This story was originally written after SHHO's 919-Fest in November 2017.
Nestled between the towering Genome Sciences Building and Kenan Stadium, a pretty small stage was set up in the Bell Tower Amphitheatre. Complete with banners, lights, speakers and turntables, the stage was set up in preparation for 919-Fest, Chapel Hill’s first annual music festival highlighting local, homegrown hip-hop talent. Although the stage itself was pretty minimal, it was soon revealed that the sheer talent of the performers and the energy of the crowd in attendance was enough to make the showcase larger than anyone could have anticipated.
Hosted by DJ Jabar and DJ Avalanche, the entire festival was underscored by the talent of the performers behind the turntables. It was their responsibility to set the mood for the growing crowd and to complement the performances that highlighted the night. Taking on this responsibility, the two DJs traded control to hype up the crowd and backed the headlining talent the festival showcased.
Spurred on by the increasing size of the audience and the help of Jabar and Avalanche, the first performers took the stage. Jeezus704 stunned the crowd with original tracks spun by the DJs and spit over the mic. At once, it became clear that the bar was set high for the many performances of the night.
This was followed by the Moonlight Dance Crew, bringing original synchronized choreography to the Amphitheatre for all to appreciate. Not to be outdone, the UNC Cypher group rocked three mics, trading control of the beat and delivering unbelievable, off-the-top freestyles. Floating between audience members and dominating the stage, the three Cypher members kept the flow going and captured the attention of everyone in attendance.
Letting the DJs have a break, Harmonyx provided their very own original acapella renditions of classic songs around the mic. Kamikazi was soon to follow with more choreographed hip-hop dance routines. The night concluded with the audience surrounding the stage, encouraging original talent from the Student Hip-Hop Organization (SHHO) to feature their own original songs.
By the end of the festival, any previous inhibitions had vanished: Everyone could express their own artistic creations and receive love from the crowd that had grown to hundreds. The size of the lights, or the speakers, or the stage did not matter at that point; it was what was on top of the stage that mattered.
And that's what made SHHO's inaugural 919-Fest one to remember.