watch | DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty of Choice FM on party-rocking, and The People’s Station

DJ 2wenty: We’re for the people. Nine times out of ten if the people want it, we do it. 

Choice FM 92.1, is a radio station reaching Rocky Mount, Wilson, Oxford, Nashville, Zebulon, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. Affiliated with the nationally syndicated Breakfast Club, they cover mainstream Hip Hop and R&B culture and music; locally, they lift up talent, events, opportunities, and businesses in rural communities of color throughout Eastern and Central North Carolina as well as the metro area. The station itself was originally called Soul 92 Jams, and offered one of the first spaces for black voices on radio in the area at its creation in 1974.

I sat down with DJ 2wenty and DJ Fatz, both of whom have been at the craft for decades, since the early eighties. DJ 2wenty eyed Soul 92 as the place for him well before he settled into his home at “The People’s Station”.

DJ 2wenty: I told the boss I’d be working here and he said they may not have enough room for me. I said, yeah, you do.

His time slots, role and experiences built from there and now, DJ 2wenty is at the studio six days a week, broadcasting and collaborating with other hosts, like DJ SoFabKim. DJ Fatz brings the Governor’s Mansion every weeknight, a three-hour set spanning current and classic black music. Both have shared stages and connected amongst the local and international DJ communities. As for live events, DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty agree, the people “gotta come prepared to party.” So, when we talked about what DJs need to bring to the table:

DJ 2wenty: Music, know your equipment, and your sound. Because sound matters, it really matters.
DJ Fatz: I want people to hear what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, it’s like now people don’t really care about the sound, about the DJ being a real DJ – as far as transitioning a record into another record, the blending and scratching. We’re party-rocking DJs. We don’t wanna just stand behind what we use. I’m not bashing the technology change, cuz times have to change…

It’s like the disc jockey tradition blurs that line of the past and the potential. The atmosphere and experience a turntablist brings about can never be replicated. They scratch, flare, tear, and transform music deconstructing and rearranging to create new pieces, combining physical elements – vinyl, needle, motor, and their own hands – with unique style. 

Durham in particular has a deep connection with the DJ tradition – before and including DJ Fatz, who’s originally from the Bull City. 

DJ Fatz notes that for him, and for more and more folks DJing, it’s about combining the potential of current technology, with a deep knowledge of music and that equipment – digital, analog, or both.

If you didn’t know, turntabling is one of the pillars of hip hop culture, and these two live for the culture. Choice FM is keeping that creativity – and sharing it, interacting with the audience – at the forefront.

DJ 2wenty: I want to be the DJ that makes you dance, that has people singing along, lose their voice, take their shoes off cuz their feet hurt.

DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty believe people are looking for just that, somewhere they can really release and dance – another innate element of hip hop. There’s this call for something more than a “social gathering”, as they put it. Nuanced, vibrant, innovative and deeply rooted black culture spans the rural and the metropolitan in this area. Rural communities of color are often overlooked, but the folks at Choice FM truly support the people throughout Eastern and Central NC.

Their abilities to broadcast over distance or bring an event to life, whether they be concerts, pool parties, or turntable battles, help keep the people connected, informed, and feeling free to move with the music.

DJ Fatz: We’ve been knowing each other now 20, 30 years. It was so amazing to come back and meet up with him and he’s in this type of setting. I’ve always been an African man, I want an urban radio station in this area. When choice came along it was like heaven on earth for me, because it allows us to be the DJs that we are. You got DJs at this station that respects the art and culture of DJing so when I come here to DJ, it feels like home.


Scroll to the top or head to Youtube to catch our full interview. You can also vibe with DJ 2wenty at The O in Wilson every Saturday and Tuesday, and DJ Fatz in Durham at Emerald City every Saturday.

You can reach DJ Fatz on Instagram, @djfatz72 or on Twitter, @djfatz_bcf.

In Conversation with Ducee’ Drop Top

Devin May has a very unique moniker.

The 24-year-old rapper is known as Ducee’ Drop Top, an alias he was christened with as a result of his obsession with a certain automobile.

“We used to get rentals a lot when we were a little younger, when we would take trips wherever we wanted to go,” May said. “But every time we wanted a rental, I always wanted a drop top and so every time we got one I was just always doing some crazy stuff. So people just started calling me ‘Drop Top.’”

Yung droptop supports @dadedclothing

A post shared by Duceé DropTop (@therealdroptop) on


Ducee’ was a name that friends would repeatedly call him, and it soon became part of his rapper alias.

His music is majorly influenced by rappers and musicians in hip-hop, like Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Outkast, but he’s also inspired by everyday experiences.

“A lot of themes (in my music) are things that I just see and a lot of things that I do. I really just go off of vibes to be honest,” May said. “You know, I rap about everyday lifestyles. I rap about the struggle of what happened with my homeboys and why they’re locked up right now.”

For May, who is a perfectionist, it is important to maintain a balance between being serious and laid-back when creating music.

“My main thing is practice makes perfect,” May said. “You’re gonna always have tracks that you don’t release and you’re gonna have different stuff, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun, that’s all I care about.”

May was raised in Durham, North Carolina but travels frequently between the Bull City and Atlanta.

“I say the Bull City raised me and Atlanta made me,” May said. “I network and that’s where I have gotten to see things that changed my perspective on the music game and life.”

