Local rap acts get big ups in Norfolk

Published 10:24 pm Friday, October 24, 2008

Sitting in the audience during the 2008 Blendzville Hip Hop Awards at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk on Saturday will be two Suffolk acts that have been nominated for some of the night’s biggest awards.

The Hoffla Boyz — comprising Maurice “Mr. Virginia” Harris and Sontorius “P95” Almond — received nominations for Album of the Year and Duo of the Year.

Separately, R. Ryan Parish, better known as Jon Vegaz, was nominated as the Producer of the Year.

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All three men got an early start in their quests for music careers.

Harris and Almond are childhood friends who say they grew up with the hip-hop culture in downtown Suffolk, and stood out among their friends with their lyrical talents.

Before long, the two were concentrating their efforts on creating the best music possible, developing their own style called “swerv” music.

Almond defines swerv music as a “one-two punch,” combining different instrumentals with genuine and honest lyrics of their own experiences.

“I’d say we’re reality,” Harris said, “the reality that comes from what’s happening in our world, our area.”

“It’s relevant and a lot of people rather listen to that than someone talking about their bling-bling, 23 cars and $40 million house.”

The men were nominated for their second album, “Still Swervin,” and said being nominated for Saturday’s awards is another indicator they are on the right path.

“The feedback we get,” Almond said, “It’s like everybody wants our CDs, everybody wants our phone number … and we are just doing what we’re doing.”

Jon Vegaz said his award nomination for Producer of the Year has been an encouragement in his biggest passion.

“I’ve planted seeds over 10 years ago, and the sun is shining on them now,” Vegaz said.

The former Nansemond River High School marching band saxophonist said music has been the No. 1 focus of his life, starting with childhood piano lessons. He taught himself to play the guitar and has created an in-house studio in his North Suffolk home to maximize his time working with artists.

“It’s not about the money,” he said. “It’s about doing something I love and that I’m passionate about.”

Vegaz has quite a professional resume already. He has produced songs for Nicole Wray, Joe Mafia and Myalasnky (from the Wu-Syndicate). Plus, this year he was named the 2008 Ultimate Beat Battle Champion of Virginia, after winning against more than a dozen top producers from across the state with original beats and productions.

Vegaz said the award nominations for both he and the Hoffla Boyz (the acts both know each other and plan to work together on upcoming projects) will help solidify Suffolk’s reputation in the music world.

“I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come, not with just me or just the Hoffla Boyz, but with Virginia music as a whole.”

To hear work from either act, check out their Web sites at www.myspace.com/hofflaboyz and www.myspace.com/jonvegaz.