Four years ago, when the Badger Herald spoke to them last, 3rd Dimension had just begun making waves as a local hip-hop group. Since then, the group has grown not only as nationally recognized artists but also as leaders within their generation of Madison’s hip-hop scene.
Nowadays, 3rd Dimension’s five members find themselves out of school, dedicated full-time to music and poised to break out, with festivals like Summerfest and collabotions with national artists such as Supa Bwe and Mick Jenkins under their belts.
This success and publicity has recently tempted the group to move away from Madison, a move emcee James “Spaz” Golden said they haven’t decided on. Regardless, Golden and co-members Jacques “Half Breed” Wesley and Nick “Burn” Sampson emphasized Madison will always be the group’s home. They said they will continue to try and carve out more space for hip-hop in Madison, as well as place it more prominently on the map.
“There’s a lot of dope people from Madison — whether you do hip-hop, sports, there’s people with great business ideas, and there’s all sorts of artists,” Sampson said. “That all motivates us a little to show people not to underestimate Madison.”
Flashback to five years ago, when 3rd Dimension found themselves in Madison. The scene was quiet at the time. Artists mostly faded or moved on, and University of Wisconsin’s First Wave wasn’t yet producing many musical artists — unlike the Rich Robbins, Smiley Gatmouths or Broadways of today.
“When I came to college six or eight years ago as a freshmen…I think our class kind of started it off,” Wesley said. “There was really nobody else [at the time] that was making noise or putting out projects.”
Over the years, 3rd Dimension began to notice a disparity between the market for hip-hop in Madison and the space provided for it. They observed while there was a big fanbase for hip-hop, both locally and nationally, neither had room to be appreciated.
Wesley was quick to point out that even though Future’s Madison show sold out almost immediately, he was one of the only big-name hip-hop artists to be booked for 2016.
He also mentioned how local establishments have told their friends and associates that are DJ’s not to play too much hip-hop. Golden said it’s always been difficult for them to book shows in Madison, despite their perfect track record and ability to draw in a large crowd.
This leads Sampson to conclude that the reason hip-hop is relegated to a small space in Madison isn’t financial, or at least purely financial. Sampson attributed this to an “outdated mentality,” that if organizers play hip-hop at their venue, it’ll attract the wrong “type of person.”
But instead of lashing out or moving to a different city, 3rd Dimension is intent on growing this space for artists and fans alike, mostly by approaching their own art with professionalism and dedication.
Sampson said the hip-hop’s negative reputation in Madison only motivates them to be more professional and dedicated. They produce their own music top-to-bottom at the highest quality and ensure people have a good time and spend money at their shows.
Their hope is that they can provide an example for other artists in the city and prove that hip-hop can be financially viable and an accepted part of Madison’s culture.
“We don’t have to change the face of Madison into hip-hop,” Sampson said. “We just want to be accepted.”
3rd Dimension has also worked to strengthen the unity between Madison’s hip-hop artists. They’re currently working on another show with UW-affiliated artist Rich Robbins, and see themselves as a facilitator between those two scenes. Artists will often reach out to them from one side to connect with the other, Sampson said.
And, at least recently, it seems theirs’ and others’ efforts have been working. Madison appears to be slowly opening its arms to hip-hop again. Golden was caught by surprise was when venues like the High Noon Saloon began booking shows with them since The Frequency briefly stopped booking hip-hop shows back in March.
For the members of 3rd Dimension, this comes back to the dilemma of whether or not to leave Madison. But whether they do or not can only be a good thing for hip-hop in Madison, Wesley said, as either way it would put Madison on the map nationally and motivate Madison artists further.
For now, they’re content to work on their new project Limits, but it’s clear, no matter what, Madison will always be a part of 3rd Dimension’s roots.