Victor Williams (aka Governor Slugwell) was one of the first Grand Rapids hip hop artists to get a national record deal in the '80s. Growing up, when a lot of people around him were turning to drugs, he immersed himself in hip hop music and culture which was just beginning to come to the forefront. He claims it saved his life, and he's been working to promote true hip hop culture ever since. "True" hip hop culture means DJing, MCing, break dancing, all with a positive message of empowerment and knowledge, contrary to the violent, materialistic, sexist themes that saturate the mainstream genre. After moving to New York and beginning working with the record label, Victor became increasingly disappointed with how corporate culture controlled the music. He ended up moving back to Grand Rapids and founded the Hip Hop Coalition in 1995.
Education and unification are the two most important goals of the Hip Hop Coalition. To educate those in power-like the government, churches, schools-and to unify other local hip hop artists. The coalition puts on numerous events, the biggest of which is Hip Hop Appreciation Week, where different shows are put on each night, and on the last day, it all cumulates in an all-day festival at Martin Luther King Park, called Park Jam. As a result, the hip hop scene is much more organized, and there's a real feeling of respect and collaboration among artists. It's a much more friendly community with artists working together to promote the scene rather than competing against each other. When two artists collaborate, they widen their fan base and create more interest in the genre than if they were performing alone.
Adrian Butler is another local hip hop artist/DJ who's involved in the coalition. He, as well as Victor and Rick Chyme, performs at schools and in English classrooms, teaching students about his creative process and getting them excited about hip hop. He frequently performs at the Pyramid Scheme, Bar Divani, Billy's Lounge, and has even created mixes for yoga classes at The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse.