They’re only six episodes in, but there’s already a lot happening with the Cheats Movement Podcast.
They’re only six episodes in, but there’s already a lot happening with the Cheats Movement Podcast. Created by Marc “Cheats” Cheatham, founder of The Cheats Movement, and Hip Hop Henry of The Listening Party, an internet radio show broadcasting Thursday nights at 7 PM on 101.1 The Fam, this podcast has become a movement unto itself. Cheats and Hip Hop Henry are joined on these episodes by a huge cast of RVA hip hop loyalists, from the frequent contributors who form the show’s brain trust to the many local MCs, DJs, producers, and other movers and shakers who stop by throughout the show to play new tracks and hype up their latest projects. Through all this activity, taking place inside a small recording studio, something bigger is taking shape.
This article was featured in RVAMag #24: Spring 2016. You can read all of issue #24 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.
I stopped by the studio during the recording session for Episode 6, and immediately realized just how full of people and activity these sessions are. As many people as it sounds like on the podcast, it’s more. The headcount hovered between 16 and 24 during my time in the studio, and over a dozen rappers managed to get on mic for the final cipher. Cheats is still the man everyone is there to listen to, though. The way people follow his words make clear that he is a true leader within this community. And while hip hop is certainly on the minds of everyone in the room, that’s far from the only subject the hosts cover in these between-song breaks. Everything from Beyonce’s Super Bowl appearance to Black History Month and the NBA All-Star Game becomes a topic for discussion at some point.
Cheats takes every opportunity to hype up the latest edition of New Richmond, the monthly concert series the Cheats Movement Podcast has been hosting at Gallery 5. This is just the first of many ways in which the crew hopes to take what they’re doing beyond a monthly podcast; to not only bring the good word about Richmond hip hop to your iTunes, but also to help change the local scene for the better. And if Cheats, Hip Hop Henry, KB, Big Rich, Gigi Broadway, DJ Mentos, and the rest of the crew have anything to say about it, this goal will be achieved sooner rather than later. As the recording session wound down at Spacebomb Studios, I spoke to six of the Cheats Movement Podcast’s hosts about the past, present, and future of Richmond hip hop, and how a local music scene can have a positive effect on the world it’s a part of.
Cheats, I’m assuming the podcast was your idea?
Cheats: I can’t take full credit for it. It was an idea that I had, but ideas are nothing without execution, and [without] a partner like Hip Hop Henry who was willing to go in with me, it wouldn’t have been done. The Cheats Movement Podcast wouldn’t [exist] without the whole team you see here coming through, supporting, and being a part of this show. We wanted to fill a void. We’re realists, so we understand that mainstream radio can’t play local artists. And so a lot of those local artists are going straight to digital, blogs, websites, and internet radio. We wanted to build a platform that we felt was supportive not only to local artists, but also to the people who support those local artists.
Hip Hop Henry and KB–you guys do something called the Listening Party? Tell me about that.
Hip Hop Henry: We’re on 101.1 The Fam. Every Thursday we [play] boom-bap hip hop. I like my hip hop gritty and raw. I was noticing we don’t really have a big platform for that to be heard, so…
KB: It’s for anybody who just wants to turn off the radio and find the most obscure beat and record from the early 90s, late 80s, and be like “I thought I was the only motherfucker in this world who knew that damn song!”
The Listening Party airs every Thursday, but this is only Cheats Movement Podcast #6.
Cheats: We try to do every two weeks, but honestly, in Richmond there are a lot of studios that are real poppin’ right now, so getting in every two weeks was difficult for us. We got in probably every three weeks or so at the old spot–Overcoast, who are fantastic–and now we’ve got a good partnership with Spacebomb. We’re really excited about it.
I wanted to talk to you about is your thoughts on the Richmond hip hop scene and where it’s at now. I’ve always known about local hip hop, but before a decade or so ago it didn’t seem like there was much of a cohesive scene. To me, it seems like this is the best moment for RVA hip hop… probably ever?
