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Greensboro-based Diggin’ in the Crates celebrates hip-hop | Entertainment


GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A trove of hip-hop history fills a small office in a nondescript building along Battleground Avenue.

The walls have been covered with scenes and memorabilia from the history of hip-hop-era culture and other music — such as a large painting of rapper The Notorious B.I.G.

From this office building at 1400 Battleground Ave., Ernest Hooker runs Diggin’ in the Crates Hip Hop Podcast, an umbrella organization that oversees several online podcasts and a separate new Black-owned performance arts space.

He takes its name from the practice of seeking music to sample by searching for second-hand vinyl albums stored in milk crates in record stores, flea markets or thrift shops.

Hooker and Terrance McAdoo — both full-time college professors — team up to broadcast their “Hooker and Mac Show” podcast, typically every other week.

It can be found live on Instagram @hookerandmcadoo. Older broadcasts can be found on the YouTube channel for Diggin’ in the Crates Hip Hop Podcast.

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Hooker offers the space to other podcasts such as “Prime Time Sports” and “Balanced Behavior,” the latter in which husband-and-wife Xavier and Brooke Carrington talk about relationships.

On “Sample Saturdays,” a producer talks about sampling records, how to engineer a beat and some favorite artists.

Students from N.C. A&T serve as interns, writing scripts and filming, editing and posting podcasts online.

With this podcast studio and the new performance arts space, Hooker wants to provide affordable space for creatives to work on their crafts.

“I hope it becomes a brand for podcasting and performance,” Hooker said. “I’m hoping that it would be an incubator for collaborative music projects.”

Organizers want to educate the community on the core elements of hip-hop’s roots. They want to communicate and connect with younger people to provide a positive influence.

In addition, Hooker added, “It’s not about our organization. It’s about creating something that crosses cultural lines in Greensboro.”

They also want to enhance the scene for young hip-hop artists in the city, said Yasmine Regester, who handles marketing and public relations for Diggin’ in the Crates.

“A lot of artists will say, especially young hip-hop artists, they don’t feel like Greensboro is a place where they can grow,” Regester said. “They feel like Greensboro isn’t on the map when it comes to hip-hop music …”

“The broader hip-hop community here, when we get together, it’s always like ‘How can we help these artists? How can we give them some sort of support they feel they are not getting, to make them want to stay, to make them feel like whatever you’re building in your career, you can build it here?’” Regester said. “‘You can have some success before you go out into the world. You don’t have to leave and become an Atlanta artist.’”

Hip-hop is more than rap, the chanted rhythmic and rhyming speech. It’s fashion, design, arts and pop culture — and of course, music.

By most accounts, it began in the ’70s and early ’80s when block parties became popular in New York City, particularly among African American youth in the Bronx.

It includes MC-ing, DJ-ing (which includes scratching with turntables), sampling beats or bass lines from records, break dancing, beatboxing and graffiti writing.

Regester doesn’t see people free-styling as much. “And that art form is dying a little bit,” she said.

“You can be a good writer,” she said, “but there’s something about being able to think on the spot and perform in front of people — a whole crowd or a whole room of people — that’s just amazing to watch.”

Nowadays, hip-hop has become “very explicit and very different,” Regester said.

Diggin’ in the Crates wants to open the world of hip-hop to youth in a different way.

“We try to show it in a fun way, I guess, with some education and community engagement and events,” she said.

“I know music is supposed to evolve,” she added. “But at the same time, you kind of have to still pay respect to where it came from and how serious people took the craft.”

By profession, Hooker teaches history at N.C. A&T.

He met McAdoo in 2016, when they did a radio show on A&T station WNAA. Both taught at A&T back then.

McAdoo had written his dissertation on conscious hip-hop music, which addresses social issues.

“We clicked from there and decided we wanted to do something beyond what we had on that one day,” McAdoo said.

They decided to do their own show.

Hooker rented the space on Battleground Avenue. In 2018, he began decorating it.

He gathered music memorabilia from yard sales, consignments shops and people giving it away.

Xavier Carrington, a graphic artist, painted portraits of artists such as The Notorious B.I.G, Queen Latifah and Radio Raheem from the movie, “Do the Right Thing.” Hooker found posters of stars such as Donna Summer and even The Beatles.

The space displays items such as record players and an eight-track player. They spent $5 on an old television and painted it.

“What’s really funny is that with the students, they all go ‘What’s that? I’ve never seen an eight-track before. How do you work that?’” Regester said.

In 2019, Hooker and McAdoo began broadcasting their podcast from there. They talk about social and political issues. They bring in guests.

Back then, McAdoo worked as an intervention specialist at GTCC. He now teaches in education at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He drives up about every two weeks for the podcast and a visit with his parents.

Hooker’s vinyl album collection now numbers about 1,000, not only hip-hop but country, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz.

On occasion, Hooker dons a purple cape and becomes his alter-ego, Hip Hop Wizard. He might be found in a local record store, carrying a Walkman or radio — “something vintage that represents music,” he said.

In 2020, they celebrated the one-year anniversary with musical performances and vendors outside Red Cinemas nearby.

Back in October, Diggin’ in the Crates Hip Hop Podcast expanded to a second space at 1300 Westover Terrace. Hooker rented part of the brick building from Kotis Properties as a performance space.

Regester organized a rap cypher.

A cypher is a gathering of rappers, beat-boxers and/or breakers in a circle, extemporaneously making music together. The circle can go on continuously, as long as emcees, beat-boxers, dancers and the crowd keep it going.

The new space offers a stage, lights and sound. Not only does Regester hope that it can be used for performances, but perhaps for a band that needs a rehearsal space.

“I want to see musicians, people who play the sax or the drums,” she said. “I want to see youth groups come in. We can definitely tailor something that’s age-appropriate so they can interact and have a good time with hip-hop and the arts.”

McAdoo says he enjoys the “Hooker and Mac Show.”

“The audience is slowly growing,” McAdoo said.

He praises the connection that Hooker has with young people, providing a voice for them.

“One of the main things we wanted to do is to not just let it be about us but about the people in the community,” McAdoo said.

“Let’s connect with some young people, give them a space to come, and do some hip-hop stuff and shed some light on some positive things that they can take away from one of us in terms of having life and wisdom,” McAdoo said. “Help them to understand even though times can be hard, continue to pursue your dreams, try to stay out of trouble as much as possible. And if this is a space that helps you to be able to do that, then by all means, come here so you can do that.”

On a fall “Hooker and Mac Show” podcast, Hooker talked about the A&T homecoming and the Verzuz battle.

Verzuz is an American webcast series created by record producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, that airs on Verzuz TV. The series was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic as a virtual DJ battle, with Timbaland and Swizz Beatz facing off in its first iteration through an Instagram Live broadcast in March 2020. Two musicians, predominantly R&B and hip-hop, highlight their discographies in two 10-song rounds during a three-hour session.

A&T student Savion McClean handles podcast production.

McAdoo ends with words of wisdom.

“I saw something the other day that talked about obstacles,” he tells their online audience.

“In life, if you are focused on obstacles, you are missing the big picture,” McAdoo says. “Because those who stay focused on the goals don’t look at things as obstacles. They are just hurdles that we need to jump over. So keep your eye on the prize and don’t worry about things in terms of being an obstacle.”

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