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Art and soul of Charlotte hip hop community reveal November 6-8
We Are Hip Hop festival at Camp North End
 
Published Wednesday, October 21, 2020 8:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
Charlotte artist DeNeer Davis painted the “C” on this steel warehouse door at Camp North End as part of the We Are Hip Hop initiative to connect communities and hip hop culture.

The word of the year is pivot, which is what the organizers of the inaugural We Are Hip Hop Festival have done.


The festival was set to debut this month, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, indoor performances have been postponed. Until then, organizers are creating an outdoor experience. “We Are Hip Hop: The Reveal” will take place at Camp North End Nov. 6-8 as a preview of the Jan. 21-24 festival at Booth Playhouse.


Blumenthal Performing Arts announced the festival in August, which was organized by visual artist Bree Stallings, Heal Charlotte founder Greg Jackson, renowned slammaster Boris “Bluz” Rogers and CrayzeeBeat Dance founder A.J. Glasco.


“The festival is about hip hop,” said Rogers, who joined Blumenthal in September as director of creative engagement. “It is centered around the elements of hip hop, the culture, the life, the dance, the clothes, the music, but The Reveal is really going to be about expressing the dance part and the emcee part. We are going to have DJ elements to it too. Saturday [Nov. 7] is our bigger event. So, we will have graffiti situations going on, and it is all very family oriented.”


Rogers envisions taking We Are Hip Hop across the city.


“It is about engaging people where they are, where they live and impact those neighborhoods,” Rogers said. “I want to engage folks in their neighborhoods where they don’t have access to Uptown, because if you have to take a bus, a train—I would really love if I could just come to the East side and the West side and do something right there that centers around the arts and centers around whatever that artist is doing in their neighborhood. That’s what we are hoping to do in this pandemic pivot. We are hoping to get folks working and back to work, not just up here, but where they live. This is a shout out to you. If you know a person in your neighborhood who is super dope, and you think of a space that is out there, let me know.”


The festival in all of its layers is designed to represent hip hop in its truest form. For Jackson, a Bronx native, it serves as a way of taking the struggle and turning it into something magical.


“For me hip hop is definitely a heartbeat,” he said. “It is the blood that runs through my veins. It is a lifeline. It is something that I can attach myself to—that I can identify with. Hip hop is a transformation of people who have seen the worst in life and find a way to make it look so beautiful and it gets elevated, and then they get elevated in life because of the stories that they are telling. Hip hop is the CNN for Black America.”


The November event will be free and open to the public. Camp North End’s 76-acre site allows for better social distancing than this month’s previously planned intimate theater experience.


“People will be able to be safely spaced out and still participate in an event,” Stallings said.


We Are Hip Hop follows the success of Breakin’ Convention, a London-based international festival that came to Charlotte each fall from 2015-17. Each year local artists would paint the columns at Knight Theater, including DeNeer Davis, a West Charlotte native, who also participated in the latest mural concept. Davis became involved with Blumenthal through Breakin’ Convention. Now the goal is to bring art programs to underserved neighborhoods.


“We didn’t have arts programs,” Davis said of growing up on West Boulevard. “We were mostly meant to be rappers, basketball players—the norm. I grew up in Wilmore, so we had to create our own things. Them seeing me do art and making it with the art is very meaningful for all of us as a culture.”


Now they have a bigger canvas. Stallings noticed multiple empty doors at Camp North End, and saw a space for opportunity. This allows for an element of the street art component to already be in place with 10 murals at Camp North End, featuring local artists. The doors were painted to spell out Charlotte, followed by the We Are Hip Hop logo, which was designed by Marcus Kiser and Infamous Jean Claude and painted by Stallings. Camp North End provided a stipend for the materials to create the murals, and also matched the stipends that the artists received from Blumenthal.

Below are the artist names and their Instagram handles:

C-DeNeer Davis @neerperfection
H-Garrison Gist @2gzandcountin
A-Mike Wirth @mikewirth
R-Dammit Wesley @dammit_wesley
L-Stallings @breequixote
O-Chad Cartwright @chdwckart
T-Owl @owl.clt
T-Carla Aaron-Lopez @iamkingcarla
E-Frankie Zombie @frankie.zombie_
Logo: @marcus_kiser and @infamousjeanclaude


“One of the things that I’m seeing that Camp North End is doing right is they’re actually allowing the people of Charlotte to dictate the culture of Charlotte on this property,” said Dammit Wesley, who co-owns BLKMRKTCLT, a studio space at Camp North End. “If you go to any major city, you can kind of read the culture that exists within that city through their public arts. Charlotte, I don’t want to say they are the most conservative place, because they’re not, but there is a conservative air about how they go about things—very stuffy, businesslike, and the idea that a slate, grey walls of gentrification are going to attract more people to the city, or at least increase the value of your city is a little short-sighted and ignorant…Camp North End is a good example of how new properties and businesses should allow the people around them to tell the stories of said community.”

King Carla’s work pays homage to Beatties Ford Road, where she grew up. The text-based artist continues to expand on the scope the text with each project, from the West End Mural on Beatties Ford Road in July to work commissioned for former vice president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign last month to the Tin Charlotte. She wanted her work to reflect Charlotte’s soul, so she went with lyrics from Grammy-nominated rapper Luther “Lute” Nicholson, a fellow Beatties Ford Road native.


“We are doing a Charlotte mural, and it is going to be a festival called We Are Hip Hop, then I want to shout Lute out, because DaBaby definitely has his own super bomb mural somewhere in town, and then J. Cole and Little Brother have their murals in Durham,” King Carla said. “We have Elevator Jay for a portrait. Let’s shout out Lute. I chose Lute’s lyrics because I could feel where he was coming from. While we are two different people, our families share similar paths. His family came out of Second Ward, my family came out of Second Ward, and we both grew up in different locations on Beatties Ford Road. That’s something that is extremely important, and I wanted to highlight the things that he was sharing in ‘GED: Getting’ Every Dolla,’ and I also wanted to highlight some of the things he said in ‘Under the Sun.’”


Her mural also features an upside-down, crossed out crown for King Carla.


“I tell people all the time, ‘you ain’t never gone give me the crown, because I’m a woman, and you’re definitely not going to give me the crown because I’m a radical woman, so I’m going to steal it and make it my own.’”


Make sure you check out the mural at night, as it changes based on light hitting it.


For Frankie Zombie, the project has several layers. One pays homage to growing up in the Bronx. He also drew inspiration from Wu-Tang Clan, drawing a parallel between the group’s nine members and the nine artists who created the mural.


“Individually we are all super dope, super creative, super talented,” Frankie Zombie said. “We have our own individual nuances that make us who we are in the art world, but collectively we turn into the Avengers and just show the city and show the state of North Carolina and show us how much we can stick together and broadcast any message possible, whether it’s this or the Black Lives Matter mural [on Tryon Street]. I wanted to connect the fact of nine individual artists coming together to create something super special here in Camp North End.”


Frankie Zombie is known for using a myriad of colors in his work, but instead of going that route, he decided to use multiple shades of pink in honor of October serving as breast cancer awareness month.


“My mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer about three, four years ago and she is still fighting strong,” Frankie Zombie said. “Although my followers know me as the guy who uses every color in the spectrum, I just wanted to take a moment to shed some love and light on breast cancer awareness as well with the different shades [of pink].”  

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