Cheats: I think the big shift [is] climate, as opposed to individuals. That’s why someone like yourself feels like we’re in probably one of the best eras ever. It’s because [local artists] have platforms now to actually showcase their talent. I really do believe Richmond has always had a lot of talent when it comes to hip hop. What’s changed now is [that] more people feel as if they’re in it together. Hip hop ten years ago was a real bloodsport.
Hip Hop Henry: That’s what I was gonna say. We have the unity now. We have a lot more collaborations. Cats are shining light on other artists, as well as themselves. That’s how you get a scene, rather than just having a bunch of rappers in a city.
KB: Like tonight, you have a mix of MCs from every crew, every different set.
DJ Mentos: A long time ago, in hip hop, you would have had clashes, people beefing and fighting. It takes a lot to have a group of musicians come together and support each other like that. By definition, rap is a competitive thing. It’s born out of ciphers and battles. And frankly, most MCs rap about themselves, so there’s some ego to it too. When you bring together 20 or 30 MCs and they’re all slapping each other on the back and giving each other pounds, that just says a lot.
KB: Not to mention the respect they have for Marc, to come and do this. Because they could do this anywhere for anybody else, but they come and they do it just for him. They don’t ask for nothing, they just want the mic. The respect is big there for him.
Cheats: I think there are a couple of unique things that make it easier for someone coming from a blogger-journalist perspective, as opposed to an artist perspective. If the only people that were putting on shows were artists, then everybody looked at them like they had an alternative agenda. Coming from a perspective of starting my blog first, meeting a lot of the community first, covering the scene first, made it easier for people to understand that there wasn’t as much of a selfish agenda [for us]. That’s why I enjoy the team that we have. We’ve got our favorites, everybody does. But we’ve learned that we will get so much more done for the culture if we have people coming together, than if we try to separate ourselves and make ourselves the top guy.
Did the podcast start with the idea of getting as many people in the building as possible? Because there were around two dozen people here tonight.
Hip Hop Henry: [For] the first show, it was just like, “We’re going to get the studio time, boom.” But once the word got out, everybody wanted to come through. Next thing you know, it’s like eight dudes, ciphers breaking out…
Cheats: When Hip Hop and I started talking about the podcast, we really wanted to model it after the Stretch and Bobbito radio show in the early 90s up in New York.
I’ve heard of it but never heard any of it–what was that show like?
Big Rich: The greatest thing ever!
DJ Mentos: There’s a documentary about it.
Cheats: Yeah, Radio That Changed Lives.
DJ Mentos: They broke Big L, they broke Jay Z, they broke Nas. They put people on before anybody had heard them.
Cheats: That was the idea behind the podcast–to do something for our community like they did for theirs. Listening to their show, you would never know who was gonna show up. They always had the new freestyle. I was able to interview Bobbito Garcia, and I asked him how he was able to be such a successful hip hop renaissance man. His [statement] to me was, “Look at your community, and if you see a void that’s there, you fill that void.” By modeling our show after their show, we were able to create the atmosphere we did. And then we looked at other things. What was the next void from the podcast? How could we get the entire community invested in what we’re building? That’s where the New Richmond live series has come into play.
You guys talked tonight about several issues that pertain to the community as a whole, and might even matter to your aunt who doesn’t even listen to hip hop.
DJ Mentos: When I first saw The Cheats Movement, my thought was that it was about hip hop music. Then you quickly remember that real hip hop is about much more than just music. It’s the culture that we grew up in, and the people, and the community and all that too. Whereas when you talk about hip hop on the radio, it’s just pop music.
KB: The music part of it is a lesser concern to me, because that music is gonna generate itself over and over again. But the culture of hip hop–me being from the Bronx, where hip hop was born, it was always instilled in me. So to maintain the culture is of the utmost importance.
Big Rich: Just like historians preserve the history, we preserve the hip hop for the next generation.
