As you would expect, music will play a major role in Hip Hop South Festival, which Carolina Performing Arts is putting on April 22-23 in Chapel Hill venues including UNC’s Memorial Hall, CURRENT ArtSpace and Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle. The performers’ lineup features an array of national and local stars including Outkast co-leader Big Boi, Grammy-winning super-producer 9th Wonder and The Soul Council, rapper/poet Shriette Ammons and hometown Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody.
But as envisioned by the organizers, Hip Hop South Festival will be as much about the culture at large as music. It will also have accompanying events that encompass fashion, writing and journalism.
“We want to make sure all the elements are represented, as best we can,” says co-curator Dasan Ahanu (Chris Massenburg). “Not just the music, but representing the rest of the culture. The idea is to look at the entire culture of hip hop through a Southern lens.”
To that end, the festival will kick off with an April 20 preview presentation, “Kicks & Colorways: A Conversation About Sneaker Culture and Sneaker Design,” a virtual online event featuring sneaker impresario and scholar Jason Mayden. There’s also an accompanying visual exhibit, “Dirty South Scribes” at CURRENT ArtSpace, which spotlights works from journalists, authors and scholars “whose writing spearheads the growing body of work about Southern hip hop.”
One of those scholars whose work will be on display is Ahanu’s co-curator, Dr. Regina N. Bradley, a Kennesaw State University professor as well as author of the acclaimed 2021 book “Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South” (University of North Carolina Press). She and Ahanu met several years back through their mutual work with the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship program at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center.
Ahanu is the Rothwell Mellon Program Director for Creative Futures at Carolina Performing Arts nowadays. The Hip Hop South Festival grew out of a series of conversations about programming for Carolina Performing Arts’ Southern Futures Initiative, which has a stated mission of “engaging artists and community partners in restorative justice and co-creation.”
“What I believe the festival will accomplish is to create a space for conversations about hip hop and the South, and to do so on the South’s terms,” Ahanu says. “It’s important to do this event in the South, with curation by folks whose experiences, life and focus is the South. The other big thing is to deepen CPA’s engagement with the community at large. The festival is mapped out to provide a variety of different experiences, to bring in different parts of the community.”
Wednesday, April 20
7 p.m. – “Kicks & Colorways: A Conversation About Sneaker Culture and Sneaker Design,” virtual event with Jason Mayden.
Friday, April 22
6 p.m., Cat’s Cradle – Rapsody, Shrilette Ammons, Carolina Waves
10 p.m., CURRENT ArtSpace – Turn It Loose, Vol. 3 with the Raleigh Rockers
Saturday, April 23
6 p.m., UNC Memorial Hall – Big Boi, Sa-Roc, Radio Rehab
10 p.m., CURRENT ArtSpace – Beat Battle with 9th Wonder, Soul Council
10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight, CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio – “Dirty South Scribes” exhibit.
Friday, April 22 — $40 main show, $15 late-night event
Saturday, April 23 — $65 main show, $15 late-night event
Two-day pass — $15-$125
A limited number of UNC student tickets are available for 25 percent off with proof of UNC One Card.