McKenzie Eddy was bitten by the hip-hop bug at a young age, so young in fact that she can't recall not loving it. "I think I've always kind of had it," she says. "Growing up as a kid in the '90s and early 2000s, that's what was influencing our culture in a major way, like the whole United States culture."
She adds, "I grew up listening to Jay-Z and Tupac and Biggie and Nas, and I love that shit. It's speaking from a very large part of what makes our country awesome."
These days, Eddy is recording her own brand of hip-hop, an infectious mixture of downtown beats, curious lo-fi flights of fancy, and stoned-immaculate Deep South roots rock. And it's this melting pot approach that makes Eddy's latest, Slow Your Horse Down Son, one of the year's more genre-defining albums.
"I'm genuine with what I do. I'm not trying to be someone else. I'm not trying to do anything that I'm supposed to be doing. I'm just doing what comes naturally to me," Eddy says. "It's not just hip-hop. The fusion of genres is where music is going, as a whole. That's what I want to be a part of — this fusion of American music."
A Hilton Head native, Eddy left the Lowcountry shortly after she graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2008 and made the journey to the Big Apple, where careers are made and hopes are dashed. "I just always felt like I needed to do something really challenging and hard, and I knew New York is probably the best brand-building city in the world," she says. "I knew that something would happen to me that wouldn't happen down here."
What happened was pretty amazing. Eddy landed a job with noted hip-hop mogul Damon Dash, the one-time CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, and his media company DD172.
A year and a half ago, Eddy finally convinced her boss to visit Charleston. Dash, who helped his ex-wife Rachel Roy launch her eponymous fashion line, was impressed and decided to open a store here. Shortly after, Eddy and Dash found an ideal location on King Street, 541 to be exact, right next to O'Malley's, and they plan to open a DD172 Workshop in October. "It's going to have all the clothing we do in New York, plus some local stuff. It's going to have a gallery space," Eddy says, adding that the store will also serve coffee, beer, and wine. "There's a big backyard area, and we're going to start having shows there and bring down some of our friends from New York."
This week Eddy strolls into town with a posse of cohorts, including her longtime collaborator Sean O'Connell (producer of Curren$y's The Muscle Car Chronicles), Hilton Head roots rockers Cranford and Sons, and Kat CHR, Eddy's Jamaican-born partner in the folk duo The Canary. It's sure to be a one-of-a-kind show, thanks in part to the fact that Cranford and Sons will also serve as Eddy's backing band.
Cranford and Sons isn't the only Lowcountry act that Eddy and Dash have set their sights on. They've recorded with Ben Fagan in the past, while most recently they've turned their attention to Rachel Kate Gillon of the Local Honeys and formerly of the Shaniqua Brown. "She's just a powerful force on stage, not just her voice — her presence," Eddy says. "You can feel it."
But as much as Eddy is impressed by Gillon, she's equally enamored with the Holy City's music scene. "There's so much talent — so much — that for one reason or another hasn't gotten heard by the mainstream," she says, noting the number of musicians in town who are nearly able to support themselves with the money they make off of performing, a task that's hard to accomplish even in New York.
And while Charleston is not known as a haven for hip-hop, unlike Atlanta and, to a much lesser degree, Columbia, Eddy believes that the times are changing. "It's getting there, maybe not like straight-up in-your-face hip-hop friendly, but there are definitely people who appreciate all forms of music," she says. "It's not New York and that's what makes it cool."