DROP THE BEAT: Cucalorus Stage expands with hip-hop collective Beats & Coffee at V/S/W Lounge

“We love hip-hop,” hip-hop artist Rene Plowden says of his Beats & Coffee collective in Wilmington. “We try to embody that culture in everything we do.”

HIP-HOP  TO THE BEAT:  Beats & Coffee will debut new soundscapes at Cucalorus this Friday night. Courtesy photo
HIP-HOP TO THE BEAT: Beats & Coffee will debut new soundscapes at Cucalorus this Friday night. Courtesy photo

Since Beats & Coffee was founded in 2016, Plowden and company have operated as a performance group. However, as of late, they have become a producer as well. Up-and-coming projects with affiliates include “Cycles” from guitarist Jay Killman, which is dropping in the upcoming months. “Reciprocate” by fellow Beats cofounder Tod Soul is coming out within the next year.

“The motivation for creating Beats & Coffee spurred from a realization there was no critique process for beat makers and producers in Wilmington,” Soul says, “or in general, mostly.”

Beats & Coffee, with their natural talents for instrumental hip-hop and building soundscapes with samplings, will join Cucalorus Stage shenanigans on Friday, November 9 at  the V/S/W Lounge, a.k.a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. They’ll be joined by Charleston hip-hop group Langston Hughes III and Wilmington’s subterrene.

To pair up with Beats, coffee will be served by Casa Blanca Coffee Roasters.
encore asked for some insight into what Beats & Coffee’s Rene Plowder, Tod Soul and RizzyBeats will bring to the Cucalorus dance floor, as well as what’s holding their attention at the festival this year.

encore (e): Tell us more about the Beats & Coffee collective: how it got started and how many artists are involved.

Tod Soul (TS): At the time [we founded Beats & Coffee] I was participating in a lot of formal critiques in my poetry and art classes, and the level of connectivity and honesty it depended on seemed missing in the music community. Creating Beats & Coffee ended up being the foundation of a brotherhood that would continue to grow. As of right now there’s about seven active members, including our visual DJ MXL PXL, and then more producers we regularly work with as well.

e: What artistic need is Beats & Coffee fulfilling in Wilmington’s music scene?

RizzyBeats (RB): I think Beats & Coffee fills a creative vacuum in Wilmington, particularly from a production and performance standpoint.

TS: Often musicians use their performances mainly as an avenue to play music. With Beats & Coffee, we try to approach making the performance and presentation just an integral as the music itself.

Rene Powden (RP): Yeah, the tourist nature of the town has caused people to look at music more as passive entertainment rather than something that involves more experience and memorable performance.

RB: We want to make every show more memorable than the last.

e: How do your all represent varying perspectives, production methods or performances? How do you find balance?

TS: From a literal standpoint, we all use different software to make our production. Some of us work off analog equipment, some off digital. Some of us operate in a marriage of those things. In the end, we all create any way we can.

RB: From a performance standpoint, each of us have a different vibration we give off when performing. I’m more theatrical and brash when I’m performing. Tod, when he’s working through his set locks himself and the crowd into a trance-like state. Rene plays a lot of his instruments and synths live. It creates a very personal connection with the crowd.

RP: We all approach different styles in our production that, ultimately, still are representative of hip-hop. We show the full gamut.

e: What typically drives your approach to your collective work?

TS: When we first started assembling compilations, we, actually, would use photographs and pieces of art to inspire our beats each week. I know sometimes I would see an image and try to create textures with samples that match the image. In general, I create art to internalize my experiences and connect with other folks.

RP: I try to imagine the atmosphere of the photos and artworks and create a soundscape that coincided with the atmosphere that I felt the images were existing in.

RB: I was approaching the challenges by trying to score the moment in the photograph or artwork, much in the way a movie soundtrack supports a film.

e: Are there any pieces especially for Cucalorus?

RB: Yes! We’re actually creating and debuting new songs that sample different genres of films.

TS: For example, I’ll be digging for samples in some blaxploitation film soundtracks and restructuring some of those joints.

e: How does Beats & Coffee fit under Cucalorus’ ever-expanding umbrella?

RP: It seems as though Cucalorus is widening to become inclusive to other facets of the arts, as well as film. We want to show how we can use our music to develop an experience that is theatrical and performative as well as musical.

e: Which other performances are your looking forward to seeing at the festival?

RB: I’m really looking forward to catching quite a few of the movie shorts.

RP: I’m all about the freestyle, I’ll feel out my schedule the day of probably.

Beats & Coffee w/ Langston Hughes III, subterrene
Friday, November 9, 8:30 p.m.
V/S/W Lounge at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot • 111 Grace St.
Tickets: $10 • cucalorus.org

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