He speaks fondly of Durham, especially about its recent rise as a creative and artistic hub in the Southeast.

“I love what it’s become because everybody’s working together. Everybody’s pushing each other,” May said. “Everybody’s bringing out all the art and if it stays like this, I’d say in the next two years, Durham’s gonna be crazy.”

His musical background began at a young age.

Having played the violin, trumpet and French horn throughout his elementary, middle and high school years, he played in an all-star band and attended art school in Durham. From there, he focused on other instruments, including drums and guitar. It was only about a little over a year ago, however, that he started rapping and immersing himself in his love for hip-hop and rap culture.

His ultimate goal with his music is to give back to the community.

“You know how Akon lit up a whole city in Africa by giving them electricity?”, May said. “I’m trying to do stuff like that with money. Whenever I get on, whenever it happens, I’m giving back to the community because they need the money more than I would.”


Read below for an exclusive Q & A with the artist.

Tell me the origin behind your name.

“Behind Ducee’ Drop Top? To be honest with you, alright, so, it’s a little funny story. We used to get rentals a lot when we were a little younger, when we used to take trips just wherever we wanted to go, but every time we wanted a rental, I always wanted a drop top and so every time we got one, I was just always doing some crazy stuff. So, people just started calling me ‘drop top.’”

What’s a drop top?

“Like the car. You know, when the roof pops off.”

Oh, ok. Ok. I wasn’t sure. Sorry. That’s funny.

“And yeah, Ducee’ just came from… my friends just call me that. I don’t know why. You should ask them. I mean, it was just like, ‘You know, I like Ducee’. Call me Ducee’ Drop Top.’ You know what I’m saying? It’s just a name that just came over time.”

Yeah. So, it was just kind of like a mish-mash of things in your life that came together.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

That’s cool.

“Yeah and it’s a little different too. You know what I mean? It’s like drop top. It’s like naming an item on a car, you know what I’m saying? It’s something different.”

Mmm-hmm. Yeah. You don’t hear that too often.


So, in terms of some of the themes you primarily rap about, what would you say are like some motifs or just like themes that come up in your music a lot?

“A lot of themes are a lot of things that I just see, you know, a lot of things that I do. I really just go off of vibes, to be honest. I just go in there and I just make something happen. You know, I rap about everyday lifestyles. I rap about the struggle of what happened with my homeboys and why they’re locked up right now and stuff like that or I’m just talking about trying to make a little club banger or I’m just talking about, you know, all of my homies, walling. We’re in the club, walling. You know what I’m saying?”

“Just different things and it depends on my vibe when I just go in the studio, you know what I mean? You just try and go in there and just have fun with it, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.

“Cuz you make music and my main thing is practice makes perfect. You’re gonna always have tracks that you don’t release and you’re gonna have different stuff. But, at the end of the day, if you having fun, that’s all I care about.”

Yeah, yeah. You’ve gotta make something that you’re proud of but you’re also not too serious about at the same time.


So, what would you say, you mentioned your homeboys being locked up, what would you say happened with that, if you don’t mind me asking?

“Well, they had a situation. I guess I can’t speak upon their charges or whatever, but whatever they’re going through, we just want them to know that we’re here for them, you know. We gotta push it for them. So, when they get out, they’ll be in a better situation, you know what I mean?”

So, would you say in terms of social justice issues, would you say police brutality and the pipeline-to-prison thing is something that you’re passionate about?

“Well, we’re not going to go ahead and start off.”

Yeah, yeah. Oh god.

“Fuck Trump. Fuck all this corrupt bullshit. Honestly, if people just looked at each other equally and we all came together as a whole, we don’t even have to be countries. All this extra shit is just a result of going back in history. History just repeats itself, you know what I’m saying?

“You just kind of gotta deal with what’s going on, you know what I mean? Just try to stay positive. You feel me?”

Yeah, yeah, absolutely and I think you’re right about you know, countries and borders and nationalisms. It’s such a barrier between human beings. Some person will say, ‘I’m from this country’ and another person will say, ‘Well, I can’t relate to you because I’m from this country’ and it’s just really sad.

“Yeah, man. Honestly, it’s ignorance and it’s lack of education. It all starts at the house, you know what I mean?”

“Eventually, hopefully, it’ll all change but the only thing we can do is just thrive and prosper and try to make the situation better for the next generation. You know what I mean? That’s what I’m trying to do. You know how Akon had lit up a whole city in Africa? Like, he gave them electricity and stuff like that?”

“Yeah. I’m trying to do stuff like that with money, trying to start things like that so whenever I get on, whenever it happens, I’m giving back to the community because they need the money more than I would, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, absolutely, sort of like what Chance the Rapper did in Chicago. I forgot what exactly happened but I think he did something to help school kids and I thought that was really cool.

“Yeah. It all starts with youth and if you give them something to do that’s positive, then, you know what I’m saying, it can change a lot. But some people get the money and they forget about everything else and they’re just worried about whatever else involves more money and then there’s those people like J. Cole and Damian Marley that are real humble people. You can tell the real humble ones out there by how they act when they get money. Money sometimes changes people.”

So what would you say some of your primary influences on your music are?

“Like right now or what influenced me overall? Like, people?”

I would say both.

