Earlier last month on April 9, I had the unique opportunity to sit on a panel discussing gentrification in Washington, D.C. and how it has affected the D.C. Hip-Hop scene. The panel, at first consisted of an all-black cast of some of the Districts' more successful promoters, venue owners, tastemakers and thought leaders. When one of the panelists had to drop out, a white guy was added. Not just any white guy though, this Brother has been involved and has been instrumental -- nurturing and progressing the D.C. Hip-Hop scene for many years -- and has earned the respect from his peers for doing such.
Now, in full disclosure I have worked with this "white guy" on numerous occasions. We have thrown "Power Moves" parties together at the now closed Ras Hall in Uptown NW. I have consulted him on my "Black Rock Star Super Hero" and GODISHEUS clothing lines. I have rocked shows in the retail shop "Art Under Pressure" where he has been a manager. I am featured in a couple cameos on his album. I guess you could say, I am a fan of (let me stop calling him "white guy") Cory L. Stowers a.k.a. Rock Creek Lee.
Rock Creek Lee hit me up in March all excited about his next move: spinning all D.C. music sets at Kramerbooks & Afterwords. We're about hearing Chuck Brown, Fugazi, Michelle N'Degechello, William DeVaugh (Diamonds in the Back), Courtney Dowe, Uptown XO, Team Demolition, Akoko, NEG and a host of other well-known local stars with significant music contributions to the world of music -- operating right here out of the Nation's Capital.
Needless to say, I am very excited about what Cory is and has been doing, so I sat down to ask him a few questions:
Q. You have been involved with many visual arts endeavors in Washington, DC over the past 15-years, my Brother. I know you have worked with various nonprofit organizations, Murals DC, curating gallery events, promoting local artists, and heavily involved in the creation of the "Art Under Pressure" (A.U.P) brand. Now you are switching direction, and taking up DJing as a new creative
outlet? Let us know why...
A. My connections to the arts communities in Washington run deep; including various music scenes, of which I have been a fan and supporter of for as long as I can remember. As far as DJing is concerned, I am fortunate to have always been connected to those who I feel epitomize the craft here in DC metro area: from DJ's like SMK, Oso-Fresh, Alize, Celo and other well-known DC Hip-Hop greats, to DJ's Underdog, Selecta, Mane Squeeze and those who spin more contemporary music sets.
My shift from visual arts to the music came at the urging friends to complete an archiving project I have been working on for some time. The project involves taking all the local music I have
collected over the years to create what I feel is one of the largest standing digital libraries of music produced by artists from Washington, DC and the surrounding areas. While in the process I was contacted by Peter Conner from Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café who presented me with the opportunity to update the Cafe's musical offerings for this year 2014. Even though I don't consider myself a DJ on the caliber of those I mentioned earlier, I feel this is a great opportunity to present my archived material, while bringing attention to the artists that I feel passionate about.
Q. Why focus strictly on local music?
A. I have always been a promoter of locally based musicians. In a city/region that has hundreds of venues on any given night with DJs supplying music entertainment, I find it difficult to accept there aren't more DJs focusing their attention on our homegrown artists. Sure, you may hear one or two records in a set from a locally based artist, but on a whole the club scene focuses on national or international artists - which is ok, but I push back the philosophy that you can't rock an entire set or party with music strictly from DC... and I intend to prove it is possible to do so.
Q. I know you also record music as well, and not too long ago released an album called "Songs In A Sallow Man's Key" (SIASMK). I have heard your project has been described as "a fresh perspective... from an artist that gets it" by Maureen "Ma Dukes" Yancey (J Dilla's mom). How has the public response been to your new record?
A. Overall the response has been super positive. With J Dilla's mom saying things like that about my music, it gives me inspiration to create more. I have always tried to make music that I felt was important and relevant. The more people hear the record the more they like it, so it's a real boost.
Q. Okay, so what are your future moves?
A. In addition to my upcoming DJ residency at Afterwords Cafe, I am in the process of relocating Art Under Pressure's retail store to U Street as well as working with Guerilla Arts to bring my graffiti curriculum into DC Schools. I have a couple of recording projects on the horizon as well. One of which is a cool concept album I am mapping out with AB the Pro, and a follow up record to SIASMK.
Of course my primary focus is raising my son Bayani who is five years old now, and building a strong foundation for his future.
Cory Stowers aka Rock Creek Lee is spinning his all DC Music set this Saturday May 10th at Kramerbooks' & Afterwords located at 1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. 10pm-2am. No Cover.
You can follow Mr. Stowers in on Twitter/Instagram: @rockcreeklee