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  • Dylan Bowman

The State of the RVA Music Scene

The Richmond, Virginia music scene is in just as much of a state of success as it is limbo. In a time where the cultural importance of cities seems to be rapidly dissolving, Richmond seems to still carry with it some hope. This is because despite all that is thrown at it, the city’s music and arts scene has an impeccable ability to somehow not die, and the history of the artists and bands that come out of Richmond reflect that. For example, one of Richmond’s most notable bands Gwar—formed in 1984 as part of a formation of two separate entities—has a lineup of members that has changed plenty over the years. Gwar even has its own Wikipedia page dedicated to logging previous members. However, while all that’s fantastic, every person in Richmond that achieves actual success appears to be a white dude or group of white dudes. For instance, one of Richmond’s most successful up and coming bands, Iron Regan, is completely white. Furthermore, every member of Gwar, Avail, Lamb of God, Municipal Waste and many other bands are all white, and the music is all metal or punk. The question is, is the continued popularity of seemingly only white male artists in Richmond due to defects in the way Richmond is portrayed by its news outlets or by its own people? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If an artist drops one of the best albums of the previous year in Richmond, who is responsible for making you hear it? The reality is, the Richmond music scene has a lot more to offer than metal, most notably its bubbling hip hop scene. However, the hip-hop scene also falls victim to its own set of problems. Just like the rest of Richmond, the most publicly known hip-hop artists are white. The fact that only white artists are getting publicity in Richmond is a problem that creates a divide. While it’s not a literal divide, there is an uncertainty on how different entities interact and what the result of these interactions leads to. “Trying something different worked for me, but they won’t try it because it hasn’t worked for them,” was the sentiment from OG Keesh, an outlier of the Richmond hip hop scene who’s found his own success with little to no connection to any other artist in the Richmond music scene. Keesh’s music has thousands of plays on Spotify and he has a dedicated fanbase on his social media platforms, all without connecting to other artists. This is in the same vein as Ugly Mane, whose rise to popularity was almost entirely self-constructed or “behind the curtain” as Richmond hip-hop legend Radio B put it. Alternatively, while some of Richmond's more successful hip-hop artists have come up with little to no help at all, just as many have come up with the help of collectives. Operating out of Richmond, Mutant Academy has been in the public eye, with world-renowned MCs giving shoutouts on Twitter to members of the group. Similarly, Nickelus F of the AGM and Late Bloomers Club has experienced exponentially larger amounts of success in the last year. After the release of his album “Stuck,” Nick began playing sold-out shows in cities outside of Richmond, including New York. While at a glance Richmond’s problems seem completely isolated in itself, a closer inspection can reveal how these problems can relate to any artistic community. The element of ignorance is the great equalizer, and the more powerful element of arrogance is the great executioner. Illustration by Amber Duan


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