To spotlight new music, Charlotte rapper debuts ‘Weird Awesome Fest’

Growing up in Charlotte in the 1990s, Nigel Hood knew he was different from his peers. Unlike most kids, he enjoyed listening to music from the 1960s. 

Hood said he had an early aspiration to be a rapper but wanted his music to feature more classical sounds instead of hard-hitting beats. He also wanted his lyrics to reflect his own life experiences, not the false narratives that some other rappers try to project.

Now at age 32, Hood is a full-time rapper who has performed nationwide, and wants to provide a space for others to discover new and unique music. 

“I want them to be turned on to something different, turned on to something new to expand their mind,” he told QCity Metro in a recent interview.

On Saturday, Hood will debut the inaugural Weird Awesome Fest, a music festival designed to bring exposure to the different types of music and artistry in the local area.

Located at the Music Yard at SouthBound, the event features music performances from three bands: the Folk Rap Band, The New Creatures, and Bad Cameo. Local comics Brien O’Neil and Bryan Penn will host the festival.

Hood said dancers, aerialists and other performers will be featured throughout the show. A rock-paper-scissors tournament will also be held.

Hood’s love for music started as a kid when he and his father would spend hours analyzing songs by Jimi Hendrix and other artists from the 1960s. 

“My dad was an example of a Black man with a really open palette too,” he said. “So I think it kind of encouraged me to keep an open pallet and just ingest music that felt good.”

As a student at Julius L. Chambers High School (formerly known as Vance), Hood started creating rap mixtapes to give out to his classmates. When he wasn’t in class, he said, he was freestyling in the hallway with his friends.

He graduated in 2009 and attended North Carolina Central University to pursue a degree in history, but he continued creating new music and performed at multiple on-campus events.

Hood said a big turning point in his career came when he was voted by fellow classmates to open for Kendrick Lamar in a 2011 NCCU homecoming concert.  

“It opened my eyes to what’s possible,” he said. “ It was a step in the right direction to where I wanted to go.” 

Soon, off-campus opportunities began to flow his way, and after graduating in 2013, he returned to Charlotte to pursue a full-time music career.

He performed shows in cities including Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., but was unable to get consistent booking in Charlotte.

“A lot of these venues, for whatever their reasons are, they’re a little bit stingy towards rap music, and they give it a bad connotation,” he said. 

Hood said that while he was unable to get gigs individually, bands would often reach out to him to rap during their shows.

Undaunted, he decided to put together his own band, hoping to land more gigs. He reached out to a few musicians he knew to create Folk Rap Band in 2019. The group has performed in at least 100 shows, despite many of their gigs getting canceled in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Yea, 2020 was rough,” he recalled. “We had a whole spring tour booked that we had to cancel, but we weathered the storm.”

In January, the band released its debut single, “Bowl N the Woods,” a song written by Hood that features rapper Afroman, the artist known for the song “Because I Got High.” The song currently has more than 9,000 views on Youtube.

“Folk Rap Band has a whole gamut of music that we play. We dropped “Bowl N The Woods” to see how people would react and were pleasantly surprised at the success,” he said

Hood also organized concerts throughout the summer for the band to perform. One was at the Music Yard in SouthBound. Hood said a promoter there was impressed and offered him an opportunity to put together his own festival.

“The concerts did well, so I think he felt that I would do a good job promoting this one,” he said.

Hood said he plans to release a new music project called “Too Weird, Too Awesome” on Friday. He hopes the event brings more exposure to not only his work but to the work of other performers too.

“It’s just an overall big event of me, releasing music and then allowing other artists a platform to show what they do,” he said.

As for the show, Hood said he simply wants to give his audience a good time.

“Whether we get 60 people, whether we get a hundred to 200, I want the people who are there to thoroughly enjoy it and to want to go to the next one,” he said.

Weird Awesome Fest will start at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on EventBrite.

In keeping with pandemic protocols, visitors are asked to practice social distancing and wear face coverings, as required under Charlotte’s masking mandate.

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