Big No & Noah-O Are "Richmond Brave" In Their City's Creative Renaissance
“We the faces of ‘the R.’ Noah said it-- fuck a signing. I look over the city; Chief statue on the diamond.” – Big No “Real Richmond.”
For those unfamiliar, the Richmond Braves, a former triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves-- were a staple in Virginia’s capital city from their inception in 1966 until their move in 2008. Tons of big names like dual NFL/MLB stars Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan, hall of famers like Chipper and Andrew Jones, and many more passed through as members of the R-Braves. But the most iconic face associated with the team was the statue of the lurking, “Connecticut” that Big No refers to.
Connecticut probably isn’t even the most famous politically incorrect statue to stand (and be removed) in Richmond. However, to a certain demographic-- his gaze over the city and his larger-than-life presence represented a united identity as a community and simpler times where anything seemed possible for Richmond. In this sense, Big No’s metaphor is entirely accurate because he and his “Richmond Brave” co-conspirator, Noah-O represent the same presence and hope to today’s RIC.
Noah-O is enjoying a moment right now—artistically, personally, professionally, and as a leader. Don’t get it twisted though, this isn’t his first moment. This pillar of Richmond Hip-Hop has been at it since his Divine Sonz collective broke on the scene back when dial-up internet was still the standard and the Bay Area transplant has never stopped grinding since. His discography is extensive including the 7-part “Deadstock” series, “Monument Avenue” and 2022’s “Trillipino.” He’s had brushes with the mainstream in that time as well including two stellar performances on Sway in The Morning.
His Charged Up imprint, which includes a streetwear brand featuring a bold block “C” and signature lightning rod --is ubiquitous in Richmond independent fashion. A Charged Up flagship store on Broad Street in the Arts District serves as a great hub for the creative community. Despite being in the middle of a legal battle with the Cleveland Guardians over the use of the letter “C” (pretty greedy, right?), Noah and Big No managed to be key figures at “Creatives on the Capitol,” a demonstration at the Virginia State Capitol to advocate for funding creative endeavors to boost the economy.
This kind of commitment to the power of music and creativity for change is something that Northside Richmond’s Big No is no stranger to. While incarcerated in the early 2010’s, Big No made up his mind that he would come out of the box with a plan to hit the music game hard. And he has done just that, releasing a steady stream of acclaimed projects like 2018’s renowned “Junkie Lives Matter,” 2020’s “Junkie Lives Matter 2,” and most recently “Thank Da Plug.” He is a unique MC-- His 6’3” stature and his booming Southern-twanged voice always stand out, but what stands out most is the depth at which he expresses himself. His voice stays in pocket always, but he’s very emotional and extremely versatile. As Noah-O said he outraps a lot of rapper’s rappers. His pen is just as crazy as his delivery.
It only makes sense that two Richmond veterans known for being team players-- in the middle of a new peak-- would team up and give us an epic project named for Richmond’s most famous pro team. Enter “Richmond Brave.”
The album features a vast but cohesive production effort from an all-star cast including Poopado (RIP), Retro Izzy, Rep!, and Clef Majorz. The contrast in styles between the two emcees blend seamlessly but there is definitely a theme of the two friends of 20+ years stepping into each other’s comfort zones. Noah gets into Big No’s trap soul food and No stepping into Noah-O’s left coast ease with up-North punch trade bars back and forth with unmistakable chemistry.
On the “Intro,” Noah-O glides on and drops, “All I wanted was the profit, thought I told em’ fuck the fame. 20 years strong on every song I let em’ touch my pain,” as Big No later promises “This gon’ be the hottest shit to hit the street.” And so far, they’re off to a good start on that guarantee. Next in line is the lead single “Uncle Phil.” This triumphant track features a gritty but glossy visual by multitalented videographer/vocalist Dyfferant and really gives you a great first taste of what to expect from this super-duo.