The Virginia scene stands now at what many natives see as a precipice for the culture, either we go all in and take off…or we plummet.
Artists have begun to release music in droves, with an emphasis on standing out from the crowd of talented individuals who have gathered in VA.
When it comes to looking for the next big artist, we often turn our eyes to the “Big Three”: Richmond (804), Hampton Roads (757), and Northern VA (703). These three areas predominantly garner the attention of the community when we talk about whose running things and the development of local scenes.
However, an area which is beginning to bubble with talent, shows, and creative spaces often goes unspoken when it comes to these conversations. It’s seen as just another region cut by I-95, which you quickly jet through on your way to DC/NoVa or on the way back to Richmond. For some, it’s just a little too country, a little too spaced out, and frankly a little too “whitewashed” to be harboring any embers of the soul that comes with R&B or the outspoken fire that comes from Hip-Hop music.
We call this the 540, harboring cities such as Fredericksburg, Stafford, and many more smaller towns, this area is slowly gearing up to make a name for itself and an undeniable respect for their artistry.
Here, I hope to simply put you on to a few gems from around this way. Some of these artist might get your attention, maybe even make you a believer.
After all, this is still Virginia.
Hardaway stands as one of the premiere artists on the scene right now. Dabbling in everything hip hop, from production to bars, to the intersection between our beloved hip-hop music and streetwear.
As a member of the powerhouse Norfolk collective iLPackMobb, some often forget that Hardaway’s career sprouted and grew in immense ways in the 757, but holds roots true to Fredericksburg.
Hardaway’s music serves as an embodiment of versatility. His catalogue stretches over 5 years and after digging through the crate, there’s one major takeaway from his music: He serves as a direct reflection of the impact one’s life experiences can have on them. Thus, shaping his own sound & content all while staying true to himself.
His sometimes dark, visceral production makes for the perfect back drop to his candid lines and honest story telling. While also serving as a balance to his occasional wavy, flavor infused tracks.
Surely an artist you want to keep tabs on rolling into summer 2018! Until then, you can stream and find everything Era Hardaway on his website.
Few artists, if any, sound like this fiery MC from Fredericksburg, VA. With a delivery that packs a punch and a relentless flow, $inbad has quickly risen out of the dirt in the 540 to make a name for himself.
His lane is a unique one, combining a dark sound with heavy synths and a booming bass. He snaps on every beat with his sharp voice that cuts through the mud is right there in your face.
Don’t get it confused though, this is one guy who is never short on bars when he comes in the booth. He frequently delivers hay-maker after hay-maker with little time for build up as his quick triggered flow steam rolls through every gate on the beat.
With a stage presence to match some of the best, it’s no surprise he’s managed to land opening slots for artists such as Pouya, Xavier Wulf, and Chris Travis.
I suggest you get familiar quick, because $inbad doesn’t look to be taking the foot off the gas anytime soon!
If you been to the other side of the Burg, you know it ain’t sweet and blue collar everywhere.
Bandman Smoke has created a strong buzz in the streets with anthems like “Traphouse Wide Open”, as well as utilizing social media to continue to interact and gain relationships with fans.
His gruff voice, and visible authenticity has quickly made him a well known figure in the 540, known to turn up tracks and stages left & right.
The Stafford songstress took VA and much of Soundcloud by storm a little under a year ago with the release of her full length LP, How Singers Cry. This was her first music release in close to two years yet she masterfully used her social media presence and raw talent to deliver a series of teasers and performances that had the whole state buzzing in anticipation.
The project stands at over 70k total streams, with 4,000 fans on her SoundCloud anxiously waiting for the next bit of sonic soul food.
Even to those that are no usually fans of her soulful genre, it’s obvious almost on first listen what makes Vesta so special. In the most simplest terms, it’s her raw emotion and ability to deliver relatable stories within each track.
Her overwhelming transparency and pain in her music is only matched by her ability to create nothing short of modern-day ballads that incite a level of serenity and happiness in her listeners.
