With the diversity of sound growing each year at AthFest, the Hip-Hop Queens brought R&B, soul, rap, jazz and their slam poetry to life at Go Bar this weekend. Sam Lipkin, who runs Volumes Hip-Hop, a blog that highlights the hip-hop music scene and hosts hip-hop events around town, organized this event.
“There’s a lot of really talented female MCs, R&B singers, even with rock just a little bit of everything, but they just aren’t really highlighted ... I thought it would be the perfect thing to showcase at AthFest,” Lipkin said.
Artists from Athens to Savannah performed throughout the event, and each woman who played had a message, whether it was loving yourself, focusing on women's empowerment or trusting in yourself to make it to your end goals.
Local artist Torie Raven kicked off the night with her quick beats and fast verses. Between her three songs, Raven covered a range of topics, from the importance of not changing who you are for anyone, to how to handle being cheated on by a significant other.
"I draw inspiration from my life. Life happens to you every day, whether it's good or bad," Raven said.
When it came to playing AthFest, as an Athens native Raven was very inspired and excited to be playing this year.
"I remember being downtown and there was a bucket drummer on the corner when I was twelve and I immediately just started dancing," Raven said. "Just being able to go from dancing for a guy playing buckets to being able to play at some of the most famous places in Athens [is a dream come true]."
Traveling from Atlanta to perform her set for the day, R&B artist K’Shon was eager to play on the AthFest stage for the first time. Throughout her performance, you could feel her passion for singing and what she was singing about. Her stage presence and the change in the tone of her voice from each song showed the emotion that she puts into her songwriting process and the events in her life that she was inspired from.
Her songs focused on being able to relate to the crowd with experiences that she has gone through, such as with her original song, “Queen,” which highlights the importance of self-acceptance and loving who you are. With smooth vocal riffs and a calm vibe taking over during her show, she immediately was able to get the crowd swaying to her sound.
"I just hope everybody accepts my sounds, and [that] I sing R&B. It's about getting people to open up and listen to my music," K’Shon said.
Valley Girl D
Despite this being Valley Girl D’s first year performing at AthFest, the Athens native took the time to play at Hip-Hop Queens while also performing at Ciné later that night. With a fast flow and commanding stage presence, Valley Girl D, or Dana Durant, had the audience on the edges of their seats and waiting to see what she would perform next.
Each song detailed the struggle of things she has gone through throughout her life, and how she would persevere no matter what obstacles stood in her way. Her songs were able to change dramatically, sometimes even almost stopping quickly before she seamlessly slipped back into the flow.
"I think it's so important to bring R&B and hip-hop to Athens. I don't like rock, but it's still nice to be able to go check out a different sound," Valley Girl D said.
Having recently been named Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at the 2018 Athens Hip-Hop Awards, Haze exceeded her title with her performance at Go Bar. Her show was full of passion with the detailed storytelling of the hard beginnings she had to face as a child to perseverance throughout adulthood.
Her stage presence quickly had everyone clapping their hands to the beat, while her commentary before each song allowed the audience to connect with not only Haze herself, but the performance as well.
As an Athens-native, Haze has performed around the area but this year was her first year playing AthFest.
“I think it's super important to have a diverse scene because every genre has a story to tell. Hip-hop has been around in Athens for years, and the old heads will tell you that. It has also shaped the community to come together in more ways than one,” Haze said.
Savannah-based musician, Elaina Valore, or Lady Valore, uses slam poetry with her genre-bending sound to discuss social issues and the importance getting people involved in their communities, become more aware of those in need. With a high energy performance that changed from song to song, highlighted by Valore playing the saxophone in the middle of her set, kept the audience waiting to see what she would do next.
"When I first started making music I was going through a lot of things. Once I kind of wrote all my demons out I was able to focus on positivity and upliftment,” Valore said. “The direction of my music just turned into helping people love themselves, but also want to [take] action."
Whether it was female sexuality or being proactive in your local community, Valore touched on a range of socially relevant topics throughout her set.
Bri F.E.E.L. and The Plush Tones
The last performers for the event were the Plush Tones, a live band based out of Atlanta. The Plushtones normally consists of vocalists Bri Feel and John Hill, drummer Derrick McClay, bassist Kirby Matherne and guitarist Chris Terry, however Hill was not present that night. The Plushtones brought a jazz filled end to the show with a sound that combined everything from R&B, jazz and blues.
With Feel’s vocals soothing out the crowd for the night, this ‘90s R&B-esque group had the audience toe-tapping and dancing to the beat. When it comes to AthFest and why they were excited to perform this year, Feel attributes it to all the different genres now being brought to the table.
"[Athens] provides a safe space for performers who may not have fit into this festival just a few years ago," said Feel.
While all being hip-hop inspired artists, each artists brought their own spin of genre to the AthFest. Having these different women come together to perform a genre in a city that isn’t known for hip-hop music was brilliant to watch, topped off by how ready this group of performers was to support and praise one another after each set.
“It was dope that they had all female MCs," Valore said. "It’s a beautiful thing and now we are all here supporting each other. I didn’t feel any tension or any pretentiousness from anyone, we were all here because we care."