Music, music, music. The hip-hop kind, that is. It’s what Elizabeth Schenck’s mind has been focusing on for the past few weeks — especially as the calendar grows closer to April 9, the date that Schenck and her college business partners have secured for their self-started business’s first annual hip-hop showcase in Athens.
Schenck, a University of Georgia (UGA) business management student, crafted the idea of a hip-hop music festival with her friends and fellow UGA Business Music students Stephen Prevost and Rebekah Baldwin. The result was hip-hop entertainment company H.E.R. Now, the 20-year-old college student has collected an extensive line-up of hip-hop artists, sponsors and music enthusiasts to come out to Athen’s New Earth Music Hall.
“The business came about totally backwards,” Schenck said in an interview with the Wheel
. “A couple months ago, I was at a music festival for a school assignment, and I had the chance to interview some hip-hop artist that I loved. And I just asked them, ‘Why don’t you come to Athens and do a show?’”
Tired of the long highway treks she constantly made to Atlanta in order to see the latest hip-hop shows, Schenck was eager to offer under-the-radar hip-hop artists the opportunity to perform in Athens, the college town of UGA. Schenck considered the request far-fetched, since Athens is known best for its traditional affinity to country and rock music.
However, rappers such as Dead Prez, Kidz in the Hall and WrittenHouse agreed to perform in Athens for H.E.R’s music festival.
“I didn’t set out to do a festival,” Schenck said. “That’s just how it panned out to be, and we had the idea to have a showcase in Athens solely for real hip-hop.”
“Real hip-hop” is the concept of the UGA students’ H.E.R. music company. The company’s goal is to promote the music of unconventional hip-hop artists by offering artist promotion, publicity, booking and music licensing opportunities.
The more concrete the music festival became, the more certain Schenck and Prevost knew they were on to something. Schenck, who believed their promotional activities warranted the creation of a company, insisted that the group come up with a distinctive name to brand their work. Prevost suggested that the three officially name their business H.E.R.
“When I came up with H.E.R. I was thinking about Common’s song ‘I Used to Love H.E.R.,’” Prevost said. “It’s a song about how Common got used to this woman who represents hip-hop, but she changed and became commercialized.”
Both Prevost and Schenck agree that the company’s name is meaningful to what the company represents, but they admitted that the name is constantly misinterpreted.
“There’s a deep meaning behind the name,” Schenck said. “But then again people get a little confused about whether or not this is a feminist music group — it’s not.”
It is not just the name that is meaningful, according to Schenck. Schenck explained that the goal of H.E.R is to promote conscious music created by undiscovered artists. She and Prevost said that these sorts of hip-hop artists have a difficult time getting their music on the air or out to the public because it doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical, radio-played rap songs.
“This music isn’t about going to the club. These artists are creative, and their music comes from the heart. It doesn’t come from some studio with a super producer dictating what music is,” Schenck said.
Schenck and Prevost’s admiration for “real hip-hop” stems from what they consider their love for music, which started at a young age for both.
Prevost initially wished to become a music producer but during his college career switched his ambitions towards business.
“I didn’t have the ear for [music producing],” he said. However, Prevost said H.E.R. incorporates his love for music with business, something he thinks can transform into a potential career for him.
Although none of the three H.E.R. founders ever imagined that their efforts would transform into an actual music festival or business, both Schenck and Prevost hope that H.E.R. will flourish into an actual career for them.
However, they said that they are still facing a lot of skepticism from some college peers who think the upcoming festival is a joke.
“Even my mom thinks it a joke,” Schenck said. “She thinks I am going to get sued or something.”
But skeptics are not dampening H.E.R.’s creators. Schenck and Prevost have been promoting the upcoming festival nonstop in Athens and in Atlanta, hoping to get students and music lovers up to Athens to see the show.
“We want this to be successful because we want artists to feel like Athens is a hip-hop environment,” Schenck said. “We want people to come and experience what real hip-hop is all about.”
The H.E.R. Hip-Hop Showcase will be held on April 9 in the New Earth Hall Music in Athens. A number of nationally known artists, as well as local Atlanta and Athens acts, are expected to perform. Attendees will have the chance to meet the artists in a mixer and panel discussion also being put together by the H.E.R music company.
As the H.E.R. festival approaches, Schenck and her business partners wait in eager anticipation to see if traditional rock-and-roll hot spot Athens will be the next hip-hop music hub in the South.
— Contact Jareen Imam