The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 3rd

Blowin' up is next on agenda for local hip-hop artists

Like a clueless kid stuck on a stalled uphill roller coaster, N.C. hip hop waits restlessly for East Coast recognition.

For too long, frustrated emcees, groups, producers and DJs have witnessed up-and-coming hip-hop acts from Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami and even St. Louis bypass their dormancy and become the next multiplatinum rap superstars, leaving the state starved for a piece of the money and fame.

And though there are endless lamentations as to why N.C. hip hop hasn't blown up yet, it's only a matter of time before the hard work pays off.

With an abundance of artists in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham working feverishly to become trailblazers for N.C. hip hop, inactivity, at least in the Triangle area, is not to blame.

"The (Triangle hip-hop) scene is misdirected and very juvenile. There's a lack of sophistication and focus," said DJ Madd, a.k.a. James Heyward, who owns MaddWaxx record store in Durham and heads Take Two Entertainment, which has helped promote acts on the Virgin, RCA, Nervous and Mercury labels.

He also cited an absence of underground hip-hop clubs in the area that could easily facilitate support for a local scene.

"A lot of people who want to get involved just don't know what they're doing. Their contacts are iffy and they have no insight," said DJ Mike Nice, who has a hip-hop show on N.C. Central University's WNCU radio and manages the RDU 919 Music Group, which produces music, manages artists, and promotes music labels.

"No one wants to listen, yet everyone can't be in charge; rap is an entity, and there's a lot of hard work involved into making a single artist big," said Nice, who also used to spin at Durham's Power Company nightclub.

Both veterans, however, acknowledge Chapel Hill rap group Tyfu as one of the more accomplished acts in the area.

Five years and 11 members strong, Tyfu released Out of Control on Illgore Records and Redeye Distribution in September. Its first CD, Spinfinity, sold 1,500 copies, and with the new album's sales, radio play and video play for the single "Worldwide," the group says it hopes to get attention from major record labels.

Tyfu was dealt a major blow when its label, Mammoth Records, was bought and later reorganized by Disney in January 2000, nullifying the record contract and forcing the group to release the new album as they had done the first - independently.

"A lot of people in the group panicked, but it allowed time to clean up a lot of mess. The deal seemed easy for the newer members, but they soon realized they had to start working for something, as the older members have done for years," said Hack, a.k.a. Jon Hackney, the group's producer.

Despite the demand for Out of Control, Hack cited difficulties with area record stores for ignoring its release date by not supplying it to customers, showing a general lack of support for local hip hop.

"While Tyfu may be the kings of Chapel Hill, it's not the same in Raleigh. That's where it's stallin' because the universal support isn't happening," said DJ Madd.

Like many others, Hack said he believed the only way for N.C. hip hop to garner fame is if artists leave and represent in a larger scene like New York or Atlanta, that is, if they are still willing to call North Carolina home.

Chapel Hill emcee Kevikaze, a.k.a. UNC graduate Kevin Thomas' album The Kaze Show will be released on Soul Dojo Entertainment in late winter . He said he wants the album to get attention not only musically and lyrically, but mainly because it represents N.C. hip hop.

"I didn't make a single song with the radio in mind, because every song is personally relevant," said Kevikaze, who also produces his music. His album will feature Dojo artists Maniac Slaughter and Malik.

"Kev's got every flow in the book," said Bobby Son, co-manager of Soul Dojo, who explained that the independent label's name was, simply, their way of thought.

In conjunction with his album, Kevikaze's music video and comedy show can be found on www.zoomculture.com, where clips from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's Hip Hop Hoops Tour can also be found.

This promotional tour, sponsored by Zoom Culture and major radio stations, visits mainly black colleges on the East Coast with a student basketball game and postgame talent show, where emcees can shine on an open mic. The tour hits UNC on Nov. 8.

"If you got skills, we'll give you a mic," said Troy Grier, a Zoom Culture promotional representative. Grier, a newcomer from Charlotte, said he believes there is a lot more support for N.C. hip hop in the Triangle due to more shows, ubiquitous talent and collective motivation.

Raleigh's Hazardous Records was spawned from this motivation. After eight years, the label has six hip-hop and R&B acts, has opened up for national acts the Cash Money Millionaires, DMX and Mobb Deep and will release the compilation Down South Grubbin' by early January.

"(Down .) is going to put N.C. on the map," said Boogie, a Hazardous emcee.

"We got it all," he said, citing a spectrum from gangsta to radio-friendly to underground rap.

Boogie said the label's last album, The Annihilation, sold 300,000 copies.

Hazardous' Guido says he is confident the label will take over the music industry, and if this is the attitude that's going to propel N.C. hip hop into fame, more power to them.

A more humble member of Durham's Southern Sauce, J-Boogie, a.k.a. Jamal Cook, said he recently passed up an opportunity to flex solo skills for a Def Jam South scout at Durham's Tobacco Roadhouse out of sheer loyalty to his group. New but serious, the group is currently working on its album From Here on Out.

"It's hard when you're young and you don't have money," said J-Boogie, who, with producer Dutch, a.k.a. Scott Scarborough, wants to promote a positive, yet street-smart feel.

"A lot of people are rappin' but not sayin' anything. I hope hip hop changes more positively," said Dutch, who manages Pymp Tight Productions and describes his music as having an underground, bouncy, down-South feel.

With so many artists and so much productivity, it seems N.C. hip hop needs an intangible oomph to get into the East Coast spotlight. That push could be the collective support of the entire Triangle and state hip-hop scene, which many, besides artists, feel is anemic or nonexistent.

"If Raleigh would network with Winston(-Salem) and even Charlotte, the hard work would eventually pay off," said J-Boogie.

Artists also indicated tension with major radio stations, who unlike college stations, they said, are too influenced by up-North and down-South hip hop to give local music any respect.

"What's played on the air is ultimately up to the DJs with their own mix shows," said Greg Weiss, new general manager of the Raleigh branch of Radio One and WKOQ 97.5, whose "Quiet Storm" R&B show was recently replaced with a nightlong hip-hop format.

Weiss said the station would not only continue to embrace all hip hop, but also heighten awareness for the local scene with more promotion for hip-hop showcases at nightclubs.

N.C. hip hop's current stagnation is due to "a little bit of everything, like laziness, who you know and money," said DJ Uneek of Raleigh's WKNC, who used to spin last year at Gotham and is a member of rap group New Thousand.

From the looks of the scene and the artists directly involved in it, there's too much frustration, impatience and hard work to not reach a final, sweet notoriety. And if every artist is as dedicated as they say they are, only time will tell.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.


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