Asheville hip-hop pioneer MC Huggs remembered for his talents and generosity

THE FOUNDATION: Patrick “MC Huggs” Huggins was known for his kindness, musical talents and passionate support of the local hip-hop scene. The Asheville-based artist passed away on June 21. Image by Philo Reitzel

By Michael “Foul Mouth Jerk” Capra

When I first arrived in Asheville in 1996, the clubs and music venues downtown categorically refused to book hip-hop shows. If you wanted to rap in public, you had to do it in a park or on a street corner, over a beat box, or the occasional hippie with a hand drum. It was in one of these Lexington Avenue street cyphers that I met my future GFE bandmates and the Brooklyn-bred Patrick “MC Huggs” Huggins. In his signature eyeglasses, bucket hat and NBA jersey, he explained to me that he had arrived in town the previous year, and that with his band Groove Crust he’d been working on breaking through this citywide rap ban.

True to his word and his work ethic, within the year he had done just that. By 1997, Groove Crust was playing clubs like 31 Patton, Metropolis, Gatsby’s and Be Here Now. He had opened the door. At this time, we were both working in kitchens downtown — he as a grill man and me as a dish dog. It was not uncommon to see him after work, before a gig, passing out handbills on Biltmore Avenue or Broadway and talking up his show to locals and tourists alike.

Understanding that, like many other local MCs, I was still trying to pick the locks on this nightclub ban, he never hesitated to invite me to come spit a verse and rock the stage with him. Even when I showed up to his gig, fresh from the dish tank, covered in grease stains and smelling like french fries, he would not hesitate to put a broke boy on the guest list and offer me a beer on the band’s tab before graciously sharing his stage time with me. And I know I’m not the only one he did that for.

That’s the kind of dude Huggs was. If he had the plug, you had the plug. Even when he reached that pinnacle of 1990s Asheville stardom — playing a set at the Vance Monument during Bele Chere — he invited guest rappers who couldn’t get stage time of their own to join him. He wasn’t just an artist, but a fan and supporter of the culture and individuals. If there was a basement party in the gutter punk filth of the Pink House, he was there with a pair of Heineken 22s in his backpack. An after-hours rave at Hairspray? He was already playing the wall by the time you got there. DJ doesn’t have a mic for us to rock on? Don’t worry, we’re spitting through the sweaty-ass headphones. Huggs was locked and loaded.

When the west side was still known as Worst Asheville and many people were scared to come over to this side of the French Broad River, MC Huggs had an apartment on Haywood Road, just past Michigan Avenue. He would host floor-wide DJ parties where every apartment was wide open, music blasting, with folks dancing and smoking in and out of the hallways. The policy, as always with MC Huggs, was open-door.

Over the years, after he stopped gigging regularly, Huggs still had his ear to the scene. He kept coming to shows and supporting, whether you were new and up-and-coming, or a veteran with tour miles under your belt and stripes on your sleeve. In fact, other than our unfortunate, impromptu weekly Ingles meetings to mourn our beloved New York Giants, one of the last times I saw the brother was just before the quarantine, in March at The Mothlight for Spaceman Jones’ Urban Combat Wrestling event. He was a fan.

In ’97, when MC Huggs and Groove Crust played Bele Chere, Mountain Xpress described them as “Run-DMC meets Led Zeppelin.” I think in the pantheon of what is now our small but thriving hip-hop scene here in the mountains, that’s an apt description. He was foundational — the first brick that many of us built on. If you are an artist in this scene or even a fan, I will tell you like I told everyone when he was still with us: MC Huggs did it first.

You opened the doors, homie. Rest in Peace, Rest in Power. You will be missed, but you will not be forgotten.

Patrick “MC Huggs” Huggins unexpectedly passed away on June 21. He was 56 years old.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

2 thoughts on “Asheville hip-hop pioneer MC Huggs remembered for his talents and generosity

  1. Jason Williams

    Well written article. I saw that Bele Chere show. I’m sad for the loss to our community.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.