But travel as he may, on Wednesday nights, Rowsey always ends up in one place.
Since last fall, Rowsey has helped put on a freestyle hip-hop cypher in the Pit every Wednesday at 9:15 p.m. Building on the momentum of the “Cypher Univercity” movement established at N.C. State, Rowsey — who goes by (J) Rowdy — volunteered to lead the charge in Chapel Hill so he could give students an outlet to freely express themselves through hip-hop.
“I think hip-hop is a universal medium that speaks to so many different people and so many different ideals because it can apply itself to almost any situation,” Rowsey said. “If you have a story, you’re a part of hip-hop.”
(J) Rowdy and Chapel Hill’s hip-hop tales are inextricably bound to each other. Before he brought the Cypher to the Pit, Rowsey and fellow emcees Cayso and JSWISS formed the No9to5 hip-hop collective during their tenures at UNC.
Though the artists have branched out since graduation, the group still collaborates, most recently during their Hillmatic hip-hop showcase at Local 506 last month.
Frontman of the Durham-based band, The Beast, and UNC lecturer Pierce Freelon has never been far from Chapel Hill’s hip-hop scene. According to Freelon, the nature of Chapel Hill presents a unique challenge to a flourishing musical community.
Freelon said maintaining a fan base in a college town can be difficult.
“It’s a transient thing — you’re here for four years if you’re lucky, and then move on to other things,” he said.
With the cypher, Rowsey brings a sense of permanency to the local hip-hop community. Although artists, students and fans come and go from Chapel Hill, Rowsey is proud to be among those who bearing torch for the community.
“I want to represent my hometown and what built me as a man to face the world,” he said. “Representing Chapel Hill is just like representing myself, and I want to do it to the highest level.”
As students filtered through the Pit last night, musicians laid down a beat on a cello, violin, guitar and drum kit while amateur rappers provided impromptu lyrics. A small crowd grew larger as the night went on while emcees passed the mic and gave the evening a soundtrack.
Sophomore Peyton Courtney was among those who stepped up to the mic last night. He says he started coming for the music but stuck around for the camaraderie.
“It’s a real good community at the Cypher, and it’s great for boosting the rap and hip-hop community here,” Courtney said. “You don’t even have to be able to freestyle to enjoy it — it’s just poetry in motion.”