Posted: March 30, 2015 at 9:53 pm
By- Andrew Jones, Nick Jandora and Courtney Tranter
Hip hop has finally arrived in Morgantown, as promising new artists, many of them students at West Virginia University, perform at local venues and go on tour.
Ponce De’Leioun is one of the young hip-hop artists who got their start in Morgantown. He was recently invited to London for a popular hip-hop YouTube show, “Tim Westwood.” Through his Morgantown music videos, he has acquired a huge following on Twitter and Instagram from fans as far away as Europe.
Ponce, whose birth name is De Leoun Jackson, hails from Wheeling, West Virginia. He came to Morgantown to get an education at WVU.
“Hip hop has brought me to a lot of different cities and states,” Jackson says. “It’s given me the opportunity to meet a lot of people.”
As fans know, hip-hop is more than a musical genre; it is a lifestyle. Local venues in Morgantown now feature performances by hip-hop artists at least once a week. Hip Hop is an urban movement that originated as a blend of street art, break-dancing, disc jockeying, and rapping. Five years ago, a hip-hop performance in the city was rare.
“It only takes one or two good acts to carry the scene— whether it’s Metal, Rock, or Hip-Hop,” says Don Duppee, an employee at 123 Pleasant Street, a music emporium that features a wide variety of musical groups.
There is even a new clothing store that sells hip-hop apparel, ranging from vintage Air Jordans to street ware fleeces and t-shirts from the likes of HUF and Billionaire Boys Club. Hip-hop music producer Pharrell Williams created Billionaire Boys Club, a clothing line.
“The culture’s growing and there’s a lot of good artists coming up in the area,” says Shaquille Smith, an employee at Classic Kickz, the new hip-hop apparel shop at 219 Wall Street in Morgantown. “On average we get about 30 to 40 people a day, whether it’s to make a purchase or just check the shop out.”
Another major artist in the area goes by the name Elias (his birth name is Cameron Elias Williams.) He just graduated from WVU last year with a degree in theater. Although originally from Michigan, Williams has remained in the area to do hip-hop performances and stand-up comedy acts.
“When I was getting started, a lot of the people who are now better known in the Morgantown scene were getting their start as well,” Williams says. “Now Chris Allen [another Morgantown rapper] is opening up for Mick Jenkins and going on tours.”
Williams, who has also performed at 123 Pleasant, believes that he’s gained a big enough following to be successful when he leaves Morgantown. He already has over 2000 views on one of his music videos on YouTube.
Duppee believes that the hip-hop scene in Morgantown will continue to grow over the years. He thinks that 123 Pleasant Street will see more performances of rappers and hip-hop groups in the oncoming years.
“Due to its large university population, Morgantown grants a lot of opportunities for artists to gain a solid fan base,” Williams says.