“Ok. Well, the people that always influenced me when I was young were people like Snoop Dogg, Outkast, different people. Outkast, I always loved Outkast because they were way ahead of their time and if you really still listen to what they’re talking about, it’s the same stuff that’s going on now. It’s just so crazy. So, I just like dope stuff like that. Wiz Khalifa and you know what I’m saying. They inspire me. Honestly, I try to get inspired by everybody that’s around me.”

That’s awesome, yeah.

“All my friends, they’re the ones. We just push each other to do better. Those are the real people that inspire me, you know what I mean?”

Yeah. So, what would you say, it terms of the places you live, between Atlanta and Durham, how has living in those places shaped your music, do you think?

“It’s changed. Oh, man. I’ve grown up in Durham since second grade, but my whole family has always been from Georgia. So, I’ve always gone over summers. I’ve gone back and forth from Georgia and stuff like that. So, it’s different scenery. It’s a bigger city. It’s different. Now, Durham’s a good city. It’s developing now and I’m loving to see what it’s molding into because it’s a beautiful city filled with a lot of artistic people and it deserves shine, you know what I mean? Now, everybody’s working together to actually do it, you know what I mean?”


“One of the last people that came out in Durham that actually made it was maybe 9th Wonder, you know what I mean? These people are like older heads now. But the reason why a lot of people, there’s been a lot of artists throughout time, that haven’t made it is because they didn’t want to work with each other and actually worked for individual prosperity instead of trying to put the city on the map, you know what I’m saying? So, excuse me if I’m trying to ramble.”

No, it’s all good. Stream-of-consciousness is always better.

“Yeah, I love what it’s become because everybody’s working together. Everybody’s pushing each other. There’s a lot more shows. Everybody’s bringing out all the art and if it stays like this, I’d say in the next two years, Durham’s gonna be crazy.”

Yeah, they moved Moogfest there, which was, you know, kind of a thing in Asheville and then all of a sudden, they moved it to Durham, which, you know, Asheville was kind of sad. But, I went there last year to cover it and I could totally see why Durham is really up-and-coming because it’s super hip and cool.

“Yeah, and it’s always been like that but it wasn’t like this two or three years ago. It was nothing like this. But now, I love it, you know what I mean? So, I just want to put the city on the map and you know, I love Atlanta. I say the Bull City raised me and Atlanta made me. I network and that’s where I got to see things that changed my aspect of the music game and life, you know what I mean? I’m just trying to take whatever I can. I just like to travel. So, even when I was in LA, I’m just trying to take what I can from each little spot.”

Yeah, that makes sense. So, if you were to say what inspired you to become a rapper primarily, what would you say? When did you become a rapper?

“Ok. Well, I’ve always done music my whole life. I was in fourth grade. I started playing the violin in the school program. When I got to middle school, I played trumpet and then they switched me to the French horn and I played in the all-star band, went to art school in Durham and I was focused on drumming, like percussion and guitar and stuff like that. So, I’ve always had a love for music and I always thank my parents for getting me into it early, you know what I mean? So, I didn’t really start taking rapping seriously until about a year and some change ago. I’ve always liked beats and loved hip hop and the rap culture and so, you know, I started just doing it for fun and I started really trying to take it seriously because the two homeboys that I mentioned earlier that are in jail, they were the main people that were really rapping and I used to always be around them. It was a team. It was always love. It was about brotherhood. So, they were really pushing me to keep the dream alive, you know what I’m saying?”

Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome.

“So, it’s really just for fun but if, at the end of the day, people love it then I’m just gonna keep doing what I like, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, you gotta roll with that.

“I just dropped my first mixtape. It was called #boostUP. I just dropped it on December 30th and it’s available everywhere, Apple Music, iTunes, all that stuff.”

Is it on Spotify as well?

“Yes. It’s on Audiomag, Dat Piff, Google Play, Amazon, it’s on everywhere. Check it out.”

watch | Cool Boy 36 speaks on video art, streetwear, Raund Haus

Cool Boy 36 sat down to share what the movement and collection is about, shouting out creatives in the Durham, NC scene. Click to get a little more familiar:

Shop Cool Boy 36 art and gear at bigcartel and keep an eye out for Flora (Cool Boy 36 Collection #2)! The launch party will be at the Durham Arts Place on Saturday, August 5th. Details here.



“I want them to feel it”: jazz musician Mike Casey on one of music’s undefinable genres

Jazz: just the word alone conjures up many images, perhaps old photographs of noir-drenched scenarios, a dark underground club in New York, a range of colors and beats bounding together in a seamless and yet non seamless dysphoria.

One thing that jazz is not supposed to be, however, is forgettable.


Mike Casey, captured by Airen Miller Photography.

Mike Casey, 23, originally hails from Hartford, Connecticut, and fronts the Mike Casey Trio. As a saxophonist, he is very passionate about bringing jazz to the forefront of musical experience.

“It kind of just becomes background music if the crowd is there to eat and not listen, which is something that jazz musicians often deal with because, many times, it’s instrumental music,” Casey said. “There’s no words, so someone who doesn’t understand the music might just think, ‘Oh, this is supposed to be background music’ but it was never really supposed to be background music.”

The difference between jazz and other types of music, like funk, is that it exceeds more than one dimension.

