Locals: 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival takes root at Rice Paddy

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

When Josh Miller, one of the primary organizers behind hip-hop monthly Knock Five and weekly freestyle/breakdance happening the Break, first broached the idea of establishing go-to events centered on live hip-hop, he became accustomed to hearing the word "no."

"It took me forever just to find a venue that would let us do a hip-hop monthly," said Miller, whose events have taken root at the Summit (Knock Five) and Rehab Tavern (The Break) since launching in January and December of 2014, respectively. "Everyone just has this horribly bad taste in their mouth when they hear [the word] 'hip-hop,' and you get to point where it's like, 'Man, this isn't going to happen.'"

Now, buoyed by the success of these recurring events, Miller, 27, has teamed with Cole Baker of Bombs 2 Fresh, Justin "Ketchup" Withrow of the Lookout Shop and musician Jae Esquire to launch the inaugural 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival, a daylong event designed to celebrate the four key elements of hip-hop: emceeing, deejaying, breaking and graffiti art.

"You can't have a hip-hop festival without all the elements," said Miller of 2x2, which is scheduled to take place Saturday, July 25, on the grounds of the campus-adjacent Rice Paddy Motorcycles, and features headlining turns by the likes of Illogic, J Rawls and Copywrite. "When we first started with Writer's Block (later changed to Knock Five), I always wanted the art to be a big part of it. Why would we only have music? [The elements] go together so well."

Miller first conceived the idea of a festival early in 2014, though it didn't calcify into action until he participated in last year's Independents Day, helping organize a hip-hop busking stage that hosted a running stream of battlers and poets.

"There was good music and art all around, and that atmosphere is what life was about," said Miller, who hopes to recreate the feel at 2x2 by incorporating everything from chalkboards for children to draw on to breakdancing battles (scheduled to take place at the "Roofless Stage," a room where a collapsed ceiling has left the building exposed to the elements) to the painting of a large-scale mural designed and completed by some of the region's best graffiti artists. "It sealed the deal for me that this has to happen, and it has to happen soon. I'd tell my friends and they'd be like, 'Oh, cool. You're thinking 2016? 2017?' And I was like, 'Naw, man. Next year I'm doing it.'"

The months since have been a blur of paperwork, permits and email exchanges - "I had no idea what I was getting into; it's a giant, giant task," Miller said - though the community support (Rawls, for one, has been a consistent sounding board) and general buzz surrounding the event have steeled organizers beliefs the fest could evolve into an annual event.

"I went to the Raekwon show and we handed out 400-500 fliers in line alone … and that was proof enough to me that there are people here that are into good hip-hop," Miller said. "There are great events and great festivals, but ... we don't have anything like this. This is something that needs to be here."

Rice Paddy Motorcycles

2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25

1454 N. Grant Ave., Campus

2x2fest.com