That person is UNC graduate , a UNC employee who’s also known under his stage moniker, (J) Rowdy.
For 12 hours 36 minutes and 54 seconds on Sunday, Rowsey, along with six other North Carolina emcees — Anderson Burrus, Tracy Lamont, Tony Dyer, Peyton Courtney, Andrew Weaver and Tony Powell — participated in a record-breaking cypher at DSI Comedy Theater.
Powell, who also goes by Konvo the Mutant, said the audience fed off of the improvisation and the energy of the performers.
“Everybody was either just listening or rooting us on, and we just never stopped,” he said. “It went from us just trying to break a record to actually being a community event.”
The event was the first act to kick off the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, which runs through Feb. 14. It is also the only event in the festival focused solely on hip-hop music.
Zach Ward, a UNC class of 1999 graduate and owner of DSI Comedy Theater, said although most people don’t typically associate freestyle rap with comedy, there are many similarities between freestyle rap and improv comedy.
“Freestyle rap is improvisation, in-the-moment rapping inspired by words that they’re getting from the dictionary and ideas that are coming in from pop culture and current events,” he said.
“Josh came with this crazy idea and, in the spirit of what we do, we said, ‘Yes, and’ and we helped him do whatever we could do to make it happen.”
Rowsey, who has spent every Wednesday night since fall 2014 at the Pit Cypher and spends much of his free time freestyling with his friends across the state, said he created this event to bring awareness to the quality of artists that North Carolina has to offer.
“I really see that there’s a widespread movement in the hip-hop community right now where North Carolina is a force for skillful emcees and artists,” he said. “We have our own sort of niche here. We’re doing our own thing and something that nobody can replicate, and I think that this cypher is kind of made to be a statement.”
Now that the record has been broken, Powell said the group of friends will continue to do cyphers on their own campuses across North Carolina but also encourage others to start their own cyphers and pursue hip-hop.
“I felt great to be able to do it with my brothers on that stage and just really do what we love doing,” he said.
“Most people would think this is where we stop, but we can’t stop — we have so much more to do.”