In 2004, at N.C. State’s Bragaw Residence Hall, H2O—a crafty acronym for the “Hip-Hop Organization”—presented a series of cyphers, dance parties and charity events in a humdrum dormitory lounge. Rapsody, a young accounting major from a farm town in eastern North Carolina, and her friend, the rapper Charlie Smarts, formed the club to generate more hip-hop hubbub on campus.
When Rapsody arrived in Raleigh three years earlier, the place’s lack of rap discouraged her. Friends and relatives had told her the city was alive with beats and rhymes. It was there, she heard, but someone had to convince the rappers and producers to come back to campus. That night, they did.
At that debut battle, Median, a rising star from area collective The Justus League, freestyled. A young producer named Foolery encouraged his mentor, the producer 9th Wonder, to attend as a judge, too. 9th Wonder’s group, Little Brother, had shot to sudden hip-hop fame. To the students, including Rapsody, he was rap royalty.
“People walked by and could see us performing. It would be two, and then it would be 10. We’d have a nice little crowd,” Rapsody says. She wasn’t even rapping, just facilitating. “Then it was wall-to-wall people, people standing on the windowsill. That’s the rush I got.”
This weekend, Rapsody will try to bring that feeling back to N.C. State. Alongside 9th Wonder, who has since won a Grammy and served as a Harvard fellow, she will headline N.C. State’s back-to-school block party, Packapalooza, as a rapper, not an organizer.