This, according to Casey, is because the other musicians in the group are not necessarily following a lead musician. Instead, they are initiating a conversation through their music. (Amongst these co-conversationalists is harpist Brandee Younger.)

“In jazz, if I’m soloing, not only are there people playing with me but they’re actually improvising how they respond and how they accompany me and I’m reacting to what they do and how they accompany me,” Casey said.


In 2017, the Mike Casey Trio released their debut album, the The Sound of Surprise, which has been hailed as “enjoyable from first to last note” by jazz critic Sammy Stein.

The chordless trio, comprised of Casey, who alternates between tenor and alto sax, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Corey Garcia, jive well together. Casey went to high school with Dwonszyk and the two have been playing together in one way or another for eight years. He met Garcia three years ago in Hartford and said he has contributed quite a bit in concept and style.


Airen Miller Photography.

“We have some really awesome chemistry and we’re able to kind of read each other’s minds and surprise each other and kind of make things happen in new, interesting ways,” Casey said.

For Casey, who describes his music as “passionate, raw and powerful,” it is imperative to elicit a strong emotional response from the audience.

One of the tracks on the album, Dagobah, has a surprising inspiration: Star Wars.

“Dagobah is the swamp planet that Yoda is hiding out on and Skywalker is supposed to teach Yoda how to learn to be a jedi,” Casey said. “It’s a weird place for a jedi hiding out. He was pretty nervous about going there.”

Casey compared his decision to stay in Hartford to Dagobah, as he believed it facilitated a learning experience that he perhaps might not have received in other places.

“If you ask any young musician where are you going to study jazz, you’d expect to hear New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston, even Chicago,” Casey said. “But Hartford, by all odds, has actually had a lot of amazing jazz musicians for whatever it is you do.”

He has, however, already graced several nightclubs in New York, including the famous Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.

According to Casey, jazz is anything but background music for the denizens of New York’s famously jazz-infused neighborhood.

“With people in Harlem, jazz to them is not just music. It’s a religious experience,” Casey said. “It’s like a spiritual thing and even though, usually, people are there listening, you can just feel that their connection to it is different than most other places I’ve played.”

Born out of the African diaspora and African-American struggle, said Casey, jazz was historically the music of the Civil Rights Movement and represents freedom.

One need look no further than Max Roach’s bone-chilling “Freedom Now Suite” to ascertain that jazz music has, at its essence, liberation and boundary-defying characteristics.

Casey, however, feels that he is not a prodigy and in this regard, identifies with one of his idols who also frequented Minton’s Playhouse.

“Thelonious Monk has already been an influence to me in the sense of that he was willing to stick to what he believes and what he wants to sound like, no matter what, and that’s something that I think I relate to because, in a certain sense, I’m a late bloomer when it comes to jazz music,” Casey said. “Jazz has always been kind of obsessed with prodigies and people becoming really good really quickly and although I’ve been playing for a while, that wasn’t really my story.”

Part of Casey’s story was finding his voice as a musician.

Or so he thought, until a conversation with another of his idols sparked a realization about creative discovery.

“That’s kind of how I always looked at it until that conversation with Sonny (Rollins), where he said, ‘You already sound like you. You are you. It’s really not necessarily finding it. It’s more about becoming a better version and refining it,’” Casey said. “Changing that outlook on it has helped me tremendously and made me kind of dig deeper within myself.”

At the end of the day, it’s about connecting with the audience.


Mike Casey playing with Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions at Gin Fizz in 2015.

“I want people not just to observe and listen but to really feel what I’m doing and that doesn’t mean you have to like it. They might hate it,” Casey said. “But, at least, I want them to feel it.”

Visit his website to listen to the Mike Casey Trio’s album and keep up with Mike Casey, saxophonist, song writer, and teaching artist.

Growth through Darkness: A Gallery Walk with Charvis Harrell

“My art comes from a dark place,” wrote Charvis, when we asked him to share about his process and introduce himself.



We all know the saying meant to push us through times of intense adversity and ongoing challenges: “that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger”. But if you ask him, “it’s more appropriate to say that which doesn’t kill you – but comes close – will change your life in a way you aren’t equipped to imagine. That is where my art comes from.”

The man behind the artwork hails from Macon, Georgia, where he and his creative expression have grown through times of prosperity, pain, and processing.

“The hardest part of doing any piece is getting past myself, until recently I would too often drink 125 ounces of cheap beer between in the middle of the morning just to get my brain past this one word I learned the hard way: sarcoidosis.

This lung disease inflames and weighs on people between the ages of 20 and 50 at times temporarily, at times permanently. In response to the environment – chemicals, bacteria – it’s as if stimulated and drained all at once, it seems. 
“It started in the summer of 2004, I felt as if I came down with a real bad cold. One day at work I felt like I couldn’t make it anymore so I went to the hospital. They took my blood and after a misdiagnosis of AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses my body mimicked, until they finally did a biopsy and came to the proper result of sarcoidosis. Until that moment I was a construction worker as my father was and his father was, and art was something I did on rainy days to relax.”

