The UnHeard Experience Reloaded at The Royal American (Photos + Recap)

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    The UnHeard Experience Reloaded at The Royal American (Photos + Recap)
    Published: August 8, 2023

    The UnHeard Experience Reloaded. Photo by Hannah Berkimer.

    If you’re active amongst the Charleston hip-hop scene, you’ve probably noticed the name UnHeard Entertainment popping up on more and more bills around town lately. This sudden rise within the local scene these past few months has been long in the works. Founder of UnHeard, Nu, is a local rapper and all-around creative who has been hard at work for the better part of two years to build the team and establish the current presence in the scene.

    The full current roster consists of Nu, chemi$t, Mos Stef, Ben Beam (myself), Matt Graham, smxkeDoji, Cam Major, Winslow & Elijah Whiteside. UnHeard is a mash up of not only MC’s and producers, but also engineers, DJs, videographers, and all around creatives. Everyone brings something unique to the table in their own respective crafts. 

    This past Saturday, August 5th, UnHeard Entertainment had their first-ever opportunity to perform at the Royal American, and they were certain to make it a memorable evening, titled “The UnHeard Experience Reloaded”. The show came just over one month after they hosted their first main stage event at Charleston Pour House, another big milestone. 

    The UnHeard Experience Reloaded was a full circle moment for a lot of us. The original “UnHeard Experience” took place on the deck stage of the Pour House on August 1st of 2022, and was also the first show that Nu had thrown, so to bring it home on a Saturday night at a venue as renowned as the Royal American meant a lot. 

    Hosted by the immaculate energy of the chemi$t of UnHeard Ent with backup DJ support from Chris the Almighty, the first set of the night was none other than Semkari. It was my first time catching him live and he delivered on all fronts. Being the first time that he performed without backing vocals, and in the intimate setting that is the Royal American, his high energy trap bangers made for a fantastic way to open the night. 

    The most standout moments to me were his performances of “Warzone”, “Skip The Line” and “Alone II”, featuring Hirow. Kari has a dedicated group of fans in Charleston and he immediately set the energy that would be retained for the remainder of the night.

    Following Semkari, there was a brief interlude allowing Zania to deliver a beautiful poem titled “Bread.” Her microphone control along with her subject matter demanded the attention of the audience, and she had it. 

    In a setting where the arts and writing of all kinds is appreciated, Zania’s ability to be reflective, personal, and brutally honest impacted everyone in the building. It was the perfect segway into Krystal’s performance.

    Krystal live at The Royal American. Photo by Ben Beam.

    Krystal is a phenomenal singer, songwriter, and pianist who I felt very fortunate to experience seeing live. She performed solo with her keyboard and a microphone, and presented a very intimate set consisting of songs that she had written throughout her life, but had never performed in a setting like this. You would truly think she had been performing live for years if not told otherwise. 

    Her ability on the keys and vocal range was enough to make any North Charleston man cry. As if she didn’t have everyone engaged enough, she ended her set with a Mariah Carey cover that had the whole venue singing and levitating together, creating a moment of pure unity,  preparing us for what’s to come next.

    Next up is another poetry set, this time featuring Georgia Nubia. She began with a very intimate poem centered around the self and her lineage. Her honesty, delivery, and topic was something that immediately reached most people in attendance.

    Georgia Nubia reads poetry at the UnHeard Experience Reloaded.

    She then decided to reach everyone in attendance by ending her time with an impromptu freestyle session, providing a chorus while those in the crowd would provide the bars. Given that the building was full of rappers and creatives, this was a pivotal moment for the show. 

    As Indi’Gxld’s band crept onto the stage and slowly began playing into the freestyle, it erupted into a 7 minute jam featuring freestyle verses from local favorites such as Mike L!VE, Abstract, BadTalks, TJ Pettiglio, Mos Stef, Jeno Judges and many others in attendance. The energy at this point was truly electric.

    Mike L!ve hops up for a freestyle at the UnHeard Experience Reloaded. Photo by Ben Beam.

    While everyone is still buzzing from what they just witnessed, Indi’Gxld takes the stage for a truly jaw dropping performance backed by his band. Wielded with keys, an electric guitar, a saxophone, a drum kit, and Indi’s lyricism, vocals, and overall energy; it was the recipe for a perfect set. 

