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Hip Hop

Musicans Kev Marcus (at left) and Wil B. make up hip-hop violin duo Black Violin. Their performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Nov. 17 was their final show of 2019.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Hip-hop violin duo Black Violin performed their final concert of the year last night at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Concertgoers danced and vibed to a setlist fused with what Black Violin crafts well — classical music and hip-hop.

Violinist Kevin Sylvester, also known as Kev Marcus, and violist Wilner Baptiste, also known as Wil B., make up the group. They released their new album “Take the Stairs” earlier this month. PBS described the pair as “two former high school orchestra nerds who use their love of Bach and Beethoven to reimagine classical music and connect with new audiences.”

The classically trained musicians joined Sarah Fenkse on St. Louis on the Air alongside St. Louis artist Brandon McCadney, known as Mad Keys. McCadney is classically trained in violin and plays the piano. 

(July 12, 2019) St. Louis-based hip-hop artist Kareem Jackson, who's stage name is Tef Poe, joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss his role as a U.S. cultural ambassador.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based hip-hop artist Kareem Jackson, who goes by the stage name Tef Poe, has often traveled across the world to share his musical craft and to also raise awareness about how social justice issues often intertwine across borders. 

His travels will continue next week to the Middle-Eastern country of Jordan as part of Next Level, a cultural exchange program the U.S. State Department is heading alongside the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The project seeks to use artistic collaboration and social engagement to enhance people-to-people diplomacy, especially among young audiences.

Camp facilitator Phil Robie demonstrates some design details [6/21/19]
Kara Hayes Smith

On a recent Thursday morning, 27 kids, mostly teenagers, sat at tables and used their imaginations to sketch out ideas for new buildings that would do some good in their communities. Models they’d made from household items and craft supplies, all painted gold, sat on the tables. Some of the kids made small versions of the buildings they’d envisioned. Others crafted abstract sculptural pieces.

A looped beat played in the background, fueling their inspiration both for this project and for the day’s big event, coming later: a rap battle.

This gathering at the Natural Bridge branch of St. Louis County Library in Normandy was one of 11 week-long events run around the country this summer by Hip Hop Architecture Camp, an organization based in Madison, Wisconsin.

The goal is to foster the creative spark that lies at the heart of both hip-hop and architecture, and explore ways that one discipline can influence the other.

Hip-hop artists pinkcaravan! (left) and Namesake (right).
Rodrigo Villordo

St. Louis-based rapper pinkcaravan! acquired her stage name from her first car: a Dodge Caravan gifted to her by her grandfather.

“Usually Caravans are looked at as ugly or something,” Jasmine Davidson explained in a conversation that aired during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “When you paint it pink, it makes it pretty. That’s what I feel like my music does – paint dark situations in a happy tone.”

The “sad-happy” musical composition her stage name embodies is beginning to become her signature as she expands her reach in the underground hip-hop scene. Her frequent collaborator, Kansas City-based producer Darron Edwards, who goes by the stage name Namesake, aids her tremendously in achieving this sound.

Mvstermind poses for a portrait at his north St. Louis County studio. Oct. 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’re looking for Mvstermind, you can probably find him in his studio in north St. Louis County. It’s where he hunkers down with different sounds and beats as he works to refine his brand of hip-hop.

The studio, in his parents’ basement, is where he works on all his projects, including “Mali Moolah,” the track that drew national attention in 2016. The newest is an in-progress EP, set drop in early 2019.

The St. Louis nonprofit Prison Performing Arts has been putting on plays with incarcerated people for 19 years. Here, two women at the penitentiary in Vandalia, Missouri rehearse a scene from "Hip Hop Hamlet." 10/11/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s opening night for “Hip Hop Hamlet” and more than 200 women dressed in baggy, khaki-colored clothes have packed into the gymnasium at the women’s penitentiary in Vandalia, Missouri. They’re eager to watch fellow members of the prison population perform a beat-filled, rap adaptation of the Shakespeare text.

Shakespeare scholars say his work offers ways to get in touch with what makes a person fully human. For the women participating in this show, that plays out at a very basic level.

John Harrington has led local hip-hop group Midwest Avengers for 25 years, in addition to being a longtime organizer of annual graffiti festival Paint Louis. 8/29/18
Courtesy Midwest Avengers

A new St. Louis hip-hop festival will go beyond the music and celebrate the culture that surrounds it, including art, film and dance.

The four-day series of events dubbed Hip Hop Week will coincide with Paint Louis, an annual gathering of hundreds of graffiti artists from around the world who will paint murals on the flood wall by South Wharf St. downtown.

“If I say Hip Hop Week, most people will think of it as: ‘Oh, it’s a music festival.’ And [they’re] not thinking of other elements of hip-hop — such as the fashion, such as the film, such as the culture of hip-hop,” said Dwight Carter, a local event promoter who is the festival’s creative director.

