by Malik Hall
The bells ring, and the class lines up and proceeds to take their seats. Their teacher is sporting his signature black t-shirt that states “Richmond is for Haters.” The teacher pauses and then proceeds to prompt the students to write down a rhyme and immediately rap it upon completion. A classroom setting may not be the most common habitat for a rapper, but encountering a credible hip-hop course for kids was as much of a surprise to veteran Richmond rapper Black Liquid as was receiving the role of teacher.
“I was invited to speak one year at Sabot at Stony Point to talk about the “Adventures and People you Meet Through Music,“ which was the theme for the school that year. They liked what I said so much that they offered me a job! I didn’t have a plan, had never taught a class, and had no ideas beyond what I put myself through to get better at this, so I said “yes.” Literally one of the best decisions of my entire life,” said Black Liquid.
Despite the Sabot school being a “Reggio-inspired, social constructivist curriculum that is inquiry-based and driven predominantly by the children’s interests” — “I really don’t quote stuff like that often, but really there’s no better way to describe it,” said Black Liquid when asked to describe the school, as it is the go-to description provided by Sabot — he knows when it is appropriate for his influence in the course to be felt. Known for his scathing lyrics that avoids dabbling in the flair and flamboyance that a majority of mainstream hip-hop is recognized for, Black Liquid is determined that his students keep the same genuineness in their rhymes and omit anything superficial. The best way to do this is by having them say the rhymes out loud so they can feel the ridiculousness of any superficial subject matter.
Anyone with a hip-hop teacher as experienced as Black Liquid will definitely learn fast. “The trimester ends with a group performance, and at the end of the year the teachers get out of their comfort zone and do a performance of their own as well! Sometimes I cap it off with a freestyle if they pull me in, but usually they are so good I’m just as impressed and left speechless as the crowd (lol),” stated Liquid.
Teaching at Sabot is only one of many hats Liquid wears. Between his extensive music catalogue, occasional performances, organizing the now discontinued eight year running FaceMelt Friday’s rap showcase, having a full time job and being the host to both WRIR 97.3FM’s Hip-Hop for the Rest of Us segment and WDCE 90.1FM’s Hip-Hop 101, Black Liquid’s work ethic is second to none.
“I develop systems for everything I do, and I exercise five days a week. I don’t like food, I don’t like to sleep. Comfort is the enemy of progress and books are the forgotten language of the imagination. I’d rather work till I die doing what I love than work myself to death just to make a living,“ stated Liquid.
His philosophy of life is “No Other Way(NOW)” — also the name of his label and Ted Talk — and is expressed through everything Black Liquid does. Currently, it is exactly what the man is doing as he has been releasing mixtapes of his live freestyles once a month under the same acronym of NOW. Now 8 was recently released at the end of August and was recorded from the HipHop for the Rest of Us and Nighttime Maneuvers shows on WRIR 97.3FM.
Black Liquid’s free flow of rhymes reveals his psyche, and the content he freestyles about in Now 8 stays true to the man he is. Regardless of your take on the term “conscious” rap, Black Liquid’s verses are potent with lyrics that demonstrates his ability to create an off-the-cuff and meaningful story.
The track “Soft” is a story about an old friend of Black Liquid’s who represents toxic masculinity and portrays how his friend’s chauvinistic ways led to an STD which prompted him to end his womanizing ways. “Winners Can Be Losers”, the ending track, is about Rob Fields becoming Black Liquid, and “Put Me On”, a freestyle over the beat of the Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” describes the suckerness of individuals unwilling to invest in themselves. That idea of “putting someone on” is a big gripe of Black Liquid’s when it comes to the RVA rap scene.
“We can’t be a scene and be a market, it’s one or the other. Support needs to go beyond shares and likes and follows. We need to develop sustainable business models, own what we create, study our rights, and learn the game one failure at a time, one success at a time, and stop expecting things to happen for us when we aren’t doing the work for them to happen,” stated Black Liquid.
Liquid’s next addition the NOW series is coming out as a dual release alongside the video for the song “Madness” from his last album ANTi. Black Liquid’s next album will be his first under his own personal NOW label that he partnered to create with local videographer and rapper BCMusic1st. Black Liquid has performed twice this past week, at Richmond’s Veg Fest, which also marks seven years since he’s abstained from alcohol, and at Gallery 5 for SwordPlay’s album release party. His upcoming shows will be at the Camel on 10/11, headlining The Press Room in Portsmouth, NH on 10/26 and headlining Bars Over BS at Chizuko in Pensacola, FL on 12/13.
When asked about the return of the rap showcase FaceMelt Friday’s, Black Liquid simply replied, “Now I’m going to learn something new to share that knowledge with others as well…so the answer that question: Endings are beginnings.”
VCU Alumni, Malik Hall fell into writing by accident, but the best things in life are unplanned.”Music is permeates the soul is a language that is understood by everyone, why wouldn’t I want to write about up and coming artists.”
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