Under The Radar

NWA hip-hop artists play Happiness of Pursuit Festival

Local hip hop artists reflect on 2023, look forward to 2024

Local rapper Avian Alia, who's from the 870, says that folks in California noticed her skills and her accent.

(Courtesy Photo)
Local rapper Avian Alia, who's from the 870, says that folks in California noticed her skills and her accent. (Courtesy Photo)

A story that flew under my radar last year was the performance by two Northwest Arkansas-based hip-hop artists at the The Happiness of Pursuit Festival in Ontario, Calif., in October 2023. The performance was part of Groundwaves, a hip-hop mentorship and performance program offered locally through CACHE with West Coast rapper Murs.

Local rapper Avian Alia, who's from the 870, says that folks in California noticed her skills and her accent.

"I feel in Cali there was a lot of intrigue surrounding my accent and vernacular; they could tell I wasn't from there," she jokes in an email interview. The artist, who has been involved with Groundwaves since the fall of 2021, says that the monthly Tuesday night performances provide her with the opportunity to exercise her craft and be in the presence of like-minded individuals, "which is always inspiring."

Her EP "Upward" is available across all streaming platforms, and she performs next month during a hip-hop showcase with 3DeadIdols, Lydia Newsom and DK Star God at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at The Momentary in Bentonville.

"In 2024 I plan to get back to producing more visuals," she says. "I definitely got my feet wet performing this year and it's been taking up the majority of my attention, but in 2024 I am planning to put out more content."

Keep up with her "flight plan" on socials @avianalia or at avianalia.com.

Local hip-hop artist LeaKe says that going to California was a homecoming in a way.

"I was born in Southern California and brought to Arkansas at a very young age, so the homecoming was surreal to say the least. It was incredibly encouraging, refreshing and inspiring getting to go somewhere where the thing you love is being put so highly on a pedestal. The culture was just so effortless and natural. Everything was hip-hop. I loved it," he beams.

"The professionalism and legitimacy of the function too was great to see. I was definitely taking notes the entire time and trying to soak up as much of it as I could. There's too many good things to say about it. The performers, the food, the clothes, the people, the weather -- I mean everything was good, it was Cali..."

He said during an email interview that Groundwaves has been the "single most important resource for my new musicianship here." He performed twice in the program's first run in Northwest Arkansas in 2021, but says he's become more immersed in the program in the last two years, making connections that have been vital on his journey so far.

"So many important things for a young hip-hop maker live there. So many different types of artists gather there, so there's really something for everyone no matter your title or niche," he says. He lauds Murs, who offers free mentoring sessions to all those who perform during the eight-month open mic series, and the program for its openness and acceptance.

"Usually, hip-hop (especially in unestablished areas) is an incredibly judgment-filled practice and can seem terribly intimidating at first," LeaKe says. "But Murs does an incredible job of giving EVERYONE a platform to say whatever they have on their mind."

He says that support is especially important for developing into a performer.

"I pride myself on the live experience and making people feel that unexplainable feeling that good live music leaves us with. Between the repetition, connections, and overall exposure to hip-hop, I could go on for pages about how I believe any young artist needs all of that. Not to mention the blessed opportunity to have a rap legend personally want to mentor you," he says.

LeaKe is looking forward to a busy 2024.

"The team and I already have a big 2024 lined out, and it's just getting bigger. Shows all around the area and surrounding states, but I hope to be able to travel a good bit more than I did this year. Cali to New York and everywhere in between. We'll be heavily pushing our live experiences in major cities and here in town. I have a plethora of new music made and written that will come to light in 2024," he says.

"That's just the music side. My team and I will be busy crafting so many different things for you guys that you'll just have to see for yourself. But I promise it'll be worth it." Keep up at linktr.ee/leaketheleader.

Groundwaves returns in 2024, catch the next wave at cachecreate.org/music-performance.

  photo  LeaKe performs at The Happiness of Pursuit Festival in Ontario, Calif., in October of this year. The local rapper started performing during the regular Tuesday night Groundwaves open mic nights in 2021. (Courtesy Photo/Natalie Jones)
 
 

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