Not many UNC orientation leaders can claim to be underground rappers, and even fewer gain enough popularity to perform at sold-out shows.
But junior political science major Michael Thornburg can.
Thornburg, who also goes by the stage name Thornbro, has proven that it is possible to have a successful rap career at UNC, even if it all started as a joke.
He fell in love with rap at an early age. In middle and high school he went through some of the most difficult moments in his life, times where he faced depression and even thoughts of suicide, but music helped put everything in perspective.
“The reason why I write comes from the dark times in my life,” he said.
Still, it took a while before he tried his hand at making music. It wasn't until his senior year of high school when he decided to take rapping and music-making more seriously, although it wasn’t the biggest priority in his life.
“It started as a joke, I was just messing around. Then it became a way to express myself,” Thornburg said.
Not even his parents saw it coming. He began to invest in better equipment and write more consistently. It got to the point where, during his first week of college, he was releasing new songs about once a week.
He admitted that, at that time, it probably would have been best not to release so many songs.
“I would just release it if I made it, but I probably shouldn’t have released anything,” he said.
In the past few years, though, Thornburg has upped his game. Not only has he been contacted for shows outside of the Chapel Hill community, but he is also receiving messages from people who he has never met explaining how his music has touched them.
Sophomore Troy Royal, an exercise and sports science major, is just one fan of his music that thinks it's moving in a great direction.
“Michael’s lyrics are really meaningful — it’s not like a lot of mainstream rap. It’s pretty easy to find a connection to your own life,” Royal said.
“The songs are something you can relate to, not just bump your head to.”
Thornburg’s goal is to have a good mix of music that has catchy beats without losing the content. He said he feels that right now mainstream hip-hop is lacking in that sense — although underground hip-hop represents the real state of hip-hop.
He said his hope is that he can keep expanding and diversifying so he can add something different to today’s hip-hop.
Royal also talked about the amazing quality of his performances. Royal has seen Thornburg perform at Dance Marathon twice around 3 a.m. She mentioned that although people are usually extremely tired at that time, all of that changes when Thornbro arrives.
“He comes in and everyone gets really excited,” Royal said.
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