The Charlotte hip-hop republic: meet your 2012 representatives
Posted on 18 Apr 2012 by Kia O. Moore
The best thing about Charlotte Hip-Hop is that it is sooo versatile. This versatility also obstructs Charlotte from placing its rap city tac on the hip-hop map.
The hip-hop sound of the Queen City is so dynamic that it has yet to be defined. I quite love this undefined quality of my city’s hip-hop music scene. However, when it comes to the music industry marketing machine, categorizing an artist into a particular genre (or in this case: identifying a unified sound of a city) is one of THE most essential components in the development of an effective music marketing campaign.
When it comes to the rules of engagement of the multinational conglomerate that is the hip-hop industry, if the record company can’t categorize an artist then they will not promote them. If they don’t promote that artist, then the people won’t be aware of that artist’s sound, which means that artist simply won’t exist in the music world. That goes for both mainstream and underground hip-hop circuits. An underground rapper putting out a free mixtape without generating some kind of buzz about it means they will not persuade the public to download the free mixtape. No downloads means the rapper doesn’t exist in the overly saturated virtual land of the underground mixtape industry.
This CLT Blogger has taken the liberty of exploring Charlotte’s growing hip-hop constituency and elected to help identify key representatives from Charlotte’s sonic cornucopia of a hip-hop scene. Meet the 2012 representatives of The Charlotte Hip-Hop Republic: Luca Brazi, Brody & Choch, Maf Maddix, Justin Aswell Blackwood, and Bettie Grind.
The CLT Guttah Genius District
About this district: This CLT Hip-Hop District combines conscious lyrics with southern rap cadences and trap music production with those heavy bass, speaker rattling beats. The CLT Guttah Genius sound could easily be found bumping in the slow coasting cars with the booming sound system rolling through Hidden Valley, or humming from the ear buds of the longboarder skater kids coasting down Camden Road in Southend Charlotte. The CLT Guttah Genius sound, with an emphasis on the “uttah genius” aspect, finds a way to make conscious rap sound cool in a very Jay-Z “Ignorant Sh*t” manner combined with a YMCMB mixtape appeal with an overarching CLT flare.
Representative: Luca Brazi
Bio: Luca Brazi is far from slow-witted unlike The Godfather movie character he shares his stage name with. However CLT rapper Luca Brazi and Don Corleone’s loyal enforcer Luca Brasi do share the traits of ruthlessness, language fluency, and acquisition of respect from their underground communities.
Luca Brazi came onto the scene with the release of his summer 2010 mixtape Brain Food, which ruthlessly takes on the warped ideologies found in hip-hop music and American society. Several months after its release the under-underground hip-hop blogs took notice of Brazi’s talents. He was featured on the Truth Music Directory, Audio Truther, and Deft Mag. However, Brazi’s fans go beyond the under-underground bloggers.
Brazi has gained a niche following in the CLT due to his connection to the WhyelFiles. In a YouTube Video Zack Whyel, owner of the WhyelFiles, describes what this creative collective is all about. “The reason we brought WhyelFiles to life is to really create a central foundation to showcase the artistic culture surrounding skateboarding from North Carolina to Los Angeles and everywhere in between.” Brazi can be found rocking the mic at a WhyelFiles house party or on stage rocking the crowd at Vapor Lounge Charlotte during a WhyelFiles gathering.
With two Bandcamp.com released mixtapes and a steady flow of singles uploaded to his Soundcloud.com account, Luca Brazi is not slowing down on pushing that CLT Guttah Genius hip-hop sound out to the logged-on masses.
CLT Old Skool Cool District
About this district: As the hip-hop youth of the 80’s and 90’s grew-up, their style of hip-hop faded out, but as post-modern critics predict, the old became cool again. In 2008 a NYC high school crew of old school hip-hop revivalist known as the Retro Kidz garnered a lot of mainstream media attention for their “bring the old school back” mission. While those in NYC focused more so on the old school hip-hop look, NC honed in on remixing the old school hip-hop sound for a new generation of fans. This CLT Hip-Hop District mixes the flava of Kid-N-Play, a dash of a Tribe Called Quest, and a couple of sprinkles of party-rocker mentality. Now, shake and stir. TAD DOW! You have an ample sonic helping of CLT Old Skool Cool.
Representatives: Brody & Choch
Headquaters: Kidnice Entertainment
Bio: Brothers Jordan Evans and Choch Evans, better known collectively as Brody & Choch, started their adventure into hip-hop with a stack of cassette tapes given to them by an older cousin.
