Hip-Hop and Heart: Noah-O’s Blueprint for RVA’s Charged Up Fest


There’s a lot of love surrounding Richmond rap legend Noah-O. Spend five minutes in his shop, Charged Up Flagship Store and you’ll understand why. The sense of community is infectious, connecting art and culture in a way that gives far more than it could ever take. From food and clothing drives to mental health screenings for youth and young adults, Noah-O and his team have become an integral part of the cityscape — true Richmond originals. All of which is culminating in this weekend’s Charged Up Fest 2024, a block party (running through June 2) that will “highlight independent artists and foster a sense of unity and positivity in diverse communities while celebrating music, entrepreneurship, and the spirit of creativity.” 

RVA Mag caught up with Noah-O yesterday to chat about the block party this weekend. Inside his shop, there was a flurry of activity as artists, DJs, rappers, creatives, and his team were busy prepping for the weekend. Sparing a few minutes, he sat down to walk us through the origin of Charged Up Fest and how his vision for culture and community is shaping Richmond’s creative future. 

Charged up Fest 2024 interview with Noah-O by Landon Shroder_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder @radio_tokyo

Landon Shroder: Charged Up Fest 2024 is starting tonight. Can you give us a bit of background on the origin story? 

Noah-O: Honestly, every year around my birthday we do a big event. Last year we brought Top Shelf Premium here and had a real big event in the store, ciphers were filmed; we were really trying to elevate that aspect of it. We wanted to build on that, and more than just having a show, we wanted to have a block party and it grew into something bigger than we could have imagined. 

So we started planning and other collaborations and discussions started happening. Then last year, I was invited to Houston to go to Trae Day. Trae is the truth, a legendary hip-hop artist from Houston — he does a lot in his community. I was really inspired by that and one of his close people is from Virginia and knows about me. He pushed me to do something similar when we got back to Virginia. 

LS: How did the programming come together for such a big event?

Noah-O:  It was really about collaboration. If you look at the full schedule of events, there are already other units, companies, or people that have their own things going on. Wax Buildup, that’s a DJ party — a DJ crew. DJ Ray Vaughn is another DJ who does a party called Two Triple O. Shoot. The Broad Street Bullies are a known bike group. So it was really about how we could build on what they’re already doing and bring everything together in succession, under one weekend. 

Charged up Fest 2024 interview with Noah-O by Landon Shroder_RVA Magazine 2024
Find out more information HERE

LS: I saw there is an AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders) event. How did that weave itself into the programming in terms of what you’re highlighting within the culture?

Noah-O: I feel like, especially in hip hop, Asian Americans haven’t necessarily been in the forefront. So that’s something that’s always going to be a part of me; is who I am, so I wanted to figure out a way that we could highlight that as well. At one of the events, we have Disco Dave, he’s a Filipino DJ and producer from Virginia Beach. 

I’m Filipino American and I’m in hip-hop culture, so I wanted to see how we could bring the two together. I have a relationship with the Flying Squirrels (where the AAPI event will be held), but I had never really activated it. So now felt like the right time, it all lined up — they had a home game and we brought them the idea.  

LS: What’s it been like working with the city to get this weekend off the ground?

Noah-O: Man, realistically, it hasn’t been as challenging as I thought. How can I put this? We were able to align with a team within the city — the Office of Strategic Communications and Community Engagement. I believe that’s their full name. This team has a lot of new energy and ideas that they’re implementing. So this year during Black History Month, they did an innovators and entrepreneur panel where they brought TikTok influencers, they brought Styles P here to talk about food justice, then they did a big art event with Chris Visions and Silly Genius at the VMFA. 

I attended some of those events and one of the people from the team approached me and said they had been watching what Charged Up’s been doing and they wanted to sit down and talk. So we brought the idea, we were already in the beginning phases of working on the festival and we just presented them the idea. They wanted to be a part of it. 

Charged up Fest 2024 interview with Noah-O by Landon Shroder_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder @radio_tokyo

LS: Do you feel like the city’s growing their support for events like this, would this have even been possible five years ago? 

