Editors Note: Weve made enough ruckus about South Carolina being the only Southern state without a lasting hip-hop star. So instead of continuing to write about the fact, were going to profile the people trying to put S.C. hip-hop on the national map instead. Heres the fifth of several stories:
Rappers, particularly those trying to assert a threatening image whether believable or not have taken to claiming themselves as the last of a dying breed. Kevin Langston is exactly that, though hes not trying to push tales of drug deals and street shootouts.
Langston, whose rap name is Akshun, is the last of a conventional dying breed: People who go to the record stores on Tuesdays, the music industrys traditional release day, to buy CDs. This year, analysts expect digital sales to overtake CD sales for the first time.
And Langston prefers shopping at Manifest Disc & Tapes, a so-called mom-and-pop store, rather than big retailers. Hes watched hip-hop sections expand in record stores and then recently retract. He owns more than 1,000 hip-hop CDs.
Langston, a 31-year-old Richland Northeast High School graduate, regularly posts links to music on his Facebook page. And he asks questions like this: Sc rappers. Real talk. How many of yall are actual FANS of sc music, NOT including the people you work with and are friends with.
Hes followed hip-hop in the state, both as a performer and as a fan. I met up with Langston, a rapper on Dan Johns Magnum Opus label, to talk about the overall state of hip-hop, and where South Carolina fits if at all in the genre. The following is an excerpt of the interview.
Drakes concert at the Colonial Life Arena is Tuesday, a rare mainstream hip-hop show in the area and the first since The Roots concert at the South Carolina State Fair in October. How was that? I thought it was good, but it was not what I expected. I expected a little bit more hip-hop, a little bit more fierceness from Black Thought.
Where does Black Thought, the Roots rapping frontman, stand? That is literally every rappers favorite rapper. Hes in my top five. Hes super-duper consistent. Like, I cant even think of a wack rap from Black Thought, and I have everything hes done. From a technical standpoint, hes right in the pocket each time.
Is 50 Cent, who hasnt had a hit in years, done?
I dont care how many dope beats he gets and dont get it twisted, I like some 50 stuff but its to the point where its redundant. It sounds like hes spitting the same exact rhyme. Its generic. Thats the thing. In my opinion, hes always been generic. Hes a good chorus crafter. Thats been his thing.
Singing choruses. Isnt that what he vilified Ja Rule for doing? He basically accused him of doing something, got him out the way and then took his market. He did the ultimate chess move.
Youre a fan of what well call authentic hip-hop. So how do you explain Rick Ross success and how he won his feud against 50? Hes probably going to be the keep-it-real killer. Its real simple how Rick Ross excels he keeps making good music. But he literally makes stuff up. I dont mind when he talks the rich guy stuff, because he is a rich guy. But when he starts talking about getting it off the boat, he got Poppi doing this. ... How Rick Ross beat 50 Cent, he made better music. What Ive heard is that hes a real businessman. He doesnt do the rapper stuff. He just acts real professional. And he can rap.
Speaking of rappers who sing, what do you think about the beef between Drake and Common? Drake talks that talk. He gets cocky, which every rapper does at some point and you have to know if you put yourself in that position, youre going to be checked by somebody. Contrary to popular belief, I think he wouldve hung with Common. And this is the thing, as much as I love Common, Common now is not the Common of 1996 when he was going against Ice Cube. Common has been coasting every since hes been with Kanye. Im not going to say hes wack because I enjoy his music, but lyrically hes not what he was.
Why do you go to the store to buy music? Tradition. I like to open up the liner notes. I read albums. I remember getting (Nas) It Was Written and reading every single lyric. I like seeing who did what. I like having that physical copy. I like to have that collection. Ever since we were old enough to get an allowance, we used to go to Manifest and go through A to Z in the hip-hop section.
Is the era of drug dealer/thug/gangsta as the best rapper ever going to end? Honestly, it will come back when people start buying records.
Youve pointed to dancing as a hip-hop turning point. Thats one thing thats missing. A lot of underground groups dont realize that a lot of these guys that had platinum records that were real hip-hop were making dance records at the same time. If youre planning on reaching the masses, you have to get them on the dance floor.
Youve been rapping for more than a decade and youre still recording. Is it for the love of hip-hop? At one period in time, it was in pursuit of getting something bigger, but at this point its for the joy of doing it. The music we make, though still relevant, is not as popular. And even in the industry, as far as dealing with other underground artists, its just as shady as it would be on a major label. Theres a lack of unity, lack of communication. I guess because they dont want you to move ahead of them.
Your performance at Bluetile Skateshop in May was really hype. You won the crowd over immediately. Its that adrenaline rush. It was kind of a situation where it was so easy to feed off of the crowd.
The closest the state has come to a breakout a star is Lil Ru. Oddly, his debut single for Def Jam, the Ross-assisted Yeah thats Money, wasnt pushed hard locally: The thing with Lil Ru, in my opinion, it was a jealousy thing. Because I dont understand how this guy was so popular in this state and then all of sudden, it just turned into, I dont like him.
Every other Southern state has birthed a hip-hop star. Why not here? You have to be proud of where youre from. I always found it funny that people didnt embrace South Carolina outside of Gamecock football. You cant talk about the Gamecocks without being crucified.
When it comes to music, its like people dont gravitate toward it. And the musics there. Theres tons of dope artists. I think people have to learn how to work together or how to build a team. Thats probably the hardest thing. I was talking with (producer) MIDI Marc, the rappers with the big teams that can get radio, can get shows are the wack rappers. Its like anybody good comes around, nobody wants to help out that guy. Its because hes competition. With South Carolina, I think everybody wants to be the first.
Will there ever be a first? Im pretty sure people are ready to hear South Carolina music because were an untapped market. Weve broken so many artists that are popular now. We just wont break our own artists.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.