On its surface, Georgetown is a small, simple city with a long history, but when it comes to creating music there’s more than meets the eye.
One indicator of the musical talent bubbling just under the surface of this Port City is a fledgling underground hip-hop scene. At the heart of this newly-sparked movement is a spot called Independent Sound & Media Recording Studio.
The studio, located at 4466 Highmarket St. on the far side of Georgetown, has become a place for various area musicians, rappers and producers to gather, hone their craft and work off of each other. In the process, ISM is building something bigger than any of the individuals involved, a burgeoning brotherhood of talented artists looking to create a scene around their music — a slightly more artistic turn on the rap and urban music commonly heard in this area.
Myrtle Beach Music: Jeremy Britt shows off the studio room at ISM.
Its operator Jeremy Britt (aka The Letter V) is an emcee, audio engineer, videographer and graphic designer who attended school at the University of South Carolina, Horry-Georgetown Technical College and the Recording Workshop in Ohio before settling into his current digs — a building once owned by his father.
“I have all these resources, the video camera, the camera, the recording equipment, the studio. I had been doing my own shit with a few people, but I really felt the need to extend this out to more people and build something,” he said. “I’m just doing my best to teach everybody how to do everything I’ve learned.”
He works by day at local sign shop Delta Signs and spends the majority of his free time holed up inside his studio, collaborating and creating with a crew of a dozen or more artists.
Regulars rotate through in various combinations, but some of staples of the current crew include Rashard “Rass Nice” Footman, Willie “Dominant” Winns, longtime area producer Kevin “Big Kev” Hemingway and local players such as guitarist Matt Branham and drummer Raj Jenkins.
“When I moved back to Georgetown I was just staying here at the studio every night and honestly I thought I’d be out of here in no time...until I met Kev and some of these guys.” said Britt.
Myrtle Beach Music: Drummer Raj Jenkins bangs on a drum while other artists jam together during a session at ISM.
Britt has been working from his studio for some time, but it’s only been within the past few months that things have really started to take off with the addition of local group The FAM helping spark Britt’s desire to reach out to more local artists.
The FAM is a local group that consists of up-and-coming emcees Jordan “JC Penny” Penny, Justin “Atwood” Atwood and Jordan “Kahlia” Forcier. The trio, who all hail from different parts of the Grand Strand have come together recently over a shared love of making music and have quickly clicked beginning to churn out music in mounds.
“I just met JC through a friend of mine and once we hooked up it was just like music, music, music every single day,” said Forcier, 19, who only decided to devote his life to music and start rapping seriously about six months ago. “After we met Atwood and he came in we just knew what we had here was a great place to start from.”
Since coming across ISM almost by chance, the group has gone from a few friends dabbling in hip-hop to some of the hardest-working youngsters in the local rap game.
Myrtle Beach Music: Jordan Forcier raps while Kevin "Big Kev" Hemingway looks on.
“These guys got more work ethic than anybody I know,” says Britt. “They’re here like 3-4 nights a week doing it until I tell them I gotta go to bed for work in the morning. They’re really putting in their time.”
Taking every opportunity possible to work with and learn from Britt and crew, The FAM feels as though ISM is the perfect place to establish themselves.
“I like the environment here and I feel like once you establish a certain environment you can pretty much take that feeling anywhere,” said Penny. “I could just sit in here and watch them for hours.”
The group is currently going hard to finish its first mixtape — of which they plan to have a demo available at Friday’s show — but they also have an understanding that developing as individual artists is as important as doing the group thing.
“You have to work on yourself if you’re going to really be an artist. With coming together as The FAM it was kinda like a pact that you gotta work on this and you gotta do your own mixtape as well,” said Penny.
And as far as developing their own sound and making a name for themselves through music, the group is continuing to grow and keeping an eye on the future.
“A lot of people who are putting out like 50 rhymes a week or whatever, that’s their job and what they do all day. But with us we’re not signed or anything so we’re still workin’ and doing what we can to put everything together and look to the future and try to put out one solid project to get noticed,” said Penny.
In addition to The FAM mixtape and all the individual projects which ISM is helping spearhead at — including ones with groups out of Orangeburg and Charlotte — Britt says he’s also hoping to put together something in the near future that shows the combined efforts that have come from his studio.
“We’re going to put together something big and then get all the people involved on a one-on-one level just helping spread the word and just keep building and building support for what we’re doing,” he said.