LA’s Project Blowed turns 21

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Although West Coast Hip Hop is most credited for discovering and producing musical titans like NWA, 2Pac, E40, Too Short, Snoop Dogg and the Jacka, quiet as kept, the Leimert Park Los Angeles based Project Blowed has launched the careers of West Coast Hip Hop giants that don’t necessarily fit the reality rap brand: legends like the Pharcyde, Yoyo, Freestyle Fellowship, Medusa, the Jurassic 5 and Kendrick Lamar.

Twenty-one years after Ben Caldwell opened the doors of the Kaos Network for the community Hip Hop workshop, Project Blowed, we are celebrating the birth of one of L.A.’s biggest Hip Hop institutions. The 21st anniversary will be celebrated Sunday, Dec. 27, outside in Leimert Park, in the “La.”

Dara and Ben Caldwell
Dara and Ben Caldwell

Check out Dara Caldwell, the daughter of Ben Caldwell, as she tells us about a golden era in Southern Cali Hip Hop.

M.O.I. JR: What was your father’s role in particular?

Dara: He is one of the co-founders who created the workshop portion of the Blowed and provided the space and stability for Project Blowed to become the movement that it is today. PB home is at Kaos. My dad guides, educates, helps them build on their ideas, forms collaborations, links them to various universities and community elders, helps them with entrepreneurial endeavors. His role is huge.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhood that The Kaos Network is in?

Dara: Kaos Network is housed in the community of Leimert Park, which has been compared to a Black version of Greenwich Village in New York. It is right smack in the middle of the richest Black community in the U.S. Artists such as Mark Bradford, Ava DuVernay, Richard Pryor, Ella Fitzgerald, Marla Gibbs, John Singleton, Roger G. Smith and a multitude of others have lived or worked in the neighborhood.

M.O.I. JR: What made the Project Blowed experience important in the overall history of Los Angeles Hip Hop?

Dara: First off, it’s never been a night club, always a workshop. This has allowed it to sustain itself over the last 21 years. It was also organically created in 1994 during Hip Hop’s “golden era” in collaboration with my father who was a professor at Cal Arts and helped ground the workshop in a real academic environment.

Project Blowed 21st Anniversary Celebration posterIt represents the heart, soul, passion, artistry and voice within every element of Hip Hop. Dancers, graffiti artists, lyricists and producers all come together for the weekly workshop, creating mini cyphers within the Blowed. So many well respected underground artists “signed the list” to practice in front of a highly critical crowd of peers: folks like Pharcyde, Jurrasic 5, Nonce, Living Legends, Figures of Speech, Medusa, Emenem, Freestyle Fellowship, 2Mex, ATU, La Breakers, Fat Jack, Kilu, RTN, Ras G, Nocandu, Open Mic Eagle, Dibiase, Kendrick Lamar and many more have all come through not always to perform, but to absorb the essence of all the elements of a rich Hip Hop experience.

The badge of honor was having the crowd NOT chant “pleeeeease pass the miiiiic.” Pass or fail, the harsh crowd of peers forced growth and them to do their homework before stepping on the stage.

M.O.I. JR: What was the role of Freestyle Fellowship and Medusa in pushing the Project Blowed movement?

Dara: Medusa held it down as a woman who could rock the mic and had the skills to check the male ego. She could go at them as hard as they would her and educate in the process. Medusa and the Fellowship set a performance standard for the Blowed. They were performance artists who took their skills beyond basic rap to encompass the whole African American musical journey through lyricism and musical production.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the story about when y’all met the female rap legend Yoyo?

Dara: I remember seeing Yoyo for the first time while my dad was reviewing his video recordings for a movie he was working on called “iFresh” in nineteen eighty something. Yoyo was in the 10th or 11th grade at Washington High School and my dad met her through her English teacher Charleta Johnson.

He recorded her and some other students from Washington rapping to audition for the movie. She stood out because she had such a strong stage presence, funky cadence and clear, articulate lyrical style.

Project Blowed 21st Anniversary Celebration graphicM.O.I. JR: What will happen at the 21st anniversary celebration?

Dara: The 21st anniversary will be the start of stabilizing the base of PB and its offspring for the 21st century. We’ll not only be showcasing the Blowed but also its offspring like Crockpot, Bananas and others.

M.O.I. JR: Over the next few weeks and months, what are some of the big events that are going on at Kaos Network?

Dara: The monthly Leimert Park Artwalk, which is the last Sunday of the month – they are musical showcases, which have been compared to a salon-size South by Southwest. Jan. 31, 2016, is the George Washington Carver tribute at Artwalk.

Feb. 6 is the first screening of the LA Rebellion film series, which will include films such as “Killer of Sheep,” “Sankofa,” “I&I,” “Daughters of the Dust” and more. The June Artwalk features the Mask Festival and anniversary. For further information about upcoming events, see www.facebook.com/kaosnetwork.

M.O.I. JR: How could people stay online with you in the social media?

Dara: Visit www.facebook.com/kaosnetwork or email bencaldwellfilm@aol.com or oceansignlove@gmail.com.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.