Empty spindles littered the ground of the Pit in front of DJ Ill Digitz as he scribbled the names of albums and mixtapes on burned discs. A few yards away, MC Charlie Smarts and producer Foolery asked passers-by if they like hip-hop, hoping to spread the gospel of good music to willing ears.
It is a Wednesday afternoon in the Pit. This is half of Raleigh’s up-and-coming hip-hop group Kooley High, and this is their life.
“At first you take it a little personal, but then after a while it’s just funny. People act like you have the plague or something,” Ill Digitz said, referring to people’s reactions when the group hits the streets to do some self-promotion. “But at least two or three of these people are going to listen to that CD you gave them and think, ‘Wow, I just got a dope hip-hop album that I wouldn’t have got.’ That’s what makes it worth it.”
Since Kooley High dropped Kooley is High in April, the group has stayed busy. Emcees Charlie Smarts and Tab-One have both released solo projects for free download, with one from fellow member Rapsody on the way. The group also spent some time on the west coast creating a buzz, have done some shows locally and have been trying to make sure everybody in the Triangle knows about Kooley High.
“Right now it’s just the Kooley is High, Charlie Smarts f’alex, Tab-One Tabloids campaign. We just want to make sure everybody in the world has heard all three,” Charlie Smarts said of the group’s current releases. It’s a push that has taken on more importance as Smarts and Foolery lost their day jobs.
And like many independent artists, Kooley High bears the full weight of its promotion, wearing the MC, producer, DJ, A&R and street team hats simultaneously. “We’re our own label in ourselves,” Smarts said.
“We just need to stop making music for a hot second,” Ill Digitz added. “We need to make sure these three are put out there like they deserve because f’alex and Tabloids are albums, so they deserve to be pushed properly at least for the next couple months.”
While the group pushes its creative bounty, it is also shopping for a distribution deal for their forthcoming debut album, The High Life, which they hope to release next year. And even though there isn’t a timetable laid out for the album, the group plans to drop a new mixtape in January to appease the fans.
In the meantime, Tab-One, Charlie Smarts and Ill Digitz will be doing a weekly show at Ruckus Pizza in Raleigh in addition to the upcoming group shows. Along with Friday’s Durham Literary Center benefit at the Duke Coffeehouse with brothers-in-rhyme Inflowential, Kooley High will also be performing in Los Angeles in November.
The group is also trying to expand their presence in Chapel Hill. Kooley High plans to collaborate with UNC’s Hip-Hop Nation club for a Thursday night show in October.
“We want to get access to our target audience. If there’s a hip-hop head in the building we know they’ll f--k with us,” Foolery said. “There ain’t really any reason to make music if you don’t let what you have work for you.”
Kooley High is hustling hard and the group relies on the crossover appeal of diligent work and using other outlets, such as this year’s “One Day” documentary, to gain the interest of the masses.
“People outside of hip-hop like us, too. The documentary that we shot, that gets at people that aren’t exactly our target market, but they can appreciate the grind and the hustle,” Smarts said. “They like us as people, then they get on our music.”
Check out more about Kooley High on the Dive blog.
Contact the Diversions Editor at email@example.com.
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