As most are, Charvis was into crayons and such as a kid, and it was when he saw The Artifacts, Wrong Side of Da Tracks, that he intentionally made visuals his own, “I never got anywhere close to putting up a burner, but I had a real sick tag. I put it up everywhere I could in Sharpie and every once in awhile I’d get a can of some real cheap paint and try to do bigger stuff, but I must admit I wasn’t that good at that.” Still, he continued to draw, and during the healing process from a car accident at the age of 21, he felt led to paint – big, using mistints from the hardware store and higher grade paints, to highlight.


This mosaic is an homage to Charvis’ upbringings in the church and career as a mason. “Doing construction with my father gave me a sense that anything was possible. Taking part in the completion of a building from the erecting of the foundation until turning over the keys makes you aware that you can make anything out of the materials you have with the right knowledge. My mother was the same way with sewing and plays and productions so I was surrounded by people who could turn plain objects into whatever they desired.”


He calls his early work “awful art, self-taught garbage where the background appeared to be an afterthought painted around the subject.” Four months after his sarcoidosis diagnosis, a house fire led to a new beginning and a “valuable lesson that when you own nothing you possess everything you need.” That fire claimed almost all of his artwork and most of his good friend and thought partner Jermaine Causey’s as well.

At that point, he says, “I began to produce art with a serious intent to flaunt some of my greatest possessions: my perception and sympathy for the people without power to speak for themselves. My art became much better and I started to show my work.”

That perception and sympathy combine to feed his work with honesty – essential when seeking to understand stories that are not your own, and to reinforce that there are dimensions to every person’s story. 

“I thank God for every moment and I know compared to so many other diseases it could be much worse, but the reality is, sometimes it’s hard for me to use my talents – often I wake around two or three in the morning, covered in sweat, nauseated, tired, and achy with my brain racing from me.”

That’s where the process often begins for him, waking to the darkness of morning then immersing into “research, research, and more research”, watching documentaries or Art21, a series on the art of the people of our century, until dawn. If he’s called to draw that day, he’ll do that, or paint, until midday. He shared that lately, though, he’s been devoting more of that energy to the writing process.

At his father’s recent passing, Charvis came across a collection of old poetry that he is in the process of self publishing, entitled “cartoon violence”, and his murder mystery, titled, “The Butcher, The Baker, and The Cupcakemaker Bot” is well underway.  You can find the introduction to it on Twitter, under the name butchbakemake. “I’ve gotten some great feedback, so lately I’ve been focusing more of my creative energy on writing, but I still find space to paint every week.”

Volunteering at the Tubman Museum, before it became one of the biggest museums of African American art  in the Southeastern United States gave him a rare chance to become extremely intimate with great works of art. He mentions the curator, Jeffrey Bruce, in particular, who “went above and beyond his way to be more than generous with his knowledge and expertise, which I still seek and appreciate”.

Tony Harris, creator of Iron Man and Ex Machina, also helped Charvis to develop. Harris was open to Charvis’ questions on general art, tools, techniques and ways to make comics appear professional. “The amazing thing is that as great as his art is, he was one of the least absorbed artists I’ve ever met. Everything was about Rockwell and how he constantly worked and reworked a painting, doing the same painting three or four times, his ability to tweak characters and bring about details that he invited and his ability to use the people around him resonate to an entire nation.”

So perhaps, growth is about the people that substantiate the space around us, challenging limits and illuminating possibilities to the artist, the self, within. It comes forth in the art as well, influencing strokes, nurturing subjects, inviting collaborators.

“I just finished probably my best show yet with Jermaine Causey and Nik Nerburn. I’ve been doing art with Jermaine since kindergarten and anytime you see one of my pieces you’re seeing conversations between Jermaine and​ I that led to that work. Nik is a new friend of ours, a photographer we just began to work with, and he is a perfect fit to counterbalance our style and add the personal touches that brings everyday people into the spotlight.”

The Ampersand Guild Hall, or The [&] Guild Hall, was the ideal location for the installation and his paintings. It is a family-owned, artist-run space committed to fostering community amongst people of all backgrounds in a place that badly needed a watering hole for creative vision. It is the only venue in Macon where artists of different races consistently put on shows together, presenting narratives that subvert the idyllic Southern comfort driving segregation and inequity.

You’ll feel his comfort working with space, physical or philosophical. You’ll see it in the way he utilizes elements like shadow and the coincident construction, the way he challenges the means and nature of interactions between people.

So together, Harrell, Causey, and Nerburn set out to shine light on folks shrouded in socially-constructed shadows, wrongly characterized by their oppression. Perhaps to educate some, in the visceral way that art does, and certainly to remind “others” that their multiple facets are seen, they matter, they are appreciated.


“Just a reminder of what it’s like to be young and free”


In recent months, sarcoidosis has begun to affect Charvis’ eyes, and he will tell you, “I spend too much time thinking that if sarcoidosis takes my vision – how can I produce my art from an even darker place?”

It should be noted, though, that there are very real things that the eyes can’t reveal, that the mind won’t accept. Not without intention or passion or persistence, or all three. This artist expresses a pure dedication to muddling through the elusive with the rest of us.

Now, a recap of the show at his favorite hometown venue, [&] Guild Hall, through the lens of Ariel Robbins at Essentia Arts Photography.


On Wahooism, the reduction of Native American culture to convenient and reductive symbols with aggressive connotations – especially offensive given historical to current practices of oppressing indigenous people in the United States.

What questions do you want people to ask themselves when they look at this?

