I would like to respond to Jason Bugg’s premise in “Part of a Nation, Under a Groove” [Xpress, July 5]: “Western North Carolina is known for a lot of things, but its up-and-coming hip-hop scene is not one of them.”
There is an up-and-coming hip-hop scene in Asheville! I am very lucky to be a part of the incredible wellspring of talent coming out of Asheville and the surrounding areas, not only in the hip-hop scene but the musical community in general. I missed seeing Dem Carolina Boiz, which Bugg was writing about, because one of our awesome local reggae bands, Chalwa, invited various local talent out to be a part of their show at the Emerald Lounge, and I was included.
Chalwa is not the only local band to do this. Pretty much all the bands I know are aware and very supportive of Asheville’s MCs and singers, and let me tell you—it is a beautiful thing. It blows me away every time a collaboration of this caliber takes place, and it always turns out to be a high-quality musical experience.
Hip-hop gets a bad rap. A lot of people are close-minded about it, which makes no sense, especially in a city like Asheville. Also, the coverage and exposure for artists in the underground scene here is at a major minimum. But that’s OK, because we are still pushing to get our art out there, and we will continue to do so until we get the recognition that is deserved. Because in the end, we are all artists, trying to create and communicate an un-ignorable passion and desire inside, and putting it onstage for others to see, enjoy and understand.
This is not commercial rap. This is conscious, indigenous, local hip hop. We don’t tote guns and sell crack. We don’t make the same old crap over the same candy-shop beats. This is innovative, positive and revolutionary music, built from the ground up by some of the most talented producers, MCs and singers in our country. This is music! So when you see names like I.T. (Intellexual Telapathy), Campaign, Chach, Ill Eye, Plan 2, Rare Form, Tru Dru, Verse, Agent 23, UFE, The Ville Boys, Fist Fam, Baby G, Gaia Resurrect, and Lady Laine—look twice!
When you see bands like the Ashevegas All Stars, Strut, Chalwa, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Circatree, Ethos, Ras B, Laura Reed and Deep Pocket, and Jeff Sipe—listen up!
When you notice venues like the Emerald Lounge, Stella Blue, Ophelia’s, Gourmet Perks, the Courtyard Gallery and the Garage at Biltmore—come check it out! What have you got to lose? You just might really like it. The local hip-hoppers aren’t even close to fading away. We have venues, we have studios, we have beats, we have musicians, we have mikes, we have a family, we have talent, and we are not going anywhere.
We have been networking and bringing all kinds of varied talent together. The sad part is, Asheville’s underground hip-hop scene is famous and well known everywhere but Asheville!
We are working hard (and starving for it) to change that. You probably won’t see us headlining the Orange Peel (yet!), but so what. You will see us in the Clubland section of the Mountain Xpress, believe me. We are here! Stop trying to ignore us, because it won’t work. Open your minds and hearts, get on your dancing shoes and thinking caps—because we are here to stimulate your mind and soul and make your body move. We want to do this just for you. So take it like the present it is. We will be waiting for you—see you soon!
— Laine Lewis (aka Lady Laine)