As Oak City Slums, Raleigh electro-magnate and beat shark Rodney Finch has become an ubiquitous force within the Triangle's instrumental hip-hop and electronic music pockets. Through a string of recent performances in Durham in collaboration with the Bull City collective Raund Haus, Slums' kinetic, show-stealing sets have suggested he might be the most competent, compelling producer to spearhead local momentum. Might he lead us toward some fraction of the acclaim that Los Angeles's renowned experimental beat showcase, Low End Theory, receives with the likes of Flying Lotus and Daedelus?
Now twenty-eight, Gunn has had a rap career rife with derailments, destinations, and peculiar dustups. In the early 2000s, he helmed the underground Durham rap trio The Thyrday before briefly giving up on rapping altogether to earn a degree from N.C. A&T University. Upon his return home, he signed to MC Lyte's DuBose Music Group imprint, which in turn led him to become an artist on the BET Music Matters campaign. More recently, he's had a top-charting song in Jamaica, of all places, and a diss song aimed at Bow Wow, of all people.
The idea of sitting in a funeral home and having a lively conversation about food nostalgia isn't terribly far-fetched—especially in a historic district like Durham's Hayti, where the life and death of black prosperity is obvious from simply walking through the area.
The public dissolution of the Triangle hip-hop trio Little Brother began shortly after the release of its 2005 album, The Minstrel Show, and the fallout signaled the larger disintegration of its fifteen-member collective, Justus League.
ZenSoFly and Oak City Slums Are Twin Engines Ramping up Raleigh's Bass Music Scene.
From Stasio's show to the domain of corporate benefactors, from festival main stages to indie producer music videos, Toon continues to go places where few other local rappers dare to venture. Now, he hopes, Take Notes can take him farther.
"I would twist the wire until it turned into a form," he says. "It looked like scribble, so I used to call it '3-D scribble.' One day I added joints and clothes. My first puppets were made out of wire—real abstract."
Soon, Pipkins began recycling old PVC pipes and wood scraps into more discernible, lifelike puppets. Pipkins subsequently moved to Chapel Hill, taking a job at the Carrboro restaurant Spotted Dog. One of the owners discovered Pipkins' away-from-work craft and suggested he busk with his puppets in front of the restaurant.
It may not have the constant media attention and radio play of some of hip-hop’s more established locales, but North Carolina has recently become something of a genre hotbed. Beyond J. Cole’s smash hit commercial success of an album about returning to his Fayetteville roots, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, California has pimped the hell out of North Carolina hip-hop. The Tar Heel State has exported so much of its vital talent to the West Coast that it’s made the area look like an intensive combine for national rap.
"Sometimes I think about the fact that he probably walked these streets," Rose says. "I wanted to be here. I wanted to feel that spirit. I like the feeling of knowing that I have a bit of Black Wall Street's legacy in my blood."
"Would an artist like myself really be considered for the position?" Ahanu said, noting the state's availability of prominent, overlooked African-American poets, including Jaki Shelton Green. "Is that something that could be aspired to in North Carolina? What response would my appointment bring?"
"I had a hole in my voice. I still do," Salvant explained in a recent interview. She was describing her transition from the classical arena to the more accommodating arms of jazz pastiche and how an error in her voice necessitated an idiomatic switch.
A whole lotta backpedaling happened in the Bull City, too. Not long after Durham restaurateur Gray Brooks announced he would name a forthcoming eatery "Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain,"
Morris Wayne Ricks II, better known as King Mez, remembers the first time he used his own money to buy an album.
He was 9 years old. The record was Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001. It was 1999.
Last week, the West Coast rap icon finally issued that album's long-awaited follow-up, Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre. King Mez, now 25, didn't have to buy it. He was instrumental in making it. In fact, he is the first person you hear on Compton's opening assault, "Talk About It." He appears on three of its 16 songs and has songwriting credits for 12, the most of any other contributor.
Local hip-hop radio could learn a lot from the shopping mall. In recent months, The Streets at Southpoint, the sprawling 1.3-million-square-foot emporium a dozen miles from downtown Durham, has incorporated local, non-chain outposts into its food options. In the name of what some have called "rebranding and being more local," or perhaps because it's much cooler to hang out at a food truck rodeo in Durham Central Park than in The Cheesecake Factory's patio dining area, Southpoint offered space for stationary versions of two area food-truck favorites, American Meltdown and Porchetta.
In March 2010, Lil Wayne (aka Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.) began serving an eight-month sentence at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, having pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon. Five months later, the New Orleans rapper gave a phone interview to famed DJ Funkmaster Flex on New York’s Hot 97 radio station, saying that upon his release from prison he would like to collaborate with two rappers in particular, Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Tech N9ne.