Bloomington hip-hop artist V8 Fast Change ramps up multi-genre music festival Friday nighthop |


BLOOMINGTON — Dominique Stevenson has big dreams for her hometown music scene in Bloomington.

The self-proclaimed dreamer takes the first step towards their realization on Friday by producing the March Madness Music Festival. Eleven acts are all loaded to bring a vibrant and energetic evening to the nightshop, 517 N. Main St, Bloomington, with a hard-hitting lineup of local and touring artists.

Chicago touring artists Rapper Taco, Mickey Factz and Truly Dewy whip up their best bars and silky hip-hop tunes. As for Bloomington, Nick “Maestro” Jones will own the stage with Stevenson, who performs under the stage name V8 Vast Change.

Additionally, Redd Cross tuning forged Christian hip hop in the Quincy area.

Soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues fans can rejoice in Soultru’s styles, rocking sweet licks of the Quad Cities; Chicago songbird Mara Love, packing backup vocals credits for Barbara Steisand; and normal favorite Adrian Mendez is back in the night shop after performing for WGLT’s satellite summer concert series last August. Yea Big is another local trio that will brighten up the place.

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Bands coming out of the Twin Cities include professional wedding entertainers and party rockers Style In Stereo, and no-holds-barred punk rockers Dirty Rotten Revenge. On tour, punk-inspired rock band The Run Around.

Stevenson has said “first and foremost” that he is a dreamer, and his label, “Dreamington”, is reminiscent of his hometown of Twin Cities.

He told the Pantagraph that March Madness’ main goal was to unite the community “through common interests in music”. He said that means breaking down the barriers that separate us, whether financial or residential.

Stevenson said he wanted to bring out both the West Side and the more affluent Twin Cities crowds so they could let loose as well. He added that there was almost an unspoken rift between Bloomington and Normal – but small favors like Make Music Normal sharing its festival help bridge that gap.

This is also partly why the festival includes several genres. Stevenson said he was hoping for moments from people who could say, “I came to see Mickey Factz end, but man, that punk show was fun.”

The end result he envisions is a blending of all parts of the community into one event, which makes Bloomington-Normal a musical destination, so people don’t have to travel to Chicago.

Stevenson knows a thing or two about community organizing. He said “me and my brothers have achieved a lot in 2020” and launched the Next Gen Initiative, which organizes marches and forums on local politics.

As V8 Vast Change, he spat on teaching the next generation how to manage their time and money, and passing it on to the next. And, in ‘Le Trentonain’, he tells the story of a young woman left dead in the street. His wife had gone to school with her, and the song took the name of the local newspaper.

“These are stories that you read every day in the newspaper,” Stevenson said.

Listen closely enough to “Believe in Yourself” and you can sense the hope its hip-hop manifests for yourself. Then in ‘Angels,’ Stevenson lays out a solid lesson from his mother: “If you have to be alone, stay strong.”

It’s open for big players like Nelly at the Normal CornBelters stadium. To get where he is today, Stevenson had to fight non-stop.

He said when he first started hosting shows about 10 years ago, “nobody would book hip hop – in Bloomington, in particular.”

Stevenson said there were a lot of negative connotations attached to hip hop music that made him hang up theaters.

“I can’t prove my style is different and I have a different audience or anything if I can’t even get in the door,” he said.

He said he had to start booking shows on his own and constantly travel to Chicago between jobs. Raised in a gospel-heavy household, V8 got her start in town at area churches.

Stevenson works to overcome these stereotypes, which he says are formed by people not having access to each other.

“I just always wanted my music to have a positive impact on the world,” he said, adding that this includes helping people think differently and critically, but also having a good time. .

In his genre, his main influences include Jay Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Outside there are Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

He’s already taken a page from Chance the Rapper’s book. The Festival donates a portion of the funds to the Normal Community West High School Promise Council.

Stevenson said many artists don’t understand how much you have to work for free if you’re the first to innovate trying to change the culture.

“You have to work three times as hard,” he said“just to get into it a bit.

“You can’t demand respect, you have to swallow your pride until someone notices. You just have to work for everything, starting out.

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison

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