    They began with their own rendition of Erykah Badu’s “On & On” featuring hard, honest verses from Indi. Indi has remained one of my favorite MC’s in the city ever since getting involved, and this night was Indi performing in 5th gear. 

    The bond between Indi’Gxld and UnHeard is on a deep, personal level, and any show they do together they always give each other 110%. As they continued to perform, the energy continued to grow. The crowd was feeding off of Indi, and Indi was feeding off of them. The set ended with an incredible jam session from the band, conducted by Indi beautifully. 

    I was nearly brought to tears by the sense of community I could feel as Indi poured his heart into his performance, and every second of it was felt by those in attendance. Thank you Indi’Gxld.

    Indi’Gxld steals the show. Photo by Hannah Berkimer.

    Next we were joined by the wonderful and illustrious Toni Esther, coming all the way from Columbia, SC. Backed with the support of DJ Matt Graham, Esther continues off of the energy that has been building throughout the night. Her wide vocal range paired with her ability to spit a 16 with the best of them, and her ability to make an incredible beat makes her a bonafide triple threat. 

    Ever since meeting her and discovering her music, she has remained a favorite artist of mine. The vibes that her music presents were unmatched in the setting that we were all currently living in. Being close with UnHeard as it is, Toni was a phenomenal way to usher in Nu and the rest of the guys.

    Toni Esther at UnHeard Reloaded. Photo by Ben Bea.

    The headlining set of the night featured show organizer Nu running through tracks from This is Babylon with a backing band consisting of Slim S.O.U.L on the drum machine, MoonKat on the keys, and Ben Beam (myself) on guitar. This is UnHeard at their best. 

    Being the first time that the guys have sported a full backing band, it truly elevated things to the next level. The set opens with an almost tribal instrumental from the band while Godfrey Gullah Jack emerges to deliver a meaningful spoken-word intro. He immediately captivates the crowd, setting the stage for Nu properly. 

    Closing set from Nu at Unheard Reloaded. Photo by Hannah Berkimer.

    Nu and the band then erupt into an epic interpolation of “Pink Panther”, garnered with backup hype energy from Mos Stef, chemi$t and Cam Major. The energy continues to grow as they move into a sped-up version of “Settlement”  and the crowd pleasing “4Grabz.” They ran through 9 of the 15 tracks from the album, and every one was executed flawlessly. 

    MoonKat’s incredible ear and Slim’s immaculate rhythm control allowed for these to become true interpolations rather than just “live covers.” Having produced all of the tracks, I took the minimal approach on guitar when presenting them live, merely filling in the space around MoonKat’s vibrant key playing and improvisation. We arrive at Nu and Mos Stef’s track “4eva”, which marks the point in the show when the crowd involvement tricks are in full effect. 

    Closing set from Nu at Unheard Reloaded. Photo by Hannah Berkimer.

    Nu and Mos split up the crowd, each picking a side to conduct. They run through their verses as they bring it back to classic hip-hop, inciting their respective sides to chant “f*ck that side!” during the chorus. It’s these in-your-face moments that UnHeard and Nu stand out amongst the best of them as true performers.

    Nu brought out special guest BluFlame James for his featured verse on “Come On” and Righteous Rel for his featured verse on the closing track of the night, “Figaro.” Just prior to performing Figaro, the clock had struck midnight, ushering in Nu’s birthday. The track ended with an escalating jam from the band while the hook continued, a high energy birthday chant from the guys and the crowd, and an overwhelming sense of community. 

    Splitting the room at UnHeard Experience Reloaded. Photo by Ben Beam.

    To wrap up the night following the electric UnHeard set, we had 2 shorter sets from the Sensei himself (aka JTrawwww) and J.R. While they only performed for about 10 minutes each, their high-energy trap heavy tracks were a great way to send out the night.

    All in all, the UnHeard Experience Reloaded was truly a milestone for hip-hop in Charleston, and a show that I’m sorry if you missed. This is only the beginning for UnHeard Entertainment, as their progression, pace and consistency is currently unmatched within the local scene. 

    JTrawwww closes out The Unheard Experience Reloaded. Photo by Ben Beam.

    While the summer is slowing down a bit, the guys still have a few big performances coming up. Most notably their participation in the #GxldApproved Hip-Hop Happy Hour at Extra Chill Fest on August 19th, and the September 2nd Charleston Underground at Lofi Brewing – dubbed the One Year Anniversary of Underground and the finale of Season 1. See you out there. 

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