Gigi Broadway: I think we’re in a good space right now. Not only do we encompass true hip hop, especially with Richmond being like a melting pot–there’s just so many different waves and styles. For us to be able to take that and put a cultural and a political aspect on it–because we’re all parents, we all have families. Just to be able to put everything together in a segment and give something back to the community is great. I love it.
Cheats: Talking about what’s happening, in Richmond [and beyond], is so important that I know it’ll be in every podcast. One good thing about podcasts–it doesn’t matter if people catch on two years from now. If they like it, they’re gonna go back, listen to [earlier episodes], listen to these conversations, and listen to the music. It’s important that those perspectives get out there. We highlight talented artists and we use the music, but if we can sneak in a conversation about Flint, or about how America reacts to a certain thing, if we can sneak in what we talked about with police brutality or the Justice Or Else march, it’s something people can come back to years from now and understand that the community is having these conversations, whether they see it in the local news platform or not.
What do you see going forward, for the Cheats Movement Podcast and for Richmond hip hop in general? Where do you think things are going and where would you like to see things go?
Big Rich: I won’t stop until we’re on government channel 7. [laughter] I see this being very, very big, surpassing almost everything I could ever imagine. I see us doing something bigger and better as far as the community goes. I really want to dive into helping the community out more.
Gigi Broadway: When people talk about hip hop, and when people talk about Richmond, I want people to talk about us. I just want us to be, if not the catalyst, at least the embodiment of not only the Richmond scene but the hip hop scene in general.
KB: Just looking at the evolution from the first episode has been crazy. I see this going beyond Richmond. I [already] get hit up by people in California–“When’s the next podcast coming out?”
DJ Mentos: I moved here from New York two years ago, and googled Richmond hip hop–the only thing I found was the Cheats Movement.
[laughter and celebration]
Cheats: That’s a bad thing, though! That’s not a good thing! [laughter]
DJ Mentos: The only thing of substance, I should say. For me, coming from New York, it was like “Well is there any hip hop in Richmond? Or is it just crappy music I wouldn’t want to hear anyway?” So that’s how I found these guys and got tuned in. I was like, “Oh wow, there really is a scene.” So to me, what you guys are saying [it] could be [in] the future, it already is. It already represents Richmond hip hop outside this area.
Cheats: I’m gonna throw salt on all of that. [laughter] What I hope happens is that, through the stuff we’re doing, the culture grows to a point where we literally put ourselves out of business. Like Mentos says, we’re the only entity that shows up on the internet. I think that’s a problem. As a culture, we’re not gonna be as successful until Karmalifee blows up, and RichCity804 blows up, and Slapdash [blows up]. Granted, as long as we’re in the game, we want to make sure we’re doing our thing. But we will never tell you we know every talented MC in Richmond. Since we don’t know everyone, and we can’t rep everything, we want those other platforms to be there. I’ll give you a really good example–five years ago or whenever I started covering murals, it was basically Cheats Movement and RVA Mag. Nobody else was even there. And now, I don’t even cover murals anymore, because I know every other media outlet is gonna be there. And that’s cool! I’m on to the next thing. But we need other platforms to step their game up and reach other. Short term, I would love for our Gallery 5 shows to really be a staple once a month. I’d love for the podcast to be a staple once a month. We want to be as welcoming, positive, friendly an artistic environment as possible. We don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable, or to turn anybody away. But then hopefully the next Cheats Movement [will come along]. Because we’re old! [laughs] We need the next generation to come up and highlight the culture, the way people did before us.
DJ Mentos: You asked about the future of Richmond’s hip hop scene. It’s not very often that a town has a localized scene that blows up. There’s different areas that had their time, but the thing they all have in common is that they started off with this tight-knit group. By the time they blew up, it almost didn’t even matter, in the sense that they had a localized scene. I see that going on in Richmond now. At some point in the future, when guys that were in this room are known on a national or international level, it won’t even be a surprise.