“How comfortable are you with using an entire race as a mascot?  How would I feel if this was my race on a banner? Would you be offended if there was a team named the yellow skins depicting an Asian with skin the color banana yellow? The biggest misconception of all is you have a team named the Indians with a Native of this land depicted with a  bright red skin tone smiling ear to ear. Now I changed the race to an actual Indian is it appropriate now? Wahooism.”


This is a companion piece to the red, white, and blue banner, it is a painting of “Wah-Tho-Huk” though most people know him as Jim Thorpe, an all-American. As a child he was forced to attend a normalizing school where Americans separated him from his family, culture, language, and even the very name his parents gave him – all under the pressure to be acceptable to America. He excelled in all sports and was even an NCAA ballroom dancing champ, but lived a hard, broke life, ending up forced to be a laborer. To this day, his accolades go unrecognized officially.


The controversy of this – the treatment of indigenous people in popular culture – is one that historical victors would like to have us overlook. It’s especially insulting when collective consent to Wahooism just amplifies the systemic violence and disregard for Native Americans currently displayed. Consider the tribal land seizures to make way for destructive oil pipeline construction in the corporate interest at Standing Rock and throughout the US.

Charvis takes it all head-on, pushing viewers beyond the comfortable narratives constructed for us. Experiences in that space beyond norms is vital this time of “alternative facts” and convenient misinformation, in which people are collectively confused about how we got here and where we’re headed. His work feels like a reminder to continue to question and to nurture those spaces beyond norms – regardless of the aforementioned current political dynamics in the United States, maybe even in spite of.


It seems the ‘danger’ is learning, says Charvis



I’m interpreting this as a commentary on rape culture and consumerism, but what statements lie behind that yell, when you revisit this piece?

It’s more so on the popular rap culture. It’s part of a series called “ With the jawbone of an ass.” It references Samson killing a bunch of people, but considers how we kill our love for each other and ourselves through our constant degrading of women and our love for things with people names on it. Artists that don’t challenge themselves tend to fall into a machine of cliches.

It’s as if 90% of the mainstream rappers love Jordans, needs a chain, smoke the best, make it rain on them hoes, got that stick, whip game, flip it, my goons so grimey, pop them bottles, hoes be loving, my ice got me froze, and the names of various products with white people’s names on them, bitches be sucking. If you listen to most of the subpar rap, you can point to an image coming out of the mouth of the subject I painted. For almost every lyric.

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The shadow play is so interesting, how’d you account for location and the sun for this installation piece?

“This piece commemorates the meeting and process of working with Ed Woodham and Samantha Hill. They were resident artists who were fired for working with the actual residents of a location they were asked to work in, instead of helping to tell a false narrative of people who weren’t part of the actual neighborhood.” Maya Mackrandilal writes about it all in The Impossibility of Art.

“Sam once asked me if I could use one word to describe my art and​ my message I’m trying to convey, what would it be. ‘Hate.’ The look on her and Ed’s face was priceless. Hate can be one of the strongest forces you encounter in your life. To illustrate my idea I carved the words rise with arrows pointing up and Bree Newsome at the bottom climbing the flagpole in South Carolina taking down the confederate flag. It shows how a hate for something can make you rise up to do a beautiful thing. Light is an important function of this piece, at the right time it shows that the things you do will cast a shadow bigger than you are.”




Keep up with Charvis Harrell on Instagram (@charviszharrell).

Cypherpunk Hammy Havoc’s take on privacy, open-source society, and true self-sustenance


Hammy Havoc is a multi-faceted cypherpunk writer based in Liverpool, United Kingdom. We had to have him tell us more about how he – and others – can practice what he preaches; cypherpunks are advocates for social and political change via strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies. Cypherpunk principles tie in directly to his workflows as CEO of Split An Atom and Previous Magazine, Co-Founder of Voidance Records, and producer as The Orion Correlation (he makes all of the stems for his music available to download for free so that anybody can remix it as they see fit – soon, he’ll be open sourcing the project files themselves).

No doubt, he has cultivated a self-made, open-source approach, which extends to his conceptions of the social contract and citizens’ rights to privacy. With the recent passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK and consideration of Rule 41 in the US, these ideas hold particular import. In the US, January marks a shift from the current, subtly enforced police surveillance state, to an administration driven by archaic allegiance to “law and order” and fascist groupthink actively working to normalize suspecting and violating the rights and security of the “other” for sake of said order. At the end of the day, Hammy shares, the implications we have to consider as our lives and livelihoods are increasingly integrated to the use of technology and access the Internet are always personal, public, and political.

When did these issues of privacy and security become personal for you?

When I first started being censored in countries I had never even visited– then countries I had, followed by the UK, where I currently live. Writing and talking about concepts that scare governments like real freedom of press and speech, with permanence of information through decentralization, are things that individuals and organizations with a specific agenda would like to kill.

Share with us how your understanding of these concepts manifest politically. Did the politics of security and privacy pique your interest initially?

I’m fortunate enough to have been using computers since I was two years old when my parents put me in a computer class in New Brighton; I’ve been online since I was four years old. I’ve seen a lot of things change with the internet over the years, some for better, some for worse. I was abused as a child at my first school, since then I’ve had a very keen sense of whether or not something made me feel uncomfortable, and some of the changes with technology have made me feel very uncomfortable.

