When it comes to hip-hop and urban music it doesn’t get much more underground than Myrtle Beach.
Luckily, a group of local music enthusiasts and artists are coming together to embrace — and hopefully enhance — the area’s low-key status with the first-ever Carolina Underground Music Awards.
Organized by former KISS 98.5 employee Kendra “Mizz Keke” Darity, the CUMA ceremony will take place Feb. 19 at the Base Recreation Center, 800 Gabreski Lane. Awards will be given out in 16 categories on a night the will include lots of live performances and will be hosted by Darity and her former radio station co-workers.
But before the main event, Darity plans to get a jump on the new year with a CUMA Nominee Party and showcase Saturday at the Bikini Beach Club (formerly Melons). The event will feature performances by nominees such as Dominant, Lil’ Z, Apollo, Serious Q and Cash and music by DJ Skerge.
But even with a party atmosphere and plenty of entertainment, Darity says Saturday’s event will be focused on networking.
“I want people to come out and network,” she said. “Bring your CDs, your business cards, whatever. I just want to start out the year and let people know this is our market, this is our area and it’s time to make it do what it do.”
Focusing on the locals
For Darity, a 24-year-old student and single mother with two jobs and two kids, its important that her event continue to build on the workman-like approach to networking and promoting local artists that she learned while working in radio.
“I worked for 98.5 for three years, and during that time I worked hands-on with a lot of local artists and DJs,” she said. “When we were on the air, we focused a lot on the local music and giving artists a place to come and give out their contacts and network.”
Since the station switched formats in July, Darity says its been tough to find the same support on area airwaves.
“I don’t know any local radio station that is supporting local music, you really don’t hear anything like that up here, period.” says Darity.
Though she admits the awards show format has been done in this region, Darity hopes her event will make an impact by focusing more heavily on local talent.
“We came up with the idea because they have the SMES [Southeastern Music & Entertainment Summit] awards and the South Carolina Music Awards, but we felt like they weren’t really representing a lot of our local artists in what they were doing,” she said. “They had something [in Myrtle Beach] called the Urban Awards here, but there were a lot of different categories and things and it really wasn’t focused on music.”
“As far as I’m concerned this is the first local music awards show in this area.”
Her original idea was that the participants in the event would be limited to the Grand Strand, but once the word got out about what she was trying to do folks from Florence, Columbia, Charleston and North Carolina all supported the idea as well.
“I wanted to put this together in order to bring people from other markets in and let them know that we do have local talent around here.”
Building a buzz
Despite a knack for planning that has led Darity to start her independent promotions company, Stiletto Promotions, she says building the framework for an event of this nature hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a little rough getting folks involved, because you know, you’ve got the grinders and those who don’t grind,” she says. “It’s just kinda hard to get some folks motivated to realize it’s not about me wanting to do an event, it’s about them and letting folks see what they can do.”
Luckily, fan support has helped move things along.
“It’s actually the fans that chose the nominees. We went through a six-month period where people could e-mail and text in the people they wanted to nominate in each category and we took the top five from each category,” she said.
Now, with less than two months until the awards ceremony, it’s all about getting the word out and continuing to build excitement and community participation.
“It was a big buzz and it still is,” she said. “We’re still taking votes now and I’ve been looking at the numbers just like ‘Wow!’”
And while she’s happy with the turnout so far Darity says she hopes the CUMAs will be just a small step in a larger movement to support Grand Strand music.
“I’m just really hoping that this sheds some light to let folks know we do have local talent and that they just need to come out stand behind our local artists like they do in Charleston or Columbia.”
“It’s really just about bringing people together. The way I look at it is that the movement really isn’t a movement unless everybody is involved,” she said. “Everything has to start somewhere, so why not kick the year off right and get on your grind.”