In the tight-knit, ever-growing community of hip hop in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, ambition and ego is tempered with the need for cooperation and family. Here is a sampling of artists working alongside each other to raise not only the awareness of great hip-hop music from our state, but the people along with it. Many of these DJs, MCs and producers have lent their talents to each others’ records, organized events together, and promoted their friends and neighbors to anyone that would listen. Once Ninth Wonder of Little Brother produced a cut on Jay-Z’s last album, folks around the country started paying more attention to this state that wasn’t just another version of the Dirty South. Eighties legend Big Daddy Kane resides in Durham, often nurturing young artists on their way up. And this burgeoning hip-hop community is swiftly headed in that direction.
DJ Chela No. 1
Urban music director at WXDU, 88.7 FM; DJs regional events like the all-female hip-hop event B-Girl Fest; released two mix CDs. Just released her latest, Chela 4 President, featuring exclusive cuts by Mosadi Music with Phonte of Little Brother, a new one from Shelly B, and Spectac’s “War of The World.”
Assistant principal at Chapel Hill High by day, hip-hop music maker by night; Mervin Jenkins alias Spectac also presents motivational talks to high school students. Frequent performer in area shows, also appeared as the only rapper from this area at the Rock Steady Crew reunion in NYC; solid freestyle skills, often uses his political voice in his music. Two EPs under his belt; his latest, When I Rock, is out now.
Co-creator of national television series Hip-Hop Nation; founder of local showcase series Microphone Mondays. Owner of Soul Dojo label; three full-lengths and several singles out, including Spirit of 94, also recently remixed by Ninth Wonder of Little Brother, and Enemy of the State.
Both MC and producer; collaborated with many area artists including MCs Kaze and Nature. Hails from Wilson; inspired by two grandmothers’ gospel background and school of beat-makers like Pete Rock. “Da Instigator” single released, Memoirs of a Premature Legend on the way.
Soulful voices matched with smooth, solid percussion. Staying busy from NY to NC with head-turning debut The Listening in ’03; national acclaim led to Phonte, Big Pooh and beat-master Ninth Wonder touring the globe, staying in overdrive. Latest: Phonte collaboration with Dutch producer Nicolay; 9th Wonder produces everybody, gets call from Jay-Z, works on new Destiny Child album; new Little Brother album The Minstrel Show due in 2005.
Collective of several artists, including Cesar Comanche, Away Team, Joe Scudda, LEGACY, Little Brother, more. There are strong ties within this crew; prolific with many records out. LEGACY’s Nice and Comanche’s Paper Gods out now; Rapper Big Pooh’s Sleeper coming soon.
Strong lady rapper who spits raucous, raw truths and strong confessional stories. A dynamic live performer, her set at the Indy Music Awards was fiery; look for her in clubs and her notable record, “Underground Music.”
extensive NC area including Chapel Hill
Aggressive, self-contained troupe of rappers and beat-makers; equipped with their own central recording space. Artists include Spitune, Living Dead, DJ Notik. Notik’s “Round Here” mix is out now. Regular gigs at The Library in Chapel Hill.
Fierce, politically-charged sentiments from this duo; also put action to their words. Member Pierce Freelon, son of Durham jazz singer Nnenna Freelon, active with group Hip-Hop Voices in voter registration, etc. Performs and consults with Hip-Hop Summit at Hayti Heritage Center.
Rising MC signed to a NY label; dubbed a rep of the New South as his video for the cut “Stage Dive” (featuring DJ Chela No. 1) gets rotation on BET. Loose style, club dancing vibe. Album Louder Than Words due soon.
MC with a direct lyrical style; worked with producers Kwame, Ski; recently recorded “You Know Wassup” with 8Ball and E40. Got break from doing a promo on K97.5. His album, Now or Never, coming soon.
Xtra Infinit Crew
Group of varied styles in this collective; producer Dox and MCs Beyond and Duo part of their strengthening network. Their continuing series of showcases, Liquid Flowz, is gaining momentum in its third year. Look for a DVD of Liquid Flowz’s second year; new releases on both CD and vinyl.
21st Records Crew
Working from the ground up, in 2000 these collaborators formed their own label and hosted events. Artists include Pauly Snubnoze, Jozeemo and Aron Spliff; upcoming albums like Jozeemo’s Blockhuggerz Vol. 2 and his Greasy drops this month, with Dope Tracks due in December.
Welcome to notoriety
The film provided an eye-opening look into local gang life, but Welcome to Durham is more than another indy flick. Its soundtrack is a compilation of some of area’s best hip hop artists. Recently, RDU919–the film’s producers–started working on music videos (like the recent shoot above with members of The Butta Team) to accompany a planned 2005 DVD release of the film. For now, the tracks are making the rounds in the underground scene with the first single–the 9th Wonder-produced “Welcome 2 Durham,” featuring The Butta Team with Little Brother and Big Daddy Kane–already getting airplay on both coasts.