At 21, Allen Henderson shouldn’t be so dang busy.
But this Brooklyn-born, Raleigh-based musician has a lot on him. In the past few years, he’s had to dip out of attending Wake Technical Community College to take care of his family, while also building his budding career as Ace Henderson, rising hip-hop artist.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group,” says Henderson, while sipping water at a Raleigh wine and beer shop. “And, as events occurred and, obviously, deaths, I had to step in and really take care of everyone, as well as maintain what I do with my music.”
The deaths came one after the other for Henderson. He lost his grandmother to a brain tumor on Memorial Day weekend of 2014. And just this Christmas, his grandfather died of pancreatic cancer. “I didn’t think I was closest to him until I realized that once he passed, how much that he introduced me to in my lifetime,” he remembers. “So that was a bond that I’ve always cherished.”
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While they were here, they and the rest of the family encouraged Henderson to finish his first full-length release, “Analog Youth: Yesterday’s Over” (also known as “AY:YO”) last year. He worked on the project (it’s on his Soundcloud page) for a year and a half.
“‘Analog Youth’ was pretty much my blueprint to how I navigated my youth,” he says. “(The age) 21 has been about the overall maturation of the actualization of where I’m at, and that allowed me to speak on certain instances that I wasn’t able to really talk about while I was in those moments. I couldn’t explain that I wasn’t doing well in school because I would focus on girls, but because I was trying to get away from worst distractions that my friends were getting into – drugs, unrelated things to what I wanted to do with life.”
Much like Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and other spaz-rap MCs, Henderson is really an on-the-DL egghead (his full-time gig is in data analytics) who also knows how to bust a clever, insightful rhyme.
As soon as he graduated from high school, armed only with a computer his older sister gave him, a microphone he bought himself for Christmas, and of course the Internet, Henderson worked to excel at hip-hop. He certainly excels at displaying a witty, wise-beyond-his-years maturity on “Analog.” Much like Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and other spaz-rap MCs, Henderson is really an on-the-DL egghead (his full-time gig is in data analytics) who also knows how to bust a clever, insightful rhyme.
While Henderson’s hip-hop has a fascinating Raleigh flair to it (dude often sounds like he could easily be a member of Kooley High), a lot of what influenced him musically came from his parents, who are both singers. While his mom got him listening to Chaka Khan and Cher as a kid, his dad got him hooked on musicians like Thelonious Monk. Back in the day, this led him to performing in middle-school concert bands and the high-school marching band.
“I can say that that really influenced me more so than specifically, like, ‘I wanna be more like this local hip-hop artist’ or ‘These hip-hop artists from around here really influenced me,’” he says.
Nevertheless, Triangle-based hip-hoppers have given him words of wisdom. After his Hopscotch Music Fest set last year, Henderson had a heart-to-heart with one of the attendees, Durham rapper Professor Toon. “I won’t say exactly what he said to me,” he says, “but what he said – it was something that only someone that was paying close attention to what I’m trying to do and what I’ve been saying in my music can understand.”
Now, Toon has given Henderson a slot to perform during his “Take Notes” release party Thursday at Motorco in Durham. Henderson looks forward to giving audiences the entertaining work-in-progress that he calls his hip-hop career. “I’m not here to be perfect,” he says. “I’m just here to have a really good time and give the best of everything I have.”
What: “Professor Toon ‘Take Notes’ Release Party” with Professor Toon, Made of Oak, Tab-One, Ace Henderson and Ace Apollo
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham
Info: 919-901-0875 or motorcomusic.com