“At one point he gave me a butt load of cassette tapes — Rakim, Mary J. Blige — he didn’t even ask me what kind of rap I listened to. Gang Starr, Tribe [Called Quest], to where I played the Tribe so much that the tape actually popped. I cried a little bit,” says Choch. -–from Shutter 16
Once out of high school Brody & Choch began to live out scenes from the 90’s hip-hop movie franchise House Party.
Brody & Choch were asked to host a 90′s-themed talent show at North Mecklenburg High School in 2008 where the two had previously graduated. They ended up hosting the event as “The Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Choch” and after that started getting requests to perform at house parties around the area. According to the brothers, their first album was more a product of necessity than anything else. After a few successful house party performances, where the two would essentially freestyle for an hour or two, people started asking where they could get more of that Brody & Choch sound. –from Shutter 16
In February 2010, Brody & Choch released that CLT Old Skool Cool sound on their The Boys Will Be Boys album. By 2011 the Charlotte-based entertainment company B.i.M. Music Group became sponsors of the Brody & Choch brand. They are now signed to Kidnice Entertainment. Last year also marked the first time the brothers took the CLT Old Skool Cool sound on the road with gigs at the CMJ Music Marathon, DC Rap Festival, and Barnstock.
With events like Radio Rehab occurring in Charlotte, hip-hop heads with an affinity for the “Hip-Hop Golden Era (1988−1992)” are now demanding more music tuned to their hip-hop ear. It seems like Brody & Choch arrived on the CLT Hip-Hop scene right on time.
Similar NC Artists: Royal-Tee
CLT Rhyme Sayer District
About this district: This CLT Hip-Hop District draws listeners seeking to think deeply, analyze the universe in that Neo from The Matrix & Ancient Philosopher kind of way, and have Outkast’s ATLiens and Canibus’ Can-I-Bus listed in their personal “Top 50 Hip-Hop Albums of All Time.”
The out-of-the-norm perspective and grandiose thinking of the CLT Rhyme Sayers District residents are a result of their deep introspection. Just as Outkast described their other worldly hip-hop perspective as “ATLien”…these Charlotteans’ hip-hop perspective is somewhat alien when it comes to the radio norm in Charlotte. The listeners and music-makers of the CLT Rhyme Sayers District are the CL.e.T.‘s (pronounced Cee-el-E-tees).
Representative: Maf Maddix
Headquarters: Midnight Kids Academy
Bio: Chris McWayne, better known as Maf Maddix, is one-third of the North Carolina-based rap group N’DangR Species. The group, composed of two emcees (Luse Kanz & Maf Maddix) and a turntablist (DJ Brooklyn Airlift), believes that the “true spirit of hip-hop” is endangered and runs the risk of becoming an extinct art form.
Maf Maddix leans more toward the complex topic integration and wordsmith end of the hip-hop spectrum. He felt the hip-hop landscape had been lacking complexity and deep introspection for an extended amount of time. In 2009, Maf decided to do something about it and released his debut album Tektite Illah: the unknown deluxe on Bandcamp.com. This was also the time he connected with like-minded musicians Kanz and DJ Brooklyn Airlift to form N’DangR Species. Three years after their linking up, N’DangR Species has gained momentum from touring up and down the east coast. Maf states on his website:
N’DangR Species has been building a strong east coast following doing shows from New York to Florida and performing with artists such as Raekwon, Guilty Simpson, Sean Price and Smif-N-Wessun.–from MafMaddix.com
With the influx of CLT music venues and swiftly emerging music scenes, CL.e.T’s may find Maf Maddix with his N’DangR Species brethren doing shows in Charlotte more often.
CLT Instrumentalist District
About this district: These CLT Hip-Hop district residents are the un-quarantined beatsick. The CLT Instrumentalists are infected with a beatsickness that causes them to become obsessed with observing every single sonic utterance found in a song. Rhythm, tempo, cadence, sound effects, audio filters, transitions, etc. It is all observed and analyzed by the CLT Hip-Hop Instrumentalists.
The CLT Instrumentalists have a mental hunger for the sound of music. They can be found at CD Warehouse, Lunchbox Records, Target, Best Buy, or any place in Charlotte that has large collections of music available for consumption.
These residents tend not to restrict themselves sonically, and are fans of multiple music genres. They also tend to be music makers themselves. After the CLT Instrumentalist analyzes music, inspiration comes, and then CLT Hip-Hop beats are made.
The CLT Instrumentalists serve as the foundation of the emerging CLT Hip-Hop scene. These beatmakers serve up sounds to the CLT Rappers; the song that results is served to the people. The beat tends to be a driving factor when attempting to categorize the hip-hop sound of a city. Lets play a game so you can see what I mean. Take a look at the cities mentioned below. Then click the link that says “Click Here.” If you have that “Oh yeah, that’s the sound” moment after clicking the link, then you understand.
