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Artists from across South Carolina come together for a two-day recording session

The State of Rap

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About two dozen rappers and producers from across the state were packed into Mega Entertainment. They've been recording in the Summerville studio for six hours, and they've got about 34 more to go. The two-day recording session, titled Amethyst, brought together South Carolina artists last weekend to meet, collaborate, and record for the first time.

The project, according to organizer Black Dave, had two inspirations: Dreamville and J. Cole's 2019 compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III and Kris Kaylin's video series "Next Up Charleston."

"She always asks at the end, 'Why do you think no one from Charleston has blown up?' And people always answer, 'Because we aren't working together,'" Dave observes. "If everything's put together for you and all you have to do is show up, make the best music you can, and then promote the best music you can, then there's another reason."

Although she was a partial and unwitting influence for the weekend, Kaylin has a slightly different view on Amethyst's purpose. "I don't want to say that we're underrated anymore," she says. "I feel like we kind of have an eye on us, but I feel like now is the perfect opportunity to present what we have. And I feel like we'll have the right people under one roof to do that."

A familial and friendly demeanor was in the air on Sat. Dec. 7. There was no ego, just artists connecting over what they love and showing the talent that the S.C. rap scene has cultivated. After laying down an impressive verse over a new beat, Midlands rapper Rob Davis was crowded by his fellow artists. "You snapped," Dublin, Ga. and Charleston rapper Jah Jr. said to him.

Davis tells the City Paper that he is excited about seeing all of the talent in one place. "It's something great for South Carolina," he said.

Approximately 70 people involved in the state rap scene (including Dreamville producer Childish Major) were invited to Amethyst, and roughly 50 said they would attend, according to Dave.

Invitations for the two-day session began to appear with little explanation on Instagram on Nov. 10, asking artists to appear at an undisclosed location for a compilation album's recording. In a similar fashion to Revenge of the Dreamers III, they were publicly sent to artists from all across the state: New artists, old favorites, DJs, producers — essentially anyone that the organizers liked musically.

Candice Johnson, a co-organizer and curator from Columbia, said that she was the "voice of reason" when planning the event. "As far as the name went, we were throwing some things around, and I was like, 'Let's keep it kind of simple,'" she recalls.

Johnson also contributed a list of 11 artists to the roster. "I chose a handful of women," she says. "I wanted to make sure there were a pretty good amount of women represented and a good amount of people who weren't from Charleston."

Dave hopes that the recordings will culminate in a collaborative album, tentatively titled Amethyst, as well as shows, merchandise, and music videos. Judging by the tunes made over the weekend, the album will be a varied mix of hip-hop interpretations. When commenting on the different styles present, local rapper and singer Anfernee said, "It's like anime came to life."

Studio engineer and organizer Quinton Heyward believes that Amethyst is an opportunity for non-natives to see the unique culture in the S.C. rap scene. "The Carolinas always had something special. They don't get to see the country roads and all the churches," he reflects. "Our way of life is different and I think it took some time for outsiders to be able to understand the way we do things."

Many of the organizers, who include DJ SCrib and Columbia's BFresh, have different reasons for helping put Amethyst together. "I really hope this brings different publications down here," says BFresh. "People like NPR, Complex music, basically could gravitate to what we've got going on."

Johnson says that the local scene is strong, but Amethyst can bridge gaps to encourage collaboration across the state. "Our scene is very solid as far as creatives and creativity, but we are still — and I want to say the state as a whole — we are still on the synergy part of our scene," she says. "That's the part that needs more nurturing."

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