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Hip-hop artist building up local scene

Wonder” Mike Wright is wondering the obvious.

He’s a hip-hop forebear, one of the original members of the Sugarhill Gang, the first group of its kind to ever notch a top 40 single with their seminal hit “Rapper’s Delight” more than 30 years ago.

Since then, hip-hop has become among the most ubiquitous forms of music, influencing everything from rock to metal to country, and is inseparable from pop culture — the two are like intertwined strands of DNA.

But Wright, who has friends and family in Vegas and who visits here often, doesn’t understand why this city never has been able to find its voice in hip-hop. “Las Vegas is not represented,” he says. “There’s a Dirty South sound. There’s (a) New York (sound), the West Coast — whether it’s Oakland or L.A. You even have a Minneapolis sound, a Florida sound, the ATL. But not Vegas.”

And so, Wright is determined to do something about it. He is making frequent trips to Vegas, three so far this year from his home base on the East Coast, to conduct workshops, mentor developing talent and use his industry connections to get people heard.

“What I’m doing is listening and observing live auditions and taking peoples’ information and critiquing them,” Wright says of the sessions, which take place locally at EC Studios (www.ecstudiosllc.com), the next one of which is on May 1. “Whatever I see that I think is indicative of what Las Vegas represents, then I pass my observations on to other people in the business.”

There’s certainly no lack of talent among the local hip-hop ranks, which begs the obvious question, why has no one from this city been able to put Vegas on the map?

Well, part of the reason is institutional. There’s not much of an infrastructure to the local hip-hop scene, not enough clubs that cater to the music or any kind of industry presence here.

And in the past, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the music locally. In May 2005, three people were shot after a concert by rapper Nelly at the Aladdin Theater (now the Planet Hollywood Theater for the Performing Arts). There also have been shootings at rap shows at now-shuttered nightspots such as the Emergency Room and Club 702, as well as a fatal gun battle between police and Vegas rapper Amir Rashid Crump, who performed as Trajik of rap duo the Desert Mobb, in February 2006.

But Wright is trying to turn the page on all that, looking for a fresh start for a scene that has never really had much of a beginning.

“No one is germinating out of Vegas,” he says. “No one is showing the world what Vegas represents,” he adds, turning that “no one” into a someone.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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