Buffalo’s Very Own
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Buffalo isn't exactly known for its depth of popular hip-hop talent. There are a few emcees that do show skills that rival some of today's most famous rappers, but they are restricted to the oft-overlooked underground scene. There has yet to be a Buffalo native to break into hip-hop's mainstream in the genre's nearly 40 years of existence.
On Thursday night, hundreds of Buffalonians will crowd the Town Ballroom to see an up-and-coming rapper. But most of them will be coming to see a non-native. A$AP Rocky, a critically acclaimed rapper from Harlem who recently signed a $3 million contract with RCA, will be headlining the concert.
The act that's opening for the star came from Buffalo, and he's slowly finding his way up. Lloyd Winston Brown II – who goes by the stage name Lucky Seven – hails from East Amherst and is the co-founder of the independent group, Howhood University. The nine-man collective has held multiple performances over its eight-year existence and is no stranger to performing with high profile acts, like the Wu-Tang Clan last December at the Town Ballroom.
Lucky Seven feels no pressure having to perform against these upper-echelon artists, because for him, it's all about the love of hip-hop.
"I've always been into piano and the drums since I was younger, and I always loved hip-hop," Brown II said. "I'm just a real big fan. It just started as something I liked doing, and I just kept hearing that I was really good at it. I just kept rolling with it."
Brown II has been rapping since he was 14 years old and was known during his teenage years for his skills on the mic. However, the same skill that earned him popularity was the source of some of his strife. Lucky Seven was kicked out of numerous high schools for fighting.
"[There were] racial issues," Brown II said. "I didn't get along with a lot of people. I only liked a certain amount of people…people who I would do music with."
The love of music followed him when he enrolled in Howard University, where he met up with his future group mates. Lucky Seven founded the group after he saw that they each possessed a love for lyricism in hip-hop. The aggressive inner-city mentality of Howard University's students inspired the name Howhood University.
Although they are playing in the same venue, Howhood University and A$AP Rocky took different paths to reach their recent success. While the Harlem representative worked his way to a major label contract, Howhood University chooses to be an independent collective. Unlike many other artists, they remain independent by choice – they feel like they have total control over their music without a label.
"We want to make sure everything is done in-house," Brown II said. "We just feel that we have the skills individually to do what [the labels] could've done for us
Howhood University has released 17 mixtapes since its inception, while Lucky Seven has made three solo mixtapes. Brown II put out his latest mixtape, The Industry Secrets Mixtape, last December.
The release is indicative of his large range of influences. Lucky Seven freestyles over "Otis," one of last summer's biggest hits, and then proceeds over "Passing Me By," a 1993 instrumental.
This diversity is why Lucky Seven respects A$AP Rocky.
"I like his music," Brown II said. "I like his flow a lot. His beat selection is different, but familiar at the same time."
Lucky Seven is aware of the lack of recognition for Buffalo rappers. The 25-year-old artist noted that there are many other underground talents waiting to be discovered in the Queen City. Brown II believes that the reason why they haven't made it big lies beyond their performance in the studio, however.
"I feel like there's not enough support between artists," Brown II said. "People don't really support that scene. If somebody has a show, a mixtape dropping, or a record…there's no love from the town. They don't need to hate on it for this or that reason. They just need to [support it]."