The 5 E Gallery, I recently found out, stands for 5 Elements in hip hop culture: b boy break dancing, graffiti, DJ, MC, and, most importantly, a knowledge and love of community.
“Hip hop started in community centers. It was a peace movement. These elements are uplifting,” Steve Furay, who works with 5 E, tells me.
In Detroit in the 90’s people were making tapes of their music. As they circulated, these independents started gathering. “In the East side, Osborn High School had a scene, and there was a block around McNichols, 7 Mile, and Mound where these kids came together,” Furay points out.
Out of this, the 5 Elementz hip hop group (where the gallery got its name) was born. Its members, Proof, Thyme, Biz, and J-Dilla exploded into international fame. You might have heard of Proof through his collaboration with Eminem, and J-Dilla’s influence in the music world is extraordinarily far reaching.
“The Hollywood narrative is that J Dilla or Eminem were freak geniuses that came out of a basement. In fact, it was a community that made them what they were,” Furay explains. “Our goal at 5 E is to help the whole scene pop off.”
The gallery is very conscious of the way art transforms communities. In addition to helping young artists with their artistic pursuits, they’re very connected to community activism and development, partnering with Detroit Summer and local community gardens.
This Tuesday, the 22nd, 5E is hosting their foundation fundraiser at the Old Miami. A big part of this will be a celebration of the women involved in the hip hop community. DJ’s Mel Wonder and La Jedi will spin the best of what’s coming through the city, as well as older favorites. There will be a group of women MC’s free styling as well.
“So much of the talent coming through here is women,” Furay says. I imagine it takes a certain kind of mental agility to come up with rhymes like that on the spot. It must be something like your head is already two lines ahead as your mouth is saying something immediately. Who knows? Maybe it’s something you can pick up on at the event.
Either way, it should be a great celebration of Detroit’s cultural assets and a great look into some of Detroit’s underground talent. The money raised at the event will go toward the J-Dilla foundation, which funds art programs in underprivileged urban communities.
If you’d like to learn more about 5 E or stay tuned for future events, visit http://5egallery.org/