The albums "Straight Outta Compton and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," are shown with other albums at Vintage Vinyl. The two albums have inspired a wider variety of hip-hop artists for three decades.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Two seminal hip-hop albums are now 30 years old.

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy and "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. ushered in a new direction for the genre with lyrics that exposed conditions in black communities to white audiences.

The St. Louis region has a long history with hip-hop. An East St. Louis radio station was one of the first to broadcast the first mainstream hip-hop song, “Rapper’s Delight.” And of course, the city has its own stars, Nelly and Chingy. But the death of Michael Brown, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and incidents of police misconduct have brought the lyrics and themes of the two albums back to the forefront.

Rhiyana Jackson and Chingy pose for a selfie at St. Louis County Library on Natural Bridge Road. Rhiyana's rap about violence, education and housing was one of a few verses selected to be in a Hip-Hop Architecture Camp music video.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Natural Bridge location of the St. Louis County Library is a little less quiet than usual. Instead of the occasional rustling of paging through books or the light tapping of computer keyboards, one meeting room at the library is electrified with children’s exclamations of elation. A celebrity is in their midsts.

About two dozen children, ages 11-14, met St. Louis rapper Chingy on Thursday. The hip-hop recording artist helped kids at Hip-Hop Architecture Camp — a week-long program that combines music and urban planning. The project focused on imagining a new North Hanley Transit Center.

Camp creator Michael Ford with a camper in May 2017.
The HipHop Architecture Camp

About 2 percent of architects in the U.S. are African-American. That’s a statistic Michael Ford wants to change by inspiring young people to think of new ways to solve urban development problems that segregate and marginalize low-income communities.

Ford wants to achieve this goal using  hip-hop music and culture. He created The Hip-Hop Architecture Camp in 2017.

Arthur Ross is a freshman at Innovative Concept Academy and one of the finalists of the Mentors in Motion songwriting competition. Here he records the hook to a new song.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Music comes naturally for Arthur Ross. He’s been immersed in hip-hop since he was a child. Now he’s hoping one of his songs might help with his college goals.

“I hope this rapping takes me to the BET stage. If it doesn’t take me that far, I hope it can give my family a better life,” Ross said.

University City seniors Alex Cunningham, sitting, and Kyhler Cross work out a new beat as part of the audio production course Cunningham started last year. April 23, 2018.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Alex Cunningham is sprawled across the hallway in a corner of the University City High School music department. His laptop rests on his chest. Headphones cover his ears.

“I was trying to get to the studio but the door was locked,” he explained.

Cunningham, an 18-year-old senior, didn’t feel like doing the four flights of stairs down and up again to find a staff member to let him in. So he plopped down in the hall, outside of what could be considered his classroom.

Earlier this year, iLLPHONiCS released a new album titled "Gone With the Trends."
Provided by iLLPHONICS

Earlier this year, iLLPHONiCS released “Gone With the Trends,” its first album on a new label called The Record Machine. Just a month ago, the group released a music video for one of the album’s flagship songs “96to99.” The hip-hop-funk-rock fusion band has been a staple on the St. Louis music scene since 2006.

Father-daughter beatboxers Nicole Paris and Ed Cage have fun posing for this photo on November 5, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Millions have marveled at the beatboxing contests between father-daughter duo Ed Cage and Nicole Paris. They’ve battled it out in numerous YouTube videos and TV appearances including “The Late Late Show” and “Steve Harvey Show.”

But did you know they live in St. Louis? And that their beatboxing (percussion sounds produced mainly by mouth)  is more often collaborative than competitive?

Audio Agitation: The collaboration thicket

May 20, 2016
Audio Agitation
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis music scene is a tangled mess of collaborations, established bands, one-off projects, guest spots, and unexpected guest spots.  It’s an atmosphere that contributes to some of the best music emerging from the city but makes less-hot projects easy to ignore.

Rapper C-Sharp is spreading the word about a voter participation initiative called "YouTurn 2016."
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, we take things in a slightly different direction by interviewing St. Louis musician C-Sharp about his get-out-the-vote initiative.

The St. Louis County native has launched “YouTurn 2016.” In addition to talking with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Willis Ryder Arnold about the importance of voting, C-Sharp is barnstorming across the city to talk about the value of voter participation.

St. Louis rapper Bates tackles gender inequality in hip-hop

Feb 26, 2016
Rapper Bates performs, a microphone is in her hand and one of her arms is outstretched.
Provided | Kazia Steele

St. Louis area rapper Bates has no problem making her voice heard.

Vape Ya Tailfeather: St. Lunatics members turn to new business

Dec 18, 2015
Kyjuan and Murphy Lee pose for a portrait outside their new St. Charles vape lounge, Vape Ya Tailfeather.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you live in St. Louis you probably know the song "Shake Ya Tailfeather" by Nelly, Murphy Lee, and P. Diddy. Now Murphy Lee, 37 and his brother Kyjuan, 39, are breathing new life into the song, in an unexpected way. They’re launching the vape juice line, Vape Ya Tailfeather.

