Delaware Hip-hop: Internationally Known

By Gentle Jones
originally published in the Gannet News Journal

Delaware's hip-hop star is on the rise.

Though the scene has existed in relative obscurity for decades, these days our local artists can increasingly be found making noise beyond the Tri-State area. Newark ambassadors the 49ers are currently touring Japan, while Wilmington's Fred Knuxx is featured in the December issue of Vibe magazine's 51 top talents discovered on MySpace.

Sean Fennessey, associate music editor at Vibe, discusses why they were drawn to Fred Knuxx. "We were excited about Fred Knuxx's voice and confidence. He sounded like someone with an unbridled enthusiasm for hip-hop and a strong sense of self."

Sean says the Internet has leveled the playing field for independent artists.

"It has clearly helped launch a number of young artists. The incubation period is far shorter for a new artist than it once was."

Fred Knuxx has been rapping since he was 6 years old. His first recordings were made in his earliest teen years. "I did my first song when I was 13," Fred says. "Marchitect (of the 49ers) actually recorded my first demo back then."

Most recently Fred has teamed up with a West Coast manager, Jazzy D, who brought together a group of artists for his forthcoming album, "Delafornia," which features Cali notables Spider Loc of G-Unit, Eastwood, Akil (Jurassic 5) and Bishop Lamont, among others.

Fred says that out West, Delaware hip-hop rings bells. "I was on a three-way call with Jazzy D and Akil from J5 and I asked Akil for a drop for Delafornia. He told me that he wanted to do more than a drop and he would be honored to do a song with me, because he heard a lot about me and liked my music. That blew me away."

It is this type of collaboration that commands a broad interest and leads to the Vibe feature. "I feel humbled to be included because it shows me that all my hard work is not going unnoticed," Fred says. "I feel like this is a great look for Delaware as a whole because now people are going to check for artist out here. To me that's what it's all about, putting DE on the map music wise because the talent level out here is very strong."

While Fred worked to establish a buzz on the West Coast, the 49ers have taken the Delaware scene global to the Far East.

"Somehow our music and reputation caught wind, and the good people at GoonTrax checked out our music at, and then hit us up on MySpace," Jas Mace says, explaining how their Japanese network evolved.

Before long the 49ers secured a licensing deal in Japan, released an exclusive album "State of the Art" and then embarked on a tour of the country to promote it. Currently the Delaware duo is featured in Japanese TV commercials, print ads and stores all over Japan.

Marchitect couldn't be more pleased. "It feels good to be able to go across the world with hip-hop. Something we started doing as kids. When it was all a dream," Marchitect jokes. "They said our heads were in the clouds. Now our heads are in the clouds."

A love of the music even expedited their passport requests. To hear Marchitect tell it, "The lady at the post office told me she grew up with Afrika Bambaataa and them, up there in the Bronx. She told me it would be a certain amount of time for the passport but 'boom,' a week later it was delivered. I think she gave me the hip-hop rush through. Straight up, she was like 45 and hip-hop all day."

Marchitect got to Japan Monday and shared his first impressions. "It's a million girls. Everyone is cool, the food is good. Tokyo's like NYC but it's clean and everyone is nice. When customs was tearing through my shit I couldn't get mad, because everyone's so respectful."

Jas Mace is well-prepared for the tour, having studied Japanese for two years at the University of Delaware. He's happy for the chance to practice his Nihongo skills.

"We'll be gone for about two weeks. We have shows lined up, studio appearances, and in stores. We have to meet some Japanese label executives, producers and artists that we've been working with over the Internet on a new album called 'Konnichiwa Bitches.' It's an underground album that is produced exclusively by Japanese producers and featuring a couple Japanese artists. We plan on releasing it in the first quarter of next year both here and in Japan."

He underscores the opportunity this presents for the entire scene. "I feel as though this will bring a lot of attention to Delaware, especially from an area of the map that otherwise has probably never heard of the First State. The 49ers are proud of Delaware. It will bring a lot of positive attention to our state and hopefully will lead to a bridge that other Delaware rappers can cross so we can all get some of this Pokémon money."


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