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Celebrate New Year’s Eve with HipStory and its vision for Boston’s hip-hop future

Cliff Notez and Tim Hall co-founded the Boston-based digital media production company and artistic incubator known as HipStory.
Cliff Notez and Tim Hall co-founded the Boston-based digital media production company and artistic incubator known as HipStory.Sasha Pedro (Custom credit)

There’s no place like home for New Year’s Eve this year, but the artistic greenhouse that is HipStory is looking to bring a house party into living rooms, bedrooms, and wherever else we might keep our screens. The Boston-based digital media production company is ringing in 2021 by introducing HipSTV, a permanent online platform for its events, films, music videos, and concerts. And its New Year’s Eve party, dubbed “A HipStoric Renaissance,” will include clips from past HipStory shows and interviews, plus brand-new live performances from Forte, Oompa, and HipStory co-founder Cliff Notez.

According to Cliff Notez, a rapper, filmmaker, songwriter, and poet, HipStory has been around in some form for about eight years. But its current incarnation started to take shape after he met educator and musician Tim Hall, when the two worked with youth arts nonprofit MassLEAP around 2015.


“I recognized Cliff at, like, a Guitar Center,” Hall said in a Zoom call with the Globe and Cliff Notez. “Me and him started to make music together in his home studio... and maybe after a month of us working together and connecting as friends and brothers, I was like yo, have you thought about just starting a business out of this? You have everything you need to start a studio.”

The two set to work building a collective of artists while also producing music and films. Pre-pandemic, HipStory’s most visible projects were its live events, which included Boston Answering, an affordable alternative to Boston Calling that responded to the festival’s lack of both local artists and hip-hop, and the HipStory House Party series, which handed the stage at venues like the Museum of Fine Arts to a reliably eclectic and unpredictable mix of artists. During the pandemic, the house party series migrated to the Internet, where it has raised thousands of dollars for organizations including the Mass Bail Fund, the Nan Project, and City Life/Vida Urbana.


“We’re celebrating five years of us having really jump-started HipStory ... as well as the five-year anniversary of the house party series,” explained Hall. “It’s also the 100-year anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. We felt that it was an opportunity for us to honor that and the work that we’ve put into what we’ve been able to build in the community. We see ourselves as individuals who are innovative, who are creative and imaginative, and —”

“Go ahead, talk your [expletive,] Tim,” Cliff Notez interrupted, and Hall dissolved into laughter.

In all its projects, HipStory strives to nurture artists from both Boston and out of town who want to engage with the Boston scene, particularly Black artists and other artists of color. “Knowing the disadvantage that people of color have in access to telling their stories within popular media, I think it’s important that a company exists like this, that is highlighting those people,” Cliff Notez said. “This pandemic has kind of accelerated the need for digital platforms and content that highlights [people of color], especially within the music scene, with the lack of places to perform.”

Right now, the team is working on opening a studio space where the HipStory House Party Digital series can broadcast from a safe social distance, he added. “This allows artists to have very high-quality video, along with [our] being able to pay them for a performance like they would have been paid to perform at Great Scott, or any of those places that no longer exist.”


With HipSTV, the team can expand on those ideas and better fulfill its mission, Hall explained. “We can start to really engage our audience in a different way,” he said. “I see us as being one of the cultural institutions and collectives in Boston, being a hub to also expand and collaborate with artists in other collectives and cities. We are part of the ecosystem of the art scene. And we are part of helping Boston make a name for itself.”


Dec. 31, 9 p.m. Pay what you can; donations suggested. www.hipstory.org/hipstv

Zoë Madonna can be reached at zoe.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.