‘Consider Southern hip-hop’: Teachers bring Southern hip-hop festival to Chapel Hill

Artists and performers from North Carolina and other Southern states will gather this weekend in Chapel Hill for Hip Hop South, a celebration of the region’s unique artistic styles.

Starting April 22, the festival will feature two evenings of live music at multiple venues, including Cat’s Cradle. There will also be a virtual sneaker culture lecture, a hip-hop scholarship exhibit, and a public mural.

Among the festival’s co-curators are two Harvard Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellows, Christopher Massenburg (also known as Dasan Ahanu), adjunct professor at UNC and Regina Bradley, professor at Kennesaw State University.

Carolina Performing Arts is sponsoring the event as part of Southern Futures: a university-wide, interdisciplinary project to redefine the South from within, focusing on the arts and humanities.

“This is an initiative designed to respond to this moment of change, social justice and everything that has happened over the past few years,” said Jane O’Hara, associate director of marketing and communications at CPA .

Launch of the inaugural festival

While the hip-hop genre is often dominated by artists from the northeast and west coast, Massenburg said, curators want to expose southern hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it.

“It’s not just drums and hi-hats,” Massenburg said.

Since hip-hop traditionally samples other musical genres, the South has different sources of inspiration than other parts of the country, he said.

“It’s gospel music, it’s blues, it’s jazz, and it’s also the bass of hip-hop,” Massenburg said.

O’Hara said there will be a wide range of Southern hip-hop styles featured at the event, including popular artists like Big Boi and Rapsody, as well as lesser-known artists from the region.

Curators work to ensure the festival represents North Carolina’s hip-hop scene. Two of Friday’s early acts, Rapsody and Shirlette Ammons, grew up in the state.

“It’s a great way to kick off the inaugural festival, to be able to say, ‘This is what we have here in North Carolina,'” Massenburg said.

Beyond the music

Although the festival is centered around hip-hop, it will also explore the surrounding culture through talks, scholarship and other artistic mediums beyond main stage performances, the associate director of the festival said. engagement of CPA, Amanda Graham.

“It’s an opportunity to really think about the fabric of where we live,” she said.

A permanent contribution to the local community will come from a mural by Durham artist Artie Barksdale. It will be painted on the side of a building that currently houses Imbibe and Zog’s Art Bar & Pool Hall.

According to a Chapel Hill Arts blog post, the location was chosen because of its proximity to The Hideaway, a former top hip-hop club.

As part of the event, Bradley will present research on Southern hip-hop, Graham said.

Bradley’s collection includes work by veteran journalists and oral historians on the significance of regional contributions to hip-hop, according to the event’s website.

“Bringing Regina’s voice to UNC-Chapel Hill is a really special thing,” Graham said.

The co-curators worked to integrate the festival into the Southern Future Initiatives, critically examining the role of art in the South, Massenburg said.

“When you think about chronicling the South, I don’t think you can do that without considering Southern hip-hop,” he said.

For more information, including the calendar of events, click here.


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