow.

How did that happen?

Whatever, it doesn’t matter.  Blending history with self-deprecation and clever humor, “Granite State of Mind” is the best song ever written about New Hampshire.

It should be playing in the State House.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, April 8: Jonathan Edwards, Flying Goose Pub – One of the most good-natured players in the world comes to New London.  Edward is fond of saying “it’s all good” a lot.  That he had one big hit concerns him not a bit.  “Better to have one hit than none at all,” he told me once.  Besides, he’s got a bevy of great songs that, while not as well known as “Sunshine,” are great nonetheless.

Friday, April 9: Nicholas Kaiser, Sunapee Coffeehouse – This weekly acoustic music series, held in downstairs at the Sunapee Methodist church, is on solid footing, with plenty of local businesses sponsoring shows, and a calendar shows booked as far out as November. Tonight, it’s a singer/songwriter specializing in Celtic, folk, bluegrass, finger style guitar picking and classical traditions.

Saturday, April 10: Talkin’ Smack Band, East Buffet – I loved them as Junk in the Trunk, but whatever you call them, this band rocks.  Rich Cortese is one of better vocalists in the area, and he’s a crackerjack harp player too. The band plays out regularly at the Anchorage in Sunapee, which will be resuming live music before too long, which means summer can’t be far away.

Sunday, April 11: samamidon, Hooker-Dunham Theatre – A hip member of a big Vermont musical family comes home to celebrate his newly released CD. I See the Sign was made with the help of Beth Orton and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily.  Amidon’s ethereal vocals recall Nick Drake, while his arrangements, modern updates of traditional Appalachian folk songs, are amazingly inventive.

Tuesday, April 13: Universes, Hopkins Center – Hip hop theatre with New Orleans as focal point, the renowned Bronx-based Universes troupe performs Ameriville, “a passionate, multimedia ‘State of the Union Address’ fusing song and spoken word to scrutinize poverty, politics, patriotism in America,” according to a pres release.  As Pete Townshend once sang, you can dance while your knowledge is growing.

Wednesday, April 14: Music Night, One Wheelock – A newly renovated Dartmouth space is the area’s latest listening room, with Wednesday and Friday night performances featuring community and college performers. Tonight, it’s student Tica Douglas and the Nancy Tauby/Elaine Vanderstock duo. Emcee and Dartmouth alum Ford Daley sees it as an alternative to the dominant fraternity experience (i.e. nothing stronger than coffee).

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