Senior Greg Davis II, of Fayetteville, poses for a portrait on March 2, 2020. He records out of his dorm room and has started making noise in the UNC music scene. "I just want to make music that people can have fun with" he said.
As Greg Davis II wandered through the Student Union’s Underground Lounge, he stopped dead in his tracks. Someone recognized him and called out his name. Within seconds, Davis smiled, dapped up his friend and started a conversation, as if it was time to entertain an audience of one.
As one of UNC’s most well-known rappers and a popular face in the University’s Black community, Davis is used to being recognized.
Before his junior year at UNC, Davis had never released a song. He had grown up singing in a church choir and wrote his own lyrics for the first time for a fourth grade talent show. He had even recorded a few songs in high school, but those songs had never been released.
In 2018, a friend of his paid for studio time so that Davis could record “Foreign.” In January 2019, Davis released the song as his first single. The reaction he received encouraged Davis to keep recording music.
“When I dropped it, in the first couple of days, it had like 1,000 plays on Apple Music,” Davis said. “I wasn't really posting it. I just posted it once. Then, people started singing it. That's when I knew, 'We've got something here. We're getting some traction.’”
Since then, Davis has released six more singles, including a remix of “Foreign” and three projects: “Sqhool Daze,” “Life of the Party,” and most recently, “College L.U.V.”
Davis tries to emulate Lil Wayne's punchlines in his lyrics, while being influenced by the music of the two hip-hop havens he has called home: Atlanta and Fayetteville.
Jalen Heyward, a senior who produces most of Davis’ music under the stage name J Keys, has known Davis since the two attended a leadership seminar in 10th grade. He said Davis’ talent was clear from the first time he saw him rap.
“I could tell he's very gifted by the way he would just come up with stuff just off the dome whenever we would have freestyles or go to parties,” Heyward said.
Andrew Robinson, a senior who works alongside Davis as a resident adviser in Olde Campus Lower Quad, was blown away the first time he heard Davis’ music.
“I was honestly kind of shocked,” Robinson said. “When I heard the song, I thought, 'This is something I'd hear on the radio or something I'd hear on Spotify on a rap playlist with a bunch of big-name artists.' His music sounds real and authentic, but also sounds professional.”
Davis’ music has especially taken off among the University’s Black community, which he has been involved with since he arrived at UNC. Though he is a member of Omega Psi Phi and created The Fellaship First Year Men of Color retreat in 2018, his music led to his rising further in the community.
“People knew me from being a party boy, just chilling and stuff, so they probably didn't want to listen to me at first,” Davis said. “After they saw, they were like, 'This music — you can't go without listening to it and singing along,' so I think that just helped out.”
Heyward said Black art, including Black music, is not recognized as much as it should be on campus.
“I feel like it's definitely underappreciated amongst UNC,” Heyward said. “The Black community values Black art, but I feel like we can do a better job of getting that Black art exposed to the rest of UNC.”
Davis said he also feels Black art is underappreciated at UNC.
“We've got real talent with people that really want to do music in Black UNC and they're not really getting heard,” Davis said. “People need to give Black artists more of a chance or promote them more.”
Heyward thinks that Davis can be the force that helps to further expose the rest of campus to Black art.
“A lot of people of different backgrounds are starting to listen to Greg more, especially on campus,” Heyward said. “That's breaking the barrier between Black art being discovered here and appreciated.”
Davis’ music has also helped him to deal with the stress of being a college student, something Robinson thinks is critical to the music’s popularity on campus.
“People look at him and are like, 'Here's someone like us on campus who is studying, struggling like we are, but is also producing music,’” Robinson said.
Davis is a senior, meaning his journey at UNC is almost over. He will join the military after graduation in an effort to pay off his student loans and later attend graduate school.
Despite the fact that he has already been sworn into the military, Davis still treats it as Plan B. Plan A is to continue his music career should an opportunity to do so present itself.
“That's what I want to do with my life is be an entertainer, not just a rapper,” Davis said.
No matter which plan ends up becoming reality, Davis will fondly remember his time making music and performing.
“I think I left a heelprint with more than just the organizations that I've started here,” Davis said. “I've left a heelprint with the academic side and the musical side and the social side. I've covered all angles and everything. I think music is my biggest accomplishment here.”
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