Charleston’s hip-hop scene has long been an underground phenomenon, existing on the fringe of the city’s mainstream music scene and often not having much of an opportunity for growth. This has been attributed to a number of things over the years, but mainly it has been a lack of unity and a lack of opportunities for artists to perform.
However, this is all starting to change, and 2023 has been a period of major growth in the community thus far. This is thanks to a number of things (shout out #GxldApproved), including the aptly-named and growing Charleston Underground series at Lofi Brewing.
Coming up on Saturday, June 3rd is the 8th installment of Charleston Underground — dubbed the Charleston Underground Summer Bash — and it’s the biggest one yet.
The format is an alternation between producer sets featuring open mics, and sets from prominent local rappers, with DJ Chris the Almighty providing support behind the boards.
Producers on the lineup include YENSHIN, Airborne Audio, and Slim S.O.U.L, each of whom will be doing a 20-minute open mic session where anyone who wants to hop on stage will be able to (time permitting). Rappers doing 30-minute sets include King Cutler, Tyrie, and Malcolm Fl3x.
“The reason I feel that it’s a unique show is because of the producer sets with the open mics,” Beam explains. “The rappers who aren’t even performing come out because they know they’re gonna be able to get on stage.”
In addition to the musical performances, the event will also feature a night market curated by Almighty Lifestyles, a food pop-up from Jade Hibachi, live art by Toyo & more summer-themed goodies. All of this adds to the aesthetic that is Charleston Underground, at a venue that has become known for giving artists of all kinds a professional-quality stage on which to perform.
“It literally started on some internal reasons — I just wanted to perform more,” Beam continues. “So I was like, you know what? Charleston needs more shows. And then after the first one or two I kinda realized what I had and what I could start doing for other artists, and it sort of evolved. It’s kind of the producer philosophy as well, of wanting to create a platform for other artists to perform on.”
This turned out to be a great idea, as little did Ben know at the time (September 2022), that there are tons of rappers in the Charleston area who are always looking for opportunities to perform. He was new to the game at the time, with his own first performance being in July of 2022.
“At that point I still didn’t know that many rappers in the area. I didn’t know how many were around. Now I’ve gotten so close with so many and learned how big the scene is,” Ben says. “I didn’t know how long I was gonna do it, for but now I have artists lined up for months and months and months, and it just seems never-ending, which is f*ckin’ awesome.”
Ultimately the process has been a learning experience for Ben Beam, but he’s been excited for the support thus far, especially because many of his favorite artists in the city have shown love. He cites Mike L!ve as a crucial mentor, offering tips and advice along the way.
The philosophy of Charleston Underground is one of building the scene, giving a stage to underground artists, and having fun. Beam encourages anyone who is interested in the concept not only to pull up on June 3rd, but to reach out if they’re interested in being a part of it.
“If anyone is interested – reach out. Part of the philosophy is just letting people that want to perform, perform. Reach out if you’re interested. We’re filled out for the next few months, but we’re always looking ahead. We’re always looking to get people that are interested.”