This Saturday, a showcase of several up-and-coming Richmond rappers comes to The Dark Room at the Hof, presented by The Cheats Movement.
The Richmond rap scene is alive and buzzing, and the next generation of RVA rappers is here to stake their claim.
Many who follow the illustrious Richmond rap scene are familiar with longtime local stars like Nickelus F, Ohbliv, and Lil Ugly Mane, who have been around and stamped their footprint across the country. 3WaySlim, Big Kahuna OG, Monday Night, and Graymatter are some newer faces in the scene, and with a familial bond and their arsenal of beats and bars, they’re going to remind everyone why the Richmond rap scene isn’t to be slept on.
The space at Holly Block, the studio where 3WaySlim, Big Kahuna OG, and Graymatter all record, is the epicenter of collaboration for the local rappers. Hanging out with the guys, we were graced with appearances from Monday Night, Fly Anakin, and Draco the Dog (who was featured on Big Kahuna OG & Graymatter’s 2017 album, Scooby Snax). Several dutches and Backwoods later, the hazy smoke gave life and inspiration to this new generation of Richmond heavy-hitters.
All of these rappers and producers are part of the Scheme Team, a heavily self-perpetuated group inspired by each other’s achievements, hard work ethic, and of course, style. Each rapper came into their own at different points, through different avenues of life; now they all collaborate together to release group mixtapes as well as solo projects.
“I started in high school… the older cats would throw me in different ciphers and shit, and you had to have your talent tested,” 3WaySlim said. “Once I grew a name for myself, the older cats from around the city started to invest in me, as far as putting me in the studio.”
While 3WaySlim started off jumping into ciphers (a freestyle or improvisation in which rappers jump in one after another), Monday Night credits the rest of the Scheme Team for pulling him into the game.
“My inspiration is them. They’re working hard, I’m trying to take their work ethic and mimic it,” Monday Night said. “When people know you’re nice, people wanna work with you.”
Being “nice” isn’t just generally being a nice person — it refers to the skill, the finesse, and the charisma one has when they rap.
Big Kahuna OG has been releasing music since around 2013, and now works a lot with producer Graymatter, who has also produced for Monday Night, 3WaySlim, and Fly Anakin on several different projects.
“Since I was in high school, I was recording shit with my brother and my close friends; that’s all we would do after school,” Big Kahuna OG said. “I really jumped into it when I moved back from Buffalo in 2015. I met Fly Anakin, and shit was way more poppin’ than when I left.”
If there is one thing all the guys can agree on, it’s the culture and rap scene in Richmond. Diversity between style, sound, and even geography is enough to create different sects of the scene in Richmond. Richmond is a small city though, and while some artists and sounds don’t always mesh, there does tend to be overlap.
“There’s a lot of hidden talent in Richmond… it’s kind of like a melting pot,” Big Kahuna OG said. “We’ve been doing it for a minute. I feel like I’ve worked with tons of people in Richmond.”
According to Monday Night, while there are differences in the culture, sometimes they overlap. Their differences are mostly based on peers and stylistic choices, as well as collaboration with each other (or lack thereof).
“There is a whole other side to the rap scene in Richmond… there is a trap scene, and we don’t really coexist too much,” Monday Night said. But, he adds, “Everybody respects work ethic. That’s the biggest thing in Richmond.”
The trap scene in Richmond features rappers like the group Divine Council, who had a viral hit with their 2016 single “P. Sherman,” as well as Hillboy, Wardboyz, and others. Those rappers are doing their own thing and have their own following — but that doesn’t mean there is any ill will. There aren’t any notable feuds or “beefs” within the community.
“The climate here is like, if you’re nice, you all pretty much know each other,” 3WaySlim said.
While Richmond is a relatively up-and-coming rap scene compared to other staples like New York, Atlanta, or Chicago, the crew at Holly Block are a constant inspiration to each other. Working hard, proving themselves, and collaborating to create a style of music that meshes together perfectly is their focus.
According to Graymatter, his biggest inspirations are local legends who have put Richmond on the map, and continue to push the envelope for style and creativity in the local rap scene.
“Personally, once I was already making beats, Nickelus F and Ohbliv were huge inspirations for me,” Graymatter said. “They made it seem like it was possible to make some crazy shit people really fuck with and respect, and still be in Richmond.”
“Other than the two [Nickelus F and Ohbliv], I’d say we inspire ourselves… and of course, we had industry artists,” 3WaySlim said. “But I remember running into Anakin a couple years ago. I thought I had the best bars, then I heard him spit some shit and I just took note of it.”
According to Monday Night, he had a harder go at his introduction into the game. As 3WaySlim and Monday Night made it very clear, being “nice” builds bridges within the community and opens avenues. Monday Night attributes his work ethic to being the reason he’s in on the hype train.
“When I first started, cuz [Fly Anakin] wouldn’t even get on a song with me because he didn’t think I took it seriously,” Monday Night said.
“I had to see it physically before I made a move on it,” Fly Anakin confirmed.
Everyone involved in the Scheme Team has been hard at work lately.
Monday Night’s album Rather Vindictive dropped earlier this summer, in July, on his Bandcamp page. Big Kahuna OG and Graymatter just dropped Strainman Chronicles this past week on the Scheme Team Bandcamp page. The album features Monday Night, 3WaySlim, Fly Anakin and other local Richmond rappers like Nickelus F and Henny L.O.
3WaySlim has his album Golden Child set to drop later on in the summer, with various producers involved, including Graymatter.
The Scheme Team will also be performing live in The Dark Room at The Hof on August 24 at 8pm, hosted by Nitty Blanco. The show, which is presented by The Cheats Movement, will feature 3WaySlim, Big Kahuna OG, Fly Anakin, Graymatter, Monday Night, and some special guests. The Hof holds just over 150 people, which is exactly what the Scheme Team is looking for.
“We’re trying to have that shit sold out, like at least 120-150 tickets,” Big Kahuna OG said.
The members of the Scheme Team each have different fan bases, so this show is going to be a great way for all the crowds to come together.
“We’re trying to have an intimate show so we can connect with our supporters, because they’re more than fans — the people that actually listen to the music and come out to the shows,” 3WaySlim said. “We’re all artists from different walks of life. We’re bringing different crowds together.”
The Scheme Team is on the up and up in Richmond, rising and grinding every day to produce quality rap music with a retro, lo-fi, gritty Richmond style. Each and every one of them is dedicated to their passion. The bars, the hooks, the beats, and everything that comes with it defines Scheme Team and their rise in the rap game.
Top Photo: Scheme Team All Stars, via Bandcamp
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond