Last night there was rain, thunder, lightning, and then there was Cole Hicks. Sometimes a great night will have a sense of destiny, some purpose that shakes us from the mediocrity of our everyday lives – last night’s musical showcase at The Camel felt like that. With Richmond squads like the Association of Great Minds ripping up the East Coast, Hicks, who headlined the show to premiere her debut album, “May Day,” has landed at just the right time as Richmond’s rap and hip-hop scene continues along a path of national prestige.
But that’s not where the night started.
The night opened with local jazz and soul singer Kenneka Cook who’s ingenuity on stage is as compelling as it is dreamlike, creating musical atmospheres that become a livable presence for everyone in the room. While a force in her own right, Cook brought the crowd together; her beats and lyrics taking us on a perceptive journey into a soundscape that envelops the watcher.
In between sets, Richmond great Illa Styles took the stage with singer Franciose Hamilton. Shrouded in a purple haze, they brought an energy to the building and primed the crowd for Cole Hicks.
Hicks’ lyrics hit the heart and formed a groove right into the soul. At one point, Hicks told the audience “be true to yourselves.” While an old maxim, nothing can be more apparent in 2018 and hearing it from the stage sounded like poetry. Hicks brought a feeling of genuine authenticity from the crowd, putting her entire self into the work. Her music creating a vibe that is inclusionary, prescient, her beats dropping like the thunder outside. There was an energy from the stage, it was electric. When she was joined by Joey Gallo that same energy only increased, becoming a kinetic force of rhyme and reason. Towards the end of the set, Kai’la, joined Hicks on stage to close out the night by claiming verses that were raw and relevant, a testament to where this movement is going.
Afterward, RVA Mag spoke with Illa Styles who said, “The Richmond rap and hip-hop scene has spent years and years maturing, coming into its own. It offers an experience real, genuine, and true. That is what makes this present time, here in Richmond, special.”
He is not wrong. Richmond is what’s happening.
Some of the best photos of the night can be found below:
*Jack Clark and Landon Shroder contributed to this report. All photos by Landon Shroder
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond