Rap Hoods - Hampton Roads, Virginia

By:

Welcome to Rap Hoods, a sight-by-sight breakdown of rap (and music’s) traditional homelands. This week, Hampton Roads, Virginia, my home region, graces the stage. — Gavin Matthews

Hampton Roads — Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk — sits at the crossroads of the north and south, a mix of old money and new fame, the military, and the major I95 drug route. With its unique breed of suburbs and cities, blended with vacation beaches and historically poor and slighted neighborhoods, Hampton Roads is a hotspot of entertainment and struggle-inspired music.

A number of potent musicians have called Hampton Roads home, stretching across genres from soul and blues to rap and rock. Ella Fitzgerald, The Five Keys, and Pearl Bailey called Newport News home, while indie rock group Mae, Clarence Clemons, and Ernie Watts hail from Norfolk. But perhaps the biggest contribution to music comes from hip-hop and rap, where Hampton Road’s mix of classes and histories bred a new form of the genre.

HIP-HOP

Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth are home to the wave of late 90s and early 2000s rap that brought hiphop further into the mainstream and introduced the cocaine-dealing hustler as the new king. Superstars Missy Elliott and Timbaland paved the road for pop-rap to redefine MTV cycles and the generally thuggish image of the genre in the peak of the East Coast/West Coast battles. With techno and classic hip-hop inspired sounds, the pair produced a string of hits, including “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It.”Timbaland went on to produce for a hip-hop’s A-list, acts as widespread as Nas, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Michelle Branch. Missy Elliott took a short hiatus, but began recording a new album in 2012, paralleling the remix “Why Stop Now?” with Busta Rhymes.

Even with as much star power as Missy produced, Hampton Roads was not done. Acclaimed rappers Clipse and producer/rapper Pharrell all were born and raised in Virginia Beach, meeting as young adults and sparking each other’s music careers. Clipse struck legendary gold with Hell Hath No Fury, an album considered a pure classic, featuring the hits “I Want Your Girl,” “Wamp Wamp (What It Do),” and “Chinese New Year.”

With Clipse’s rise came a marked change in Pharrell’s opportunities, particularly with Chad Hugo as part of The Neptunes. Pharrell and The Neptunes went on to pen a widely successful career, dropping hits such as “Frontin” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Both created an electronic, yet hardcore, style of rap that ushered in much of the pop innovation seen today. In fact, The Neptunes are still responsible for much of it, producing for a range of acts, including Lil Wayne, Noreaga, Britney Spears, and Kelis. Pusha T and No Malice, the brothers of Clipse, continue to extend their reach, the former a star of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music and the latter beginning a new solo career. Their impact, alongside Clipse, immediately changed the perception of rap and the future of music, sparking new innovations that forever altered production and lyricism.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Hampton Roads scene did not fall asleep after Clipse and Pharrell. Waiting in the wings are a number of extremely talented acts, each poised to change how the world views Virginia. A.Driver and Intalek each sit near the finish line, the pair making moves to reach the national stage with authentic, uninhibited flows. While Intalek pursues a lyrical, exploratory rhyme, A.Driver uses his harsh flow and technical mastery to deliver body blows at every turn. Fellow local act Pyro Methane is right beside, blending Daft Punk and Norfolk-styled flow into something totally unique. Hampton Roads has also spawned Hayze Rascoe, Shaolin Park, and Highxmighty, all stars pointed directly toward success and bringing the spotlight back to the 7 cities.

Despite its flailing economy and serious social issues, the potential for Hampton Roads looks brighter every day. With strong acts leading the charge and a wealth of local stars, the future looks brighter and brighter as the days pass.

See No Malice, A.Driver, Intalek, and Pyro Methane’s verified accounts! From Hampton Roads and want in? Hit me up!