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B Rich / B. Rich

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Periodically, a new hip-hop artist emerges that refuses to follow the status quo, preferring instead to march to the beat of their own creative drummer. A prime example is rising-star rapper B Rich, a proud product of the mean streets of Baltimore. His unique blend of roots, right now, and black-to-the-future urban influences are embodied on "Whoa Now," the smash single from his impressive Atlantic Records debut album, "80 DIMES." Punctuated by a sample of The Jeffersons' "Movin' On Up" theme song, "Whoa Now" pulsates with funky street beats, staccato handclaps, and B Rich's hard-edged lyrical linguistics. Produced by Baltimore-based studio wizard Dukeyman, the track is a free-flowing hip-hop homage to B Rich's homeboys, homegirls, and his hometown.

"Whoa Now" takes you on a party-type trip into where I come from, the places I go, the people I hang with, and the upside of what it's like living in Black Baltimore," says B Rich. "Too often we get overlooked by being in between the East Coast, West Coast, and Dirty South. My goal is to help put Baltimore on the hip-hop map."

B Rich, whose mother is a schoolteacher and father a preacher, began rapping in public school (although b-ball dominated most of his high school years.) His very protective mom exposed him to the sounds of classic R&B and jazz while insuring that her son wouldn't fall victim to Baltimore's mean streets.

"Seeing the trouble some of her students got into, my mother tried to shelter me from the streets," Rich says. "So when I went outside I was kind of sneaky, you know, getting into trouble - which only made her more overprotective. But now I see that she probably stopped me from really messing up my life."

After graduating high school, Rich entered the University of Maryland as a Criminal Justice major. He thrived at college, but he found his interest shifting towards his first love, making music. "School was cool," says Rich, "but instead of hitting the books, I started writing a lot of rhymes and sharpening my mic skills. I tried doing both, but in my senior year I decided to leave school to give my music my complete attention, knowing that I could always go back to get my degree which I still plan to do."

"Whoa Now" came to life in Dukeyman's modest basement studio on Christmas Day 2001. After hearing the producer's "off-the-meter" track, B Rich quickly penned the song's distinctive lyrics. From there, "Whoa Now" seemingly took on a life of its own.

"Dukeyman let a radio DJ we knew hear it over the phone," B Rich recalls. "He flipped over it, played it on his show the next day, and the phones lit up. People kept asking him to play it again and again. So, just like that I had a hit record. We sold thousands of copies out of my trunk. Truth is, I was just as surprised as anybody that it happened so fast - although I knew I had a tight track."

Tight track? Now that's an un

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