"You all know the difference between hip hop and rap?" Dirty Nate asked the predominantly white, rock and roll crowd.
"It's a language and a freedom of speech to get off your chest," he continued. "You might not understand the drums and stuff, but I hope you appreciate the music."
Dirty Nate's words revealed one of the many changes seen Wednesday at the 16th Annual Buffalo Music Awards -- the rap category, introduced last year, was expanded and a Latin category was added.
Diversity ruled the night. Master of ceremonies for the event in the Funhouse on Abbott Road in Lackawanna were personalities from rhythm and blues stations WBLK and WUFO, as well as from new rock alternative station, WEDG.
"I'm really excited about the racial mix and the harmony," said award show consultant and originator Rick Falkowski.
"Expanding into rap and even the Latin category, there's a lot of excitement," said Van Taylor, who works with several local rhythm and blues artists.
Only one problem existed for the rappers -- winning over the crowd. Their attempts were confident and impressive. Burn with DJ Marvo rapped an exuberant tune that was limited only by his microphone cord, Dirty Nate fast-talked about Elvis, and Shad with DJ Riq told of racial unity. After inviting some fellow rappers up from the audience, the performers joined for a freestyle verse.
"I think we did well," Burn said after his set. "I know hip hop is new to the majority of these people, but we did hold their attention, so that's a start."
Other performances included an intensive, acoustic set by Anatara (formerly known as Ladyfire), who later won in the category of best duo/trio. "This is our last award as Ladyfire, it means a lot to us," singer Donna Andreef said as she accepted the award.
Girlpope played fast and rowdy new songs that veered from its usual punk ditties. "I think we're playing harder, more glam stuff," singer-guitarist Mark Norris later explained. "We finally found a sound for ourselves."
The 12-piece Rhythm and Blues All Star Group, which included members of Taylor Made Jazz, the Golden Girls and Paradyme, featured singer Keith Eatmon and the four elegantly dressed, sweetly-harmonizing Harris sisters (Golden Girls).
Winners were presented with a golden, metal-cast standing buffalo set on a wood plaque. The award had a two-fold meaning. "It's a hometown honor, I'm very happy," said Eatmon after accepting the award for best rhythm and blues male vocalist.
Drummer Buddy Hinds, honored for best rock drummer, said it's "about time" he won before jokingly adding, "But now that I won, I have to move to a big music city."
Other changes in this year's award show dealt with the voting procedure. Often ridiculed as a contest for the best ballot stuffer, it reverted back to a system used about five years ago -- only those directly involved in the city's music scene were able to vote.
"Last year we counted about 18,000 ballots," explained organizer Ed Honeck. "That's extremely time consuming, and we were getting a lot of double voting. So we redefined it this year."
Musicians, according to co-organizer Dave Koester, were nominated with the help of such local music organizations as the Buffalo Music Collective and the Western New York Blues Society.
Tribute Band, Mookie Blaylock; Rock Band, Sudden Urge; Hard Rock/Alternative, Wunderland; Classic Rock, Fat Brat; Rock/Alternative, Bleeding Hearts; New Group, Lana Lied; Group Vocals, Bleeding Hearts; Female Vocalist, Maria Sebastian; Male Vocalist, Mark Valentino.
Oldies, The BeBops; Top 40, Eclipse; Rock Keyboards, Rick Allen; Rock Guitarist, Dave Camarda; Rock Bassist, Denny Beausoleil; Rock Drummer, Buddy Hinds.
Solo, Tim Wright; Duo/Trio, Ladyfire; Blues Band, Danny Lynn Wilson Band; Blues Guitarist, Danny Lynn Wilson; Male Vocalist (Blues), Danny Lynn Wilson; Female Vocalist (Blues), Donna Rose; Blues Keyboards, Ron Davis; Blues Drummer, Paul Campanella Jr.; Blues Bassist, Tom Reinhardt; Sax, Bob Serette; Harmonica, Harmonica Dean.
Original Hard Rock, Jive Injection; Original Rock, The Need; Original Pop, McCarthyizm; New Original, Go Dog Go; Original Alternative, Lynn Rogers Band; Original Acoustic, The Jazzabels; Original Guitarist, Tom Fenton; Original Bassist, Jim Wynne; Original Drummer, Jim Linsner; Original Keyboardist, Joleen Williams; Original Male Vocalist, Nelson Starr; Original Female Vocalist, Sue Kincaid.
Hard Core/Punk, Against All Hope; World Beat, Outer Circle Orchestra; Rhythm and Blues, Taylor Made Jazz; Rhythm and Blues Male Vocalist, Keith Eatmon; Rhythm and Blues Drummer, Robert Garrett; Rhythm and Blues Bassist, Tommy Flucker; Rhythm and Blues Female Vocalist, Sharon Banks; Rhythm and Blues Guitarist, Marshall Badger; Rhythm and Blues Keyboards, Elgy Fleming.
Hip Hop/Rap DJ, DJ Hooker; Hip Hop/Rap Producer, Kid Cold; Hip Hop/Rap/Solo, Dirty Nate; Hip Hop/Rap Duo/Group, Divine and Debonaire; Latin Jazz/Merengue/Salsa, Generation X; Jazz Group, Marshall Badger Quartet.