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How "Project 24" Unify Richmond's Hip-Hop Scene

My name is Brian but you may know me by my online persona SavageX2. I’m an up-and-coming music producer from right here in Richmond, VA. While relatively new to the underground Richmond music scene I consider myself a musical virtuoso of sorts. In all of my days doing music, I’ve never seen anything like what took place on the weekend of May 14th & 15th. The brainchild of Co-owners Clef Majorz and Big No, this event was created with the idea of not only showing the world but also helping the community. For years we've seen many talented people come from Richmond but nobody has ever been able to get the proper exposure. But if the goal was to truly show the best talent that Richmond Hip Hop has to offer, then what better way to do that than together everyone under one roof? This is how Project 24 was born.

Project 24 comes from the idea that for twenty-four hours all rappers, singers, producers, writers, engineers, literally anybody who is or wants to be involved with music, were invited to come in and have access to a full-fledged music studio to create a “Mega Mixtape” featuring everything the city of Richmond has to offer. From noon to midnight, for two days, there was an open invitation to just come in and create! Now the “da remix” portion of the title comes from the fact that this is the second go-round. Back in October, a similar event was held after which the mixtape was compiled, edited, mixed, and eventually performed at a live venue for the public to see what the city worked hard on for that twenty-four-hour period. The 15-track mixtape, Project 24 was made from that October event. It was released on January 29, 2022, preceded by a live performance at Another Round Bar & Grill located in Lakeside, Virginia.

The most appropriate word to describe the atmosphere would be oxymoronic. Imagine a stacked, yet spacious, apartment in the nice part of town converted into a two-part studio. In the very back is the main studio FILLED with each and every established artist, up-and-coming artist, and even artists that were just out there trying to make a name for themselves (I fell into the latter category) in a room altogether. The music is blasting through the speakers. Everyone has their heads nodding. Cutting through the melodic rhythms comes a voice. “Aight who’s got a concept?! Who’s got a verse?!” It’s the voice of Clef Majorz. The lead producer and Co-Owner of Infinity Recording Studios.

Immediately after, many of the local rappers, who were once bobbing their heads and staring at their phones, spring up to perform what they had written. How this took place is the way a song is normally constructed is with a series of “Hooks” and “Verses”. The hooks are the lines that are repeated that get you to sing along to. But the verses are where the individual gets their freedom to express themselves. It's their time to shine! The problem with that is that a song is structured and it can’t last forever. Most songs these days last usually no more than 4 minutes on average and usually contain somewhere-in-the-neighborhood of two to three verses. Even if you break those verses in half that gives you a maximum of 6 verses on any given song. Now look up and imagine seeing close to FIFTY people scrambling and lining up to pitch their verses because naturally, they want to be featured on the song. If it wasn’t hot, it would not make the cut.

Imagine looking at some of Richmond, Virginia’s toughest talkers all under one roof. Lyrically some of the meanest, nastiest, vilest, most violent talking people you’ve ever heard. But despite this setting, some of the feelings that were absent were anger, hate, pressure, jealousy, and just general negativity. Everyone there had one common goal: to make the best damn mixtape we could really show what Richmond Hip Hop has to offer.

Richmond, nor the state of Virginia, has ever really been looked upon as a major hub for musical artists. We have the occasional wonders from Missy Elliot, to Timbaland, to my all-time personal favorite Pharrell, Chris Brown, and Trey Songz. Nobody is coming to Richmond. We don’t even get the major concert tours. If the major tours even come to Virginia at all it's either down in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, or Washington D.C. We only get the occasional B or C-tier list artists.

Although there was tense competition in the studio, everyone was anticipating what each artist can prove on a beat. Instead of jealousy, there was encouragement. Even if you needed help the same people competing against you would just as easily help you write or improve your verse. All for the sake of making the best possible song. Pure selflessness. The room wasn’t just filled with singers, rappers, and their writers. We had instrumentalists too! Even Clef Majorz is a master trumpet player. It gave us the ability and flexibility to record live instruments as well as vocals.

