Hip-Hop Promoters Rising West Philly’s Dope Shows Celebrate Anniversary With Lil Baby and Lil Durk

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Jamir Shaw has ideas for titles that could tell the story of Dope Shows, the Philadelphia hip-hop concert company he founded with partner Stephen Piner five years ago

“West Philly to Wells Fargo,” Shaw suggests, his eyes lighting up. “Or maybe from 52nd Street to Broad Street. That would be a good thing too.

This journey through the Schuylkill to the city’s largest indoor entertainment venue in South Philadelphia perfectly encapsulates the origin of Dope Shows, as well as the destination of the duo – who became the biggest promoters Philadelphia independent hip-hop – heads.

The couple – whose fifth-anniversary Birthday Bash show will take place April 3 at the Wells Fargo Center – were raised just blocks from each other in West Philadelphia, First at 49th and Locust, the second at 52nd and Cedar.

Piner, 40, and Shaw, 34, didn’t know each other growing up but became quick friends when they met in 2015, when Piner was working in real estate and Shaw was hosting hip-hop DJ parties at clubs around the city. city ​​while maintaining a position as Dean of Students at Harrity Elementary at Mastery Charter School in West Philly.

“We built a friendship, and then we ended up going into business together and started doing shows,” says Piner. “We just had a vision. The city really wasn’t getting the kind of shows we wanted.

“We saw the void,” says Shaw, speaking of Dope Shows’ early days. “When we were trying to figure out what the business would be like, looking at Philly, there wasn’t a lot of hip-hop and R&B.”

The duo decided “we wanted to be a global, boutique-style concert company,” explains Shaw. They started by booking New York rappers Fabolous and Jadakiss at the Fillmore in March 2017.

Five years later, Shaw and Piner, who have performed in Boston, Washington and Baltimore as well as Philadelphia, will perform their biggest Dope show to date, with the anniversary party at Wells Fargo Center.

The Birthday Bash features four headliners sharing the headliner, starting with Lil Baby, the Atlanta rapper who topped the lineup at Jay-Z’s Made in America festival with Justin Bieber last September.

He’ll be joined by Lil Durk, the Chicago rapper who teamed up with chart-topping Lil Baby. The voice of heroesand which headlined a date at the Mann Center last July that was Shaw and Piner’s first post-pandemic show.

Lil Durk’s new album, 7220currently sits atop the Billboard album chart, having spilled the Disney movie soundtrack Encanto.

The album features guest appearances from R&B star Summer Walker, country singer Morgan Wallen and Gunna, the Chicago rapper who, along with fellow Windy City host G-Herbo, is also a Birthday headliner. bash.

Rounding out those four big-name acts will be a pair of newcomers: Delaware singer 1Oak and Philadelphia sibling duo Blud Bravaz, who won a Dope Shows talent showcase at the Fillmore’s Foundry in January.

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Shaw and Piner are looking for new talent. They will use the occasion of the Birthday Bash to announce that they are forming a label called Dope Records.

“Philly is bubbling, but there’s no industry here,” Piner said. “We want to be that conduit to say, ‘This is what’s hot in Philadelphia. ”

Shaw threw his first party in his mother’s West Philly basement when he was 12 years old. He charged $1 cover and cashed out $70. “People from my neighborhood and people from other neighborhoods came,” he recalls. “That was the attraction. Bring people together. »

Getting into the gig business took patience and hard work, and lessons were learned along the way, Shaw and Piner said. Shaw had made extensive industry contacts and an email list of thousands of Philadelphia hip-hop fans while throwing parties at local clubs that held up to 1,500, so “it wasn’t so difficult” to reserve a capacity of 2,500 people. room like the Fillmore, he said.

It took months of unreturned phone calls before the Fabolous and Jadakiss show at the Fillmore. But once they sold the date, it led to the same bill being booked in Boston and bringing Rick Ross to the Fillmore.

Dope Shows boasts a 90% sell-out rate, but not all shows were a hit. A 2018 outdoor show in Baltimore turned into a failure. “Baltimore is a walk-in town, they don’t buy tickets in advance,” says Shaw. It rained, “and they didn’t come up.”

Piner says the duo studied the career of Al Haymon, the legendary black music and boxing promoter who booked national tours for Janet Jackson and Boy II Men, and consulted Shawn Gee, the Roots manager who runs the Live Nation Urban concert division. Piner calls Geoff Gordon, the regional president of Live Nation Northeast, “a great mentor.”

“Our role as promoters is to help artists achieve their dreams,” Gordon said. “I have immense respect for Jamir and Stephen for sharing this same vision and passion for their artists.”

Shaw and Piner also aim to focus their passion on the black community in the city they grew up in, with free tickets to local schools and anti-violence messages at all of their events.

Last September at the Fillmore, Dope Shows held its third annual Back 2 School Book Bag Extravaganza show, giving students backpacks full of supplies. During last summer’s Lil Durk show at the Mann, inspirational content was provided by Instagram influencer Wallo267 and Pastor Carl Day of the Culture Changing Christians Worship Center in North Philly.

“I’m very impressed with these guys,” Day said. “I’ve seen party and show promoters make a ton of money off the backs of urban black people and have literally no sense of obligation or responsibility to the community. But when I see Jamir and Steph, those guys have contributed financially to our work, they’ve come down to our neighborhood and hang out with our kids on our basketball courts. They could just make their money and run with these artists without caring. But they try to find ways to give back on so many different levels.

Dope Shows hopes to help “change the culture of violence,” says Shaw, who lost a cousin “murdered on the streets of Philadelphia” in 2019.

With the Dope Records label, Piner says, the duo aims to give exposure “to people who might not have the opportunity to get their music out there and market it.” It can be artists from the city, it can be artists from the suburbs.

And the concerts the duo have held under their slogan “Ain’t No Shows Like Dope Shows” can have a positive impact, Shaw hopes, “by getting people dancing, having fun, getting excited. Just take the idea that you have to be tough and have that character that you come from the street Allowing kids to be kids.

Dope Shows Birthday Bash with Gunna, Lil Baby, Lil Durk and G-Herbo at the Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. at 6 p.m. on April 3. $139 – $199. wellsfargocenterphilly.com.

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