“In the music industry I think somehow if you pay attention to your surroundings, you become a marketing genius,” said Lee. “You know how to sell it because you are the brand.”

Audio Agitation: STL's Best Beats

Dec 7, 2015
Dancer Diana Barrios (back turned) with (l to r) participants Chocolate Gowdey, Bud Cuzz and Valerie Felix in a theater exercise
Nancy Fowler | file photo

This playlist was made a few weeks ago but we've decided to re-share it formally as part of the Audio Agitation playlist series because there's no ice or snow (yet) and you might feel like dancing.

Members of Blank Generation play Marquette Pool opening this summer. The group headlined a Play for the Cause show at Off Broadway yesterday.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis nonprofit called Playing for the Cause is trying to connect philanthropic musicians and their fans to causes they care about. Lynn Cook founded the organization on one simple idea.

“If you have 3,000 happy people in front of you every night, all you have to do is ask and of course they’re going to support you,” said Cook.

Almost exactly two years ago Jon Burkhart left a commune in northeast Missouri that he called home and moved back home to St. Louis. He brought with him a host of analog electronic musical equipment, a computer, and a new musical persona, Hylidae. The project was born in contrast to the rural lifestyle the musician had just ended.

“It was kind of like my retreat from communal life to be making solo electronic music,” Burkhart said.

A scene from R-S Theatrics' "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," showing at the Ivory Theatre through Sept. 20
Michael Young / Proivded by R-S Theatrics

In a post-apocalyptic world, what do you have in common with the other survivors? Finding food? Making fire?

Doh! It’s your love of “The Simpsons” show, of course. Specifically, a 1993 episode called “Cape Feare,” according to a drama called “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” by St. Louis’ R-S Theatrics. It’s a Russian Doll of a play, a spoof within a spoof, showing through Sept. 20 at the Ivory Theatre.

St. Louis Singer Finds Home on New Record Label

Feb 4, 2015
Delmar Records launched January, 2015
Courtesy of Delmar

Delmar Records is a new label focused on promoting St. Louis musicians on a national scale. Local musician James Irwin, who performs and records as James K, said the label is like a home for his music.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been offered deals through major labels and indie labels and it just never felt right; and I figured why not put my music out through an avenue that I was actually kind of in control of and I actually believed in,” said Irwin.

Independent Label Delmar Records Launches In St. Louis

Jan 30, 2015
Sebastian “Tech Supreme” Lee is a cofounder of Delmar Records and a music producer.
Amy Harris/Courtesy of Delmar Records

Delmar Records is working to bring the national spotlight to a group of St. Louis musicians.

Cofounder and music producer Sebastian “Tech Supreme” Lee said the label’s roster features St. Louis musicians with strong careers who are looking expand their audience.  

Music Collective FarFetched Crashes Genres, Pushes Boundaries

Jan 8, 2015
Adult Fur ii, Album Cover
Adult Fur | Courtesy of the Artist

Local music collective FarFetched is a loose association of musicians from various genres and age groups. The group celebrates its fourth anniversary with a compilation album, "Prologue IV," and a release concert at 2720 Cherokee arts space on Jan. 9. The group is united by a will to experiment with genres, use digital means for music creation, and push boundaries lyrically and stylistically. In four years, it has grown to encompass 14 acts that range from hip-hop to progressive pop music.

Benjamin Kaplan
Act3

For the next six months chess and hip-hop will live under the same roof here in St. Louis. "Living Like Kings: The Collision of Chess and Hip Hop Culture" is an ever-evolving exhibit examining the relationship between the two art forms. Hip-Hop Chess Federation founder Adisa Banjoko, 44, thinks hip-hop and chess share a common noble truth.

“The spirit of competition in hip-hop and in chess is what helps us figure out who we are,” Banjoko said.

Hip hop, jiu jitsu and chess come together

May 9, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 9, 2013 - A journalist, professor and youtube celebrity walk into a library. They’re followed by a hip-hop enthusiast, website editor and a first-degree black belt. They spend an hour and a half talking about chess, hip hop and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

There’s no joke here: Wednesday afternoon, Adisa Banjoko, journalist and founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation, led a panel discussion representing the above professions at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

Prince Ea

St. Louis rapper Richard Williams, aka “Prince Ea” discovered hip-hop through the big beats and big egos of his east coast idols—artists such as Biggie Smalls, Mace, and Puff Daddy.

Over the past several years Prince has been making waves developing his own brand of hard-hitting, socially conscious lyrics, often about subjects as varied as Charles Darwin, colonialism, politics or brain chemistry.