The evolution of hip hop in the Granite State
|Published: 11-25-2023 9:30 AM
Bill Fee was born in Lowell, Mass. and now resides in Nashua. He has been producing and writing hip hop music since 1987 and is an active advocate for the culture. He consistently works to ensure that the contributions to and from the art form are properly documented and communicated.
Since its inception in the 1970s, hip hop has made a seismic musical and cultural impact, beginning in the Bronx and quickly spreading to many different regions — including New Hampshire.
By the early 1990s, hip hop’s presence in the Granite State was bubbling beneath the surface and embedding itself deep within the roots of the local youth. Most New Hampshire hip hop fans were getting their earliest tastes of the culture by way of Brian “B2” Bernard, who introduced the world to “The Mothership Connection,” one of New Hampshire’s first hip hop radio shows, which aired on UNH’s student-run station WUNH.
Around the same time that the “Mothership Connection” was taking flight, a Keene State College Radio program, “The Power Jam,” hosted by DJ Addition, helped cultivate one of the state’s most prominent and unique talents, Adeem (pronounced A.D.M.).
In 1996 Adeem teamed up with fellow local hip hop enthusiast DJ MF Shalem to begin working on their live performance. After a couple of years of honing their craft, Adeem was convinced by prolific underground rapper and Anticon Records founder Sole to join him in attending the prestigious Scribble Jam. At the time, the annual music festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, was dubbed “America’s Largest Hip Hop Festival.”
Adeem had no intention of participating in the emcee battle but his friends registered him to compete nonetheless. Round after round he survived, and in the final round he eliminated well-known Minnesota rapper Slug, winning the coveted emcee battle. This led to a tremendous run of accomplishments, including another Scribble Jam Emcee Battle victory, as well as numerous tours and albums. A significant moment in New Hampshire hip hop history was born, setting the bar to inspire countless Granite State hip hop artists to realize that the dream of being a professional hip hop artist was attainable.
In the years that followed, the Seacoast area was brewing up its own mix of hard-working musicians. Legendary DJ/Producer Statik Selektah (from Exeter), hosted WPEA 90.5 FM from 1996 to 1998 before moving on to Boston and eventually New York City. Some of the artists he had worked with, such as Granite State, Trapjaw Affiliates (Ape, Bugout, LB, DJ iLLogix), Defrock, Grey Sky Appeal, DJ Ayo Beat Perv, and DC the Midi Alien, were making notable impressions and performing to large crowds throughout the Seacoast region and beyond.
As the culture stepped into the 2000s, and with the rise of social media, the New Hampshire hip hop scene spread further and acts continued to flourish. A DJ by the name of Craig Mosher hosted a popular hip hop show on WSCA radio in Portsmouth called the Graveyard Shift. Meanwhile, the Manchester area was the root for musician Brian Soko who went on to produce major label tracks for Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar and even Beyonce. Other contributors who made strides during this time include DJ Myth, Seth On Gray and Eyenine.
In fact, DJ Myth and Eyenine helped create the foundation of New Hampshire’s most important and longest-running residency, Rap Night Manchester. Held every Sunday at The Shaskeen Pub, Rap Night hosts cyphers (an improv gathering of MCs), as well as feature performances from national and regional touring acts. Rap Night recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, an outstanding accomplishment.
The 2000s also saw the rise of New Hampshire hip hop contributors Decap and bassist Brady Watt of Nashua. Producer Decap has worked with artists like Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli as well as Aziz the Shake, another well-known producer from Nashua who is making waves with platinum-selling rapper Bia. Brady Watt has become famous for performing live with legendary rappers and has provided bass guitar on albums and songs by platinum producer Ski Beatz, best known for his work with Jay-Z.
Nashua artist Fee the Evolutionist has collaborated with both Brady Watt and Ski Beatz. He recently freestyled alongside fellow Gate City affiliate Cody Pope at a Brady Watt show in September of 2023. It is culturally significant that 3 kids from Nashua all rocked the same stage at a sold-out Middle East Club show in Cambridge, Mass. Fee and his partner, soulstress Ruby Shabazz worked with Ski Beatz on the song “Back in the Dayz” which is a tribute to the golden era of hip hop. Fee & DJ Myth also teamed up to collaborate on Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary to create the track “Without Me” produced by and featuring the Boston legend Edo G.
In 2023 and for the first time, two New Hampshire hip hop artists from Nashua, Cody Pope & Fee the Evolutionist were both nominated for the New England Music Awards Hip Hop Act of the Year. Fee took home the trophy in the Rising Star category in 2022 and was also the winner of the Best Hip Hop/R&B song (Ain’t No Love) in the 2022 New England Song Writing Competition.
Spearheaded by Cody Pope & Byron G, Hellhound Publishing is an independently run record company based in Nashua that actively collaborates and cultivates some of the city’s most prolific local talent. Other noteworthy crews who are making contributions on a consistent basis are Flow Free or Die Entertainment, Toy Box Studios and Minds of One Collective Genius.
The future looks bright for the New Hampshire hip hop scene as key players envision it to be a mecca for musicians of the culture. New Hampshire can continue to be a place where other hip hop artists, both regional and national, come to promote, record, perform and participate in the rich culture of the scene.
Special thanks to: Angela Godwin, Cody Pope, Adeem, Eyenine & DJ Myth for their contributions to this article.
Author’s note: This article is not meant to be a comprehensive list of individual hip hop artists but instead a brief history of contributors to hip hop culture in New Hampshire. If you feel that we missed anything please email email@example.com and it may be included in our next segment.