In the world of hip-hop, North Carolina might seem a geographical outlier, fringe to major urban hip-hop centers like New York City and Atlanta.
But the broad talent that exists across our state is remarkable. And while the focus and attention are often on the rappers with impressive lyrical abilities or those who have gained mainstream success, it’s the producers whose talents shape our sound and scene.
Here in the Triangle area, we’ve watched The Soul Council flourish both together and independently. The Jamla-signed collective of producers has contributed soulful sample-filled beats to a wide range of artists including Rapsody, Skyzoo, and Reuben Vincent. And then there’s Raund Haus, a collective of instrumental hip-hop and electronic beat makers, who garnered a large following after curating a niche scene for producers and creatives. Their efforts landed them a partnership with Redeye Worldwide that birthed the collective’s label Raund Haus Records. In the past few years, we’ve also seen an increase in musical partnerships from producer collectives like Pelham and Junior, The Mercenaries, FRGN-SPCMN, and The Genius Party.
Pelham and Junior is made up of artist/producer Pat Junior and multi-instrumentalist musician Justin Pelham. The Mercenaries most recently landed a placement on Rapper Big Pooh and Jeezy’s latest project and are signed to Miami-based production legends Cool and Dre’s Epidemic Music Group. Made up of Ronnie Belle and André Jones, FRGN-SPCMN has landed placements for Raleigh’s own Ace Henny, TDE’s Lance Skiiiwalker, and Issa Rae’s Insecure Season 5 soundtrack.
Raleigh’s newest producer collective, The Genius Party, is made up of founding members Ampersand, Strizzy, Millie Vaughn, and Ace Dizzy Flow. Founded in January 2021 via a group chat, the collective’s goal is to cultivate a collaborative community for North Carolina producers where producers can showcase their beat-making abilities and network.
INDY Week: How did the idea of The Genius Party come together?
Ampersand: The idea came about when I was living in Oakland, California. I was just trying to find pockets of other producers. I started meeting other people and began thinking to myself, “Why isn’t anybody coming together and freely collaborating?”
We’ve always had an issue with uniting the music scene here, which doesn’t really make it much of a music scene at all. You have your boom-bap cliques and you have your trap cliques. R&B is probably one of the strongest communities out in North Carolina now. So, I thought of this idea just to bring more people together. Collaboration and community are how we grow. The mission of The Genius Party is to create, collaborate, and build up the producer culture in Raleigh.
Strizzy: When Ampersand told me about his idea, I saw the vision as far as, like, bridging the gap within the hip-hop community. We can all come together. It’s a lot of artists out here that just go on YouTube and pick out random beats when there’s massive talent right here in the city. Why not just keep it all homegrown? It’s all about collaboration and creativity for us.
What are the goals of The Genius Party?
Ace Dizzy: Without the community, what is The Genius Party? We want to continue to create spaces where people can make connections to collaborate together. So far, our Genius Parties, which are artists and producer showcases, have been successful. We want to continue to curate live events that connect talented creatives across North Carolina. We would also like to get involved with North Carolina’s public school system. It would be an honor to work with at-risk youth who don’t really have much to keep them entertained and provide them with certain skills that they can, you know, build upon, whether it’s, like, music, videography, crypto, currency, just anything that’s going to add to the kid’s lives.
Millie Vaughn: I’d like to add that we are an online source for positive feedback for any producer who would like to share their content online. We have launched The Genius Party Radio, a YouTube series where producers are allotted 45 minutes to showcase their beats, and we provide the background visuals.
What hip-hop collectives have inspired you, either collectively or even individually?
Mille Vaughn: The Beat Club. They’re a collective of producers who are from Boston, and their mission is very similar to ours—give producers a platform to shine.
Ampersand: I would start off by saying that Young Guru once said, “The best music that is ever made, is made by a small pocket of people in the community, in the same building, coming together with the same mindset.” So I would say definitely the Justice League and Wu-Tang.
Strizzy: I’m a fan of Cypher Univercity. I kind of feel like we are the production version of what they built.
Where can people follow you guys or join the community?
Ampersand: The Genius Party is on all social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. We have an active group on Facebook where we are building a thriving producer community for North Carolina.