What was great about it was the two studios typically had two different types of sounds going on. Studio A was located all the way in the back and was the main recording studio. It's spacious and equipped with plenty of seating for maximum comfort as well as LOUD speakers capable of violating several noise ordinances. Didn’t like, or wasn’t able to get in on the song they're working on there? No problem. Studio B, which was affectionately known as the “trap” or the “hood,” was also available. Now disclaimer, this studio tended to house the more, what we like to call “ratchets.” So, the main sound in studio B was typically Trap, or Gangster, rap. Studio A was willing to go much more on the experimental side. We even produced an R&B or two. But it wasn’t all hardcore. On the first day of this year, I walked to our very own OG Illa in Studio B. I decided to poke my head in to meet and greet everyone. Once I stepped in, Illa had just come out of the booth. He had just laid down this slick hook or this super chill beat that instantly grabbed my attention. I heard how melodic it was and I’m a sucker for a great melody. Especially a bass melody. And guess what it had? I was so intrigued because I saw others were already writing their prospective verses. I showed up fashionably late so I was already behind the 8-ball.

Last year I was a bit of a small fish in a large pond. This year I was determined not to be a victim of the same fate. Last year I contributed to 1 beat (One Million Miles), and contributed exactly nothing vocally. Now I’m normally not the most creative lyrically. But combined with the fact that there were less people this year I was determined to make a larger impact. I pulled out my phone, started vibing to the beat, and next thing you know feelings started coming to me. And with those feelings, words. I started writing. After about 20 minutes I had an 8-bar verse. Now it was time to practice. I just kept listening to myself and repeating the lines to myself in my head waiting for my turn. At the moment the great and talented Dizzy Wunda was in the booth. And boy did he kill it! After Illa laid his hook, then Dizz laid his verse. I seized the moment. “Is there any room left on this?” The producer (@retroizzy on Instagram) said “Yep.” And that was it. “Aight bet. I think I got something.” And I took that opportunity and hopped in the booth. I sanitized, put on the headphones, adjusted the mic stand, and prepared to perform what I had practiced. No approval, no competition, no nothing. I had something to contribute and so I was just able to hop in the booth and rap.

This was definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I messed up. A lot. But that’s the beauty of technology. Eventually, I got through it. I recorded what I felt. I got a medium to express myself to the public in a melodic, therapeutic way. I was anxious to hear what everybody thought of my performance. I looked around to try and silently gauge the room. In my verse, I spoke about smoking expensive marijuana and out of NOWHERE OG Illa just screams “$35 A G!” The room laughed and smiled. I laughed and smiled. Everyone congratulated me. It was happening again. I was being congratulated. I was being appreciated. I was being cheered. What turned out was then tentatively named track “Cruisin’ Down 64” with Og Illa, Dizzy Wunda, and yours truly. I promise it’s the perfect smoking track if that’s your thing.

But that feeling is what it was like for each and everyone that came through that door. A true celebration. Not only of the city but each other. One of the best feelings has to be working together to create a fire beat from scratch. Then compound that with working together with some of the most creative minds around to come up with a sound and a song just for you. Then allow you to perform the songs with such high-quality production. So now instead of jamming out to the sounds of Beyonce, Jay-Z, or Lil Wayne, you’re hearing your own voice to an original creation. Naturally, the boys at Infinity Recording Studios come correct. Everyone is compensated for their contributions. Meaning that everyone who contributed gets their name on the official master recording and their share of the royalties and revenue generated by all of the songs. This way the entire city is elevated and we all can grow together.

The editing and mastering are done by our very own Clef Majorz. This second-go-round produced about 20 songs, spanning all sorts of genres. We even dubbed one of the beats “new-jack swing meets go-go!” Just try picturing that. This weekend was about unity! So many people came through those doors who brought nothing but positivity.

We were all each other’s biggest fans. After the recordings were finished, we got a moment to really bask in what we had just done. I’ll speak for myself when I say I’ve had many visions of being a recording artist. Growing up, our idols made it look so cool and we thought “I can do that!” and this weekend we DID do that! This was all made possible by Mr. Walter “Clef Majorz” Pitchford and Mr. Jason “Big No” Brooks over at Infinity Recording Studios.

Written by Savage2x: @seriouslyxsavage on Instagram.

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