If you are a performer or patron of the local underground hip hop scene, you will inevitably run into promoter, Robert “Rob Boo” Ford. He has played a major role in bringing small St. Louis acts together with the motto, “Talent over trend” and “No pay to play”. With his business partner Lamar “Finsta” Williams, he has planned many events, focusing more on community cohesiveness than profit. These events, like Freshman Class and Sunday Cypher Session, have given local artist the opportunity to gain experience and hone their live performance skills. The biggest event he has helped to bring forth, aside a team of artist and local legends, is SLUMfest.
The St. Louis Underground Music Festival, or “SLUMfest”, is an annual celebration of the four elements of Hip Hop; Emcee’s, DJ’s, Graffiti Artist, and Break Dancers. Its purpose is to give exposure to many Midwest acts that would not normally obtain similar opportunities, and place them on the same stages as larger local acts.
“I try to offer local artists a chance to be seen, by promoting and putting together hip hop shows in the city. I try and assist in their needs, as far as pointing them in the right direction with their music, and ways to promote it,” says Rob.
Planning an event of this magnitude takes a well oiled machine. This one consists of Rob Boo, Finsta, John Harrington & James “SoNSo” Coleman of the Midwest Avengers, Nato Caliph, Elvin Chambers, Freshvoice of Legend Camp, Martell Stepney, and Lyfestile.
Originating as an idea for a showcase amongst colleagues, the first SLUMfest took place May 29th 2010 at Atomic Cowboy. It set a foundation for future shows, to the pleasant surprise of Rob Boo.
“I’m not going to lie; I was nervous about what all would happen at the event. I was hoping that we had done our due diligence in promoting the event. But, when we opened the door on that day, the energy went through the roof! From the start of the event, until we shut the event down, it was nothing short of amazing.”
Since then, SLUMfest has grown in attendance and artist participation. Originally including only St. Louis artist, now hip hop artist and singers from other parts of the region register to be a part of the summer show. The brand itself has also grown to include an Award Show and two competitions; The Battle for SLUMfest and a freestyle battle for the award show rap cypher.
Rob is excited for the future of SLUMfest, as well as focused on bringing more events throughout the year.
“I also host discussion groups to talk about the city’s hip hop scene and to open dialogue for not only artists, but DJs and producers as well.” These discussions add another element to hip hop, community growth.
Six years and 2 venue changes later, SLUMfest has become a fuller and more inclusive event. Acts and patrons from all over Missouri and Illinois come to indulge in the local hip hop scene. This year is set to have the most eclectic line up to date. SLUMfest 2016 will take place June 25 at 2720 Cherokee.