Noah-O: I think we’re at a point now. Like I said, there’s a new team. Some of them haven’t been here that long. The head of that department, she came to Richmond from Miami Dade. So she’s familiar with culture. You have Art Basel there, Super Bowls, Miami Beach, and other huge events. Another gentleman is Wes Jones, he’s worked for the city for a few years and came from a hip-hop and marketing background. The city is trying to reach people, trying to tell certain stories, and what better way to do that since hip-hop is our biggest cultural movement in America — and even globally in the last 50 years. And what we do at Charged Up really intersects with culture and community, so it made sense for us to work together. 

LS: The community has really rallied in support of the festival. How has that felt, becoming such a bedrock of Richmond culture and to see so many diverse stakeholders come together to support the festival this weekend? 

Noah-O: That’s been a tremendous surprise. You know, I knew the people supported what we do. We’ve been here two years now in the actual store, we couldn’t be here without the community. But the amount of response has been overwhelming. I’ve probably done between 20 and 30 interviews — sometimes two or three a day. So it’s good that people are excited about it and realize the value of what we’re trying to bring. People coming here from all over the country, whether it’s artists, people from record labels, media platforms, I have been interacting with artists and creatives in other cities. 

We have quite a few people coming from New York City, artists up there are talking about it. That’s big when people in different scenes are saying ‘hey, we’re going to Richmond, Virginia.’ That’s really what I thought about going into this. There was a time when Austin, Texas wasn’t known and now every year people come from all over the world — creative people — to congregate there. And I feel like Richmond strategically located on the East Coast could be that, we just have to stay consistent. 

Charged up Fest 2024 interview with Noah-O by Landon Shroder_RVA Magazine 2024
Find out more information HERE

LS: Since you’ve done so many interviews, what’s the one question you wish somebody would have asked that they haven’t?

Noah-O: Oh, man, ask if they want to introduce me to somebody to give us some money! (Laughter) I’ve probably been asked everything, people have been asking the right questions.

LS: Anything else people should know about this weekend?

Noah-O You can learn more at noah-o.com/charged-up-fest.

Charged up Fest 2024 interview with Noah-O by Landon Shroder_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder @radio_tokyo

As the shop continued to buzz with activity, we wanted to chat with some other people to catch their vibe on the weekend and what they were most excited for.

Tacky Jahsh: I gotta perform, but I’m actually more excited — we’re dropping clothes on Saturday morning and we’re having a community event in the morning here too. I work with a lot of that here, so seeing what that’s gonna look like on this scale. I’m excited to manage that. 

LS: What’s that event called?

Tacky Jahsh: The Love Xchange with CJ the Profit. We giving out clothes and hygiene products, also food. We started before the block party so it bleeds in right here. 

Jafrmthe75: I’m really excited about the basketball game — super excited about that. I’m playing for Charged Up though, so I’m more or less ready to hoop and bring the chip on. 

LS: Who are you playing against? 

Jafrmthe75: RVA Boombox. I know they got a good squad, I mean it’s on us because we got people that’s trying to win and we got more or less the age on our side. So we gonna hoop like me and my guys on hoop. For sure. For sure.

KTown: I am very ecstatic for the basketball game on Sunday as well. Yeah. I’m gonna be one of the commentators slash co-hosts for that game alongside, alongside SlzTV and C.D.O.T. Yeah, I’m very excited for that one alongside a few of the events going on. As was said earlier, as far as the community event going on early on Saturday, the block party, even the bike ride, there’s a lot of great events. 

Bobby Simmons, aka Esoteric Fresh: I’m just happy to hear my brother get celebrated. He’s been one of my closest friends for 17 years. Finally getting his flowers and accolades. I think the reason why we’re friends for so long is we still act like little kids when our heroes come around and those are the best friends. So it’s one of those things where it’s like seeing your childhood dreams manifest and I’m just so happy for him.

Selfishly the Producer’s Cup is what I’m most excited about. Huge Bink fan, huge Large Professor fan. There’s a lot of great events. 

And with that, its time to pull up and head to Charged Up Fest 2024. Support culture. Support community. Get your tickets HERE

Landon Shroder

Landon Shroder

Landon is a foreign policy and communications professional from Richmond specializing in high risk and complex environments, spending almost 20 years abroad in the Middle East and Africa. He hold’s a Master’s Degree from American University in Conflict Resolution and was a former journalist and producer for VICE Media. His writing on foreign affairs has been published in World Policy Journal, Chatham House, Small Wars Journal, War on the Rocks, and the Fair Observer, along with being a commentator in the New York Times on the Middle East.

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