Saturday, April 29 at AOC Fest, North Carolina hip-hop and r&b/soul once again proved that it is a force to be reckoned with.
Packed atop downtown Durham’s Google Lounge, artists and hip-hop enthusiasts alike gathered to hear the sultry vocals of Ari Lennox, a Washington D.C.-native signed to J.Cole’s Dreamville Records, and Cypher Univercity + J Rowdy, trailblazers of North Carolina’s cypher movement.
Cypher Univercity and J Rowdy are no strangers to me. Since 2013, I’ve braced rain, wind, and ice storms to attend the legendary Monday night cypher (which has since expanded to include weekly cyphers at 6 other universities) and witness the unfiltered rhymes of some of NC’s dopest local cats. And it was awesome to see just how many people were willing to do the same. 80+ degrees, unbearably humid, and yet the rooftop must have been stuffed near capacity.
What I was not expecting, though, was the sheer radiance and alluring stage presence of Ari Lennox, who performed tracks from her newest release, PHO EP. Her sound is best described as a little bit of Joyce Wrice mixed with a dash of Badu but flavorful in a way that is entirely unique. Her performance had me floored, and a brief interaction with her after the set revealed a mind and personality as sweet as honey. I’ve definitely stumbled upon a new R&B favorite.
-DJ Obi-mah Kenobi