At 31, Crystal Taylor is officially in the grown-woman stage of her life.
The Clinton native doesnt have the time or patience for things that cater exclusively to younger audiences, and that goes for local hip-hop shows in the Triangle area.
I got tired of not having events and shows to go to that were socially conscious, as far as hip-hop and our culture/community, says the Cary-based Taylor. And I wanted to be able to hear more artists that were local. All the club atmosphere that we have in the area its a certain demographic. And for the 25-and-up, retro-kid perspective, we didnt really have a lot of events and shows and stuff like that for people to go to in our demographic that are real, cultural hip-hop heads, so to speak.
Using her knowledge as a corporate event planner, Taylor started the Underground, an arts-and-culture operation that caters to mature, local hip-hop connoisseurs, in August 2012 (online at theugretrokids.com). We didnt really have a network to be able to support each other, she says. So I created the Underground to be able to give more cultural branding and produce events and shows for that demographic.
As queen of the Underground, Taylor has thrown several shows, parties, poetry open-mics, art-gallery showings and b-boy/beat/MC battles, as well as collaborated with fellow hip-hop event planners in the area. (She curated the beat-battle portion of last years DURM Hip Hop Summit in Durham.) She also gives local businesses and vendors the opportunity to hawk their merchandise at these shindigs. For Taylor, these get-togethers are not just sanctuaries for older hip-hop heads, but showcases for local artists in need of a venue.
There are a lot of groups that have developed off of the Little Brother perspective and the 9th Wonder perspective, and we need to grow from that because North Carolina does have a rich, cultural sound/environment here, with a lot of artists and producers and talented people that dont have a way to perform, she says. They end up going to Atlanta or New York or California or whatever. But we can have that here, because we have such a diversity of culture up here. So I just want to take advantage of that.
A few hip-hop locals will be working the mike at the RetroKids Hip Hop Party, Taylors latest soiree, which will be going down this Thursday at the Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh. According to Taylor, RetroKids refers to any person who is completely down with the true understanding of what hip-hop is.
The DJ for the night will be Mario DJ Complex Parker, who not only has spun at previous Underground events but used to go to high school with Taylor back in Clinton. He shares Taylors sentiments that there are still older hip-hop heads out there looking for a good party.
I would agree to that too, but it also opens up the door for younger generations, says the Greensboro-based DJ. Because Im starting to see a cycle now with the younger generations from, like, 18 to 25 that actually grew up on the music that pretty much I grew up on. You know, they were riding to school with their parents, playing Nas and stuff in the car. So they pretty much grew up on the same music that I grew up on, and theyre starting to enjoy it.
Parker is proud of his former classmate for doing something progressive in the local hip-hop community, and hes proud to be a part of it.
(The Underground is) just a platform for people who want to advance and push the culture forward, whether it be North Carolina hip-hop or North Carolina movement, as far as independent entrepreneurs or whatever, he says. So thats pretty much what were trying to do. Were trying to push that whole do-it-yourself, kind of grassroots, start-from-here network.