In Germany, there are already banks who will not give you a mortgage if you aren’t on Facebook; they want to research the financial background of people you know as well as yourself, and this is used in their decision. That’s an abuse of information and privacy right there. This is just the start of a scary spiral.

On censorship and control:

Facebook began censoring me a few months ago when I started showing people the ways in which they were under surveillance; they actually suspended my account until I went to the press after Fortune Magazine, The Sun and The Huffington Post picked up on one of my opinions. Very recently, Twitter has started to censor me as well, just for recommending software and hardware that respect privacy and freedom.

There are more security cameras in Britain than anywhere else in the world, yet the places that actually need them, like schools and university campuses, either don’t have them or don’t have enough of them to catch thieves, rapists and other unpleasant individuals. Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it. Recently, an activist called Deric Lostutter hacked his university website to gather incriminating evidence on two rapists, and has been getting some media attention—he is facing sixteen years in prison for hacking, whereas the two rapists are walking away with no punishment. Lostutter shouldn’t have been forced to hack their website, the university should have had been able to provide the evidence themselves as it was their own system. This is the society we are living in; where hackers are treated as being more dangerous than murderers, rapists, and pedophiles because they have the capacity to change society, as well as the world.

Would you be okay with a country where your son or daughter could be facing a decade in prison for something as simple as copyright infringement, probably even inadvertently through YouTube, or sending their friend a song or film? That could be the reality you’re about to be living in with the Digital Economy Bill.

What does a more digitally free/open-source society look like? Any artistic or literary references come to mind?

Decentralizing all infrastructure.


Hammy Havoc recommends The Minority Report if you’re trying to envision the nightmare of a society that searches for patterns in your data to draw a conclusion of your intent. The short story was originally published here in Fantastic Universe in 1956. Source: Wikipedia.

In terms of likening it to literature, you can have a mixture of George Orwell’s 1984 and The Minority Report with pre-crime, or you can choose to attempt to make the future more akin to Libertatia at a minimum. If people want to understand what’s happening right now, then look to the documentary We Live in Public, about a project taking on surveillance through art in 1999. Liken the commune to Facebook, and you’re most of the way there with the analogy.

These tools protect whistleblowers. You may have nothing that you ever need to hide from the government, the police, your employer, or even your spouse, but certain algorithmic correlations can be made with this data. If there’s a murder with garden shears and you unfortunately bought a pair just before it was committed, then you’re on the suspect list, and you could quite likely be falsely accused and fitted up with the crime by correlating other data gathered on you because statistics now matter more than truth and justice.

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” is a currently infamous quote by Edward Snowden that perfectly summarizes society’s general attitude towards privacy. In my opinion, Snowden deserves a presidential pardon, without a shadow of a doubt—as do several others.

Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it.

In another direction, I’ve been hearing and reading more about open source coding projects that have an element of civic engagement – crowdsourcing (usually locally) the capacity to make government information / public data more accessible via a mobile application. What are your thoughts on the viability of those efforts and the connection between participation, transparency, and access to information?

Wikipedia works phenomenally well as a crowdsourced encyclopedia. Imagine if that became decentralized; the necessary donations to operate would be far less, and Wikipedia could have guaranteed permanence within society.

Open-source works, there’s no denying it now. The Recount Magazine website runs on an open-source content management system; as do the majority of sites I have anything to do with.

Any improvements I make to the source code of a piece of software, I can then submit for inclusion in the repository of the project for others to benefit from, and vice versa. This is what the likes of Jeremy Corbyn are getting at when he says that the government would open-source any software or hardware that they create using taxpayer money.

If a government is truly for the people, and by the people, then transparency is an absolute necessity, but the British and American government give with one hand, and take with another. The Investigatory Powers Bill (“Snoopers’ Charter”) and GCHQ’s DNS firewall are to supposedly protect the public, yet I feel that if these things are allowed to happen then more harm will happen because of it. The government can attempt to stop would-be terrorists from communicating online, but the reality is that any radical with a few brain cells to rub together probably discusses plans in-person to avoid the surveillance that has already been happening for years on end through PRISM, and even old-school wiretapping.

I believe that if the UK didn’t interfere in countries and with cultures they don’t understand then we wouldn’t have this apparent terrorism threat. There’s always money for bombs and bullets for the British government to meddle elsewhere, but there’s never enough money to get people off the streets in Britain, provide an education system that competes with Africa, China, and other previous third world countries, or to make sure that our disabled populace isn’t forced into suicide from having their benefits taken from them.

As always, it is the majority who pays the price for the actions of the few. The actions of my country’s government do not reflect my wishes, or the wishes of a lot of people here.

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To other artists interested in utilizing copyleft to distribute their music out there…

Do you, as a creator who spends a significant amount of time and money, wish to be compensated? Can you pay your bills without guaranteed compensation? These are questions that everybody considering copyleft needs to chew over.

Merchandise and partnerships with brands are ultimately the way to make a music career viable in this day and age, and the same applies to any creators considering copyleft.

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are highly toxic, in my opinion, especially when exclusivity creeps into the equation. I feel it is better to give away your music and starve the parasites and middlemen of the industry than to accept $50 per million plays, because realistically speaking, the average artist is going to struggle to even reach $50 let alone break even on a record or pay their bills with streaming alone.

Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

The cypherpunk movement has been in existence since the 1980s, for nearly 40 years – who and what from the movement has inspired your advocacy along the way?

Observing the many ingenious ways that individuals and groups have managed to subvert control over the years is something that has, and will always fascinate me. Whether it’s a simple tool, a new method of encryption, or long-range radio, there’s no stopping the movement now.

Richard Stallman is a great inspiration to my advocacy, sacrificing convenience for freedom without compromise. If my career didn’t depend on certain aspects of the internet and computers, then I would be able to commit as strongly as he has. I always choose libre software whenever possible, and if I can’t find a libre tool then I’ll use an open-source one, develop one myself, or ask a commercial company if I can audit their source.

Almost everybody that I encounter ends up changing their workflows after I point out the problems and potential issues. Some even become privacy advocates themselves, such as my girlfriend, Mary Ann Mahoney; she uses an entirely open-source writing workflow that respects her privacy. The fellow co-founder of Voidance Records, Lost & Found, has even begun to replace his workflow with both libre and open-source solutions to match my own. Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

What would facilitate people being able to take their privacy and security into consideration in their daily lives? What is the standard for that or some first steps to making it personal, actionable, integrated at home? 

If the general public does not utilize these technologies for protecting their privacy, then the technologies, the ability to opt-out, and their privacy and rights will be taken from them. As criminals and terrorist factions begin to gravitate towards these tools, the negative connotations surrounding a particular protocol or piece of software begins. You only need look at the stigma of BitTorrent and any P2P application to this day to understand this. Even now, we are seeing this with the criminalization of Tor.

The media is associating Bitcoin with Silk Road and other drug marketplaces that have replaced it, but the reality is that Bitcoin is more than just capitalism with a digital currency; it doesn’t matter what you’re buying as long as you’re using it and recommending it. Decentralizing currency is a big deal because it disrupts the status quo of financial centralization with banks, mints et cetera.

What does that look like?

Ditch the modem your Internet service provider (ISP) gave you when you signed up, as it is probably backdoored, and easily hacked by script kiddies— get a high-end one that you can change the firmware on; if you don’t have root then you don’t have control. Build yourself a pfSense or OPNsense firewall/router or buy one that’s already made. Aside from security, you’ll also have a far faster internet connection as a result.

Stop centralizing your information on third party servers like Dropbox and Google Drive. Buy an off-the-shelf solution or a Raspberry Pi to install Nextcloud. That is the absolute bare minimum of convenience and security that the majority of technophobes can manage. This way, if you are ever compromised or hacked, then stopping a transfer of data is as simple as pulling the plug, and physically destroying the data is possible. If you are a whistleblower, then use an air gapped computer alongside Tails. Off-the-shelf solutions like SilentKeys are a great option for this. Make sure that the journalists you leak to are using a system such as SecureDrop, which we’re now adopting at Previous Magazine, meaning that our sources can remain anonymous.

Don’t use fingerprint, eye, or facial recognition to unlock your devices as you can be physically forced into unlocking them by police. Use passwords, and encrypt your devices.

If a business you buy from accepts Bitcoin, try to use it whenever possible. Encourage businesses to accept Bitcoin, or if you run a business, start accepting Bitcoin. Bitcoin may not end up being the answer to financial anonymity and money as a concept, but it needs to be used to gain further acceptance. If small mom-and-pop businesses and giants like Microsoft can accept Bitcoin, then you have no excuse for not offering it as a payment method. My record label, Voidance Records, accepts Bitcoin as a payment method. We even accept it as a payment method at Split An Atom, my integrated marketing agency.

So, as a business person – an entrepreneur and CEO – and anti-surveillance capitalism. Make the business case for companies utilizing PETs.

As a CEO I’ve been recommended to track users in specific ways using specific tools and sell the data to specific organizations to build a larger profile on people, but I have always chosen to respect our customers, and I encourage clients of ours to do the same when we are building solutions for them. If you wouldn’t be okay with it being done to you, then don’t do it to others.

Likewise, security is ever-important; if people are entrusting their privacy to you, then you need to take that responsibility very seriously. When a business doesn’t take the steps required to protect the information of their customers, then they usually lose their trust forever. I’ve had countless emails from companies telling me they’ve been compromised and that I need to change my password on any site that I’ve used the same password on.

Dropbox was hacked in 2012 and they’re still feeling the hurt from that. In September of this year, they reset the password of everybody who hadn’t changed it since then as they discovered their passwords were compromised after the hack all those years ago. I’m currently helping clients to transition away from Dropbox and centralized storage solutions like that. I’m CTO (Chief Technology Officer) as well at Integrated Movements Arts, a London-based personal training and online fitness company. We treat user data with utmost respect as we are dealing with health data, and very sensitive information regarding their bodies. Everything is encrypted to a military grade; we have state of the art security for the confidential information of our users, and this gives us a big edge on any of our competition.

There is a lot of money to be made selling information, but users would rather pay for privacy and an ad-free experience, as is being proven time and time again. Look at Hulu: no free, ad-supported plan anymore.

Remember, if something costs nothing then you are usually the product and your information being mined. If you want to keep secrets then make no digital record of them, and try to keep them in your head.



They say knowledge is power.. keep up with Hammy Havoc via Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Check out his 2016 EP release here: