#DOWNTOWNRVA: Meet Hip Hop Henry


We dispatched our hometown photographer, CJ Payne, to the heart of the city to capture a snapshot and engage in some casual conversation. Consider it our local twist on the acclaimed Humans of New York series that we hold in high regard. Our aim is to foster a sense of community and encourage our readers to deepen their connections with their neighbors.

Photo by CJ Payne

“I deejay and work at Vinyl Conflict downtown, and occasionally write for a few publications. So, basically an all-around artist. I’ve been here since ’93. I’ve seen the changes over the years. There are great things going on, but there’s also a lot in the city that doesn’t really allow artists to express themselves fully. We were just talking about this, especially when it comes to the murals. Like, the murals and art around the city are used a lot to promote it. But the city isn’t doing much for the artists themselves. The Richmond Mural Project is gone. Years ago, the bus terminal—site of the first RVA Street Art Festival—was supposed to be a hub for artists. They sold it after the first year, and now it’s where PBR is. So that kind of sums up my feelings about Richmond. We create things, but the city doesn’t really support its own creations, you know? We have great music in all genres, but the city itself doesn’t champion it much. I’d give Richmond a C+ because we’re trying.”

“I’ve been a DJ full-time in the city for 10 years. I first started in 2003 when I bought my first turntables. So, all in all, it’s been 20 years, but seriously, it’s been 10. I love seeing people’s reactions when I drop a track they haven’t heard in a while, or one that becomes a favorite. It’s a joy to give people something new. You can have your routine, but you’ve got to keep things fresh or it gets stale out here. Like we all do vinyl in my crew, Wax Buildup . There’s a different feeling with vinyl, you know? For a lot of records, there are no requests—if it’s not in the crate, sorry! But that’s what’s dope. It turns into a night of pure vibes. It’s amazing when people react to something they didn’t even know was on record. That’s the joy of DJing for me; you also get to express yourself through music.”

“Richmond, support Richmond. Whether it’s music, visual art, or restaurants, you don’t have to look to other cities. You can create it right here. That’s my advice.”

Streets Of Downtown RVA 2023 Hip Hop Henry by CJ Payne
Photo by CJ Payne

Give CJ Payne a follow @tallglassofleche
Give Hip Hop Henry a follow @hiphophenry_

CJ Payne

CJ Payne

After studying Classical Performance and Sound Engineering at William Paterson University, CJ moved to Richmond in 2020 where he took up photography. No stranger to the local music scene, CJ has been making a name for himself by shooting concerts around town. You can find more of his work at www.cjpaynephotography.com

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