- Houston = Click Here
- Memphis = Click Here
- ATL = Click Here
- Los Angeles = (Old School LA) Click Here & (New School LA) Click Here
- Charlotte (CLT) = ???
Representative:Justin Aswell Blackwood
Headquarters: Mr. Invisible
Bio: Justin Aswell is a member of the live performance Charlotte-based hip-hop trio Mr. Invisible, which is composed of Justin Aswell (Live Production/MC), Ill-use (Live Production/MC), Marley Carroll (Live Production/DJ).
Widely considered a pioneer in the emerging field of live drum machine performance, Justin Aswell recently starred in an educational series, teaching drum machine performance techniques for Dubspot Electronic Music Production and DJ School in New York, NY. Aswell is a classically trained musician who holds a degree in percussion performance from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Mr. Invisible has toured with artists DJ Vadim and One Self. They have performed with Atmosphere, Astronautalis, Dead Prez, EPMD, J-Live, Little Brother, Mac Miller, and Wu-Tang Clan among many others. They’ve also rocked massive crowds at key electronic and hip-hop music events such as Low End Theory in Los Angeles and the A3C Hip-Hop Festival in Atlanta.–Mr. Invisible Facebook Profile
Queen City Fly District
About this district: This CLT Hip Hop District is all about celebration! The celebration of money, the celebration of nice things, the celebration of making it to your next level. Simply put, the Queen City Fly District is the celebration of the party life.In a city connected to royalty and a swiftly growing nightlife district, themes of boasting about riches and lyrics highlighting club life making its way into the city’s hip-hop music makes perfect sense.
The Queen City Fly District is for those hip-hop heads who make it a top weekend priority to have a fun night out in the city. The Queen City Fly have to make sure they make it through their nightlife checklist:
- Put a top-notch club outfit together
- Shine up the car for rolling around Uptown
- Gather some friends for a fun night out
- Set the party mood by turning up Charlotte Radio to the maximum while making your way to the nightclub
- Dance to club bangers all night
- Do it all again next weekend
Representative: Bettie Grind
Headquarters: Hood Supastar Ent.
Bio: One cannot mention Charlotte Hip-Hop without making reference to Bettie Grind. Grind was one of the first local hip-hop acts to help Charlotte Urban Radio and Charlotte Club DJ’s realize that spinning Charlotte-bread hip-hop appealed to CLT radio listeners and CLT party-goers. Grind has made it his mission to carve a mainstream lane for CLT Hip-Hop. In an AllHipHop.com interview Grind explains:
AllHipHop.com: Charlotte has already demonstrated that it can produce entertainment arenas with places such as the Panther, Bobcats, NASCAR, etc. Why do you think it’s been hard for a rapper to make his mark on a national scale from there?
Bettie Grind: The Carolinas is no different than any other new market. You have to get the people to understand it’s OK to support your “hometown heroes.” You have to get home to believe and become fans of artists from their city and state. The Carolinas hold a lot of stars outside of me. I work every day to expose that. The radio stations and DJs are doing a much better job in the Carolinas, too. But it will take a lot more from us as a whole. We need all the DJs playing Carolina records in regular rotation. Some do, but we need them all to. We need radio to keep doing what they are doing, but as we grow, hopefully they will grow with us. I believe they will.
Also, we definitely need the fans to buy the music. There is no way we can make it without sales, shows, spins, and play. We have to create our own self-sufficient music industry, and then we all can eat and make the fans happy. I am where am because my team believes in me, and they have since day one, even when no one else believed in me. I’m here because the DJs made me, and the fans believe.
A word of advice from me personally to the up and coming artists: Don’t wait on a deal! We have to do it indie first and really show them we have a profitable market and that we are “Team Cak!” It can be done! I’m living proof of getting paid shows and being contracted for thousands of BDS spins throughout the country. It’s on us! The artist, the fan, the DJ, and radio – we are the answer to the Carolinas success!
There you have it, your Charlotte Hip Hop Republic 2012 District Representatives. And remember, support your CLT Hip-Hop Districts by:
- buying local hip-hop music
- attending local hip-hop shows & events
- requesting local hip-hop on Charlotte radio
- sharing links about Charlotte Hip-Hop on your social media sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, iTunes Ping, etc.)
- organizing local hip-hop events
Placing the CLT rap city tac on the hip-hop map is in our hands. How will you help CLT Hip-Hop gain national recognition?