Now living in Los Angeles, Vesta’s gearing up for her next release as we all sit and ponder what one of VA’s most talented singers is preparing to offer up to us next with her sophomore release.
The Soundboy out of Stafford is something of a king to the youth when it comes to the 540. His fan base is undeniable, with many anxious teens awaiting every release and frantically reposting every teaser he drops. Many of which quickly run up 100 retweets within 48 hours.
Kwad is an artist who we’ve seen develop quickly over the course of us running this platform and in this short time, he has made leaps and bounds when it comes to the music he’s been putting out.
He’s not going to bar you to death and he doesn’t make the type of music your aunties want to hear at the family cookout. But Kwad’s unbottled energy and and over-the-top lines on many of his tracks make for a listen that’s both interesting and more often than not, enjoyable.
Kwad is a blended product of much of the “new wave” of music that has pushed its way to the forefront of today’s hip hop climate. As well as the meticulously crafted sounds and feel-based music we saw put on front street by artists like Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Lil Uzi Vert.
This seems to have served Kwad well in his recent endeavors, his fan-base and views have continued to rise and frankly…he’s creating some of the most exciting music we’re seeing coming out of the 540.
The PHRXH VZION general is one of the veterans doing it out of his city, and you can tell. Pvvli is an artist who has found his rhythm, as well as comfort in his sound, which all are openly displayed every time he touches the stage. You’d be hard pressed to find a flyer going around the 540 without a mention of Pvvli or his RXH brethren.
His down to earth demeanor anda knack for production that gets everybody moving, has served Pvvli well. Garnering a local fan base in the Burg that consistently draws out a crowd of 20 or so for every performance I’ve witnessed and worked with him on.
Yet, his local acclaim and obvious talent sonically hasn’t translated yet for the budding young artist like some of his peers when it comes to statewide success. As a consistent networker, and never being scared to do a feature or offer up a beat, Pvvli’s name is hard to miss no matter where you are. You just have to pay attention.
With projects like Virginia Lottery and Heat 3 under his belt, one can’t deny that Pvvli is neither new to this or lazy when it comes to perfecting his craft. We hope to see the 540 standout achieve much success and continue to spread this year!
Give him a listen here.
Stafford’s SmokeWithHutch has gone relatively under the radar since surfacing on the music scene in the 540. He’s a member of Baggy Boys alongside the notable 540 native, Loner Avenue. Their frequent collaboration has made them somewhat of a well known duo across the area.
Hutch’s music relies heavily on production and his ability to create a mood and euphoria with his sound.
Lighthearted, bass infused beats characterize and paint the scene for Hutch’s canvas as his heavy voice often bounces across the soundscape with bragadocious lines and humble tales of his simplistic lifestyle. Money, a few nice blunts, and a bad chick. It could all be so sweet.
I wouldn’t write him off as some “mumble rapper” though, as he’s not afraid to tackle a variety of flows and getting honest in subject matter in his more melancholic, drug laced tracks.
With a true full length project still yet to peak across the horizon, its hard to quite figure out the 22-year-old artist. One thing for certain though: We’re excited to see his potential and where the waves take him.
At only 19, Kuku Kelz has made a case for himself as one of the hottest youngins out in his area. With a notable grip on his hometown, Kelz social media presence is daunting. You’d be hard pressed to find a visual or tweet without many fans and supporters chiming in or retweeting with their support.
Many of his visuals on YouTube stand strong with well over 5k views and whenever a link is dropped, fans swarm to shoot it to 100 retweets or more. This large support in a small city garnered the notice of platforms such as ourselves, as well as notable publications like Artistic Manifesto.
Kelz frequently mentions “I never thought I’d do this rap sh*t” on his tracks, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell with his booming sound, and memorable hooks.
With a no fear of flash, Kuku Kelz continues to draw attention and seems determined to beat down the door in the 540 until we know him worldwide.