A Family Legacy Dedicated to Hip-Hop, Arts in Appalachia
West Virginia native Eric Jordan and his family has been one of the most powerful forces creating hip-hop in the state. Jordan has a special ability to mentor develop and produce Appalachian artists.
As a young child, Jordan always loved hip-hop culture and music. But he learned you could make music on the sidewalk if you wanted to see Purple Rain at the Warner theater in Morgantown.
“Me and my friends didn’t have any money to get in. We went and got a piece of cardboard. Man, we got like $50. It was enough to get everybody in. From then on, music and art became a business.” said Jordan.
Two Brothers, One Record Company
In 1999, Jordan and his brother Lionel, also known as 6’6 240, started an Indie hip-hop label called Soundvizion Records. They did most of the production work themselves. They found that they had a talent for developing artists. They started a project they called 304 Reconz, where they search all over West Virginia for talent to mentor.
“When we started SoundVision in 1999, the mission statement was, ‘let’s give these kids something to be proud of for themselves’. We all did it together," said Jordan. "It ain't no racial line here. I didn't see black or white. I saw poor, and that’s where we attacked it with 304 Reconz. We representing the trailer parks, we’re representing poverty. That’s not a black thing, that’s a poor thing. That's lack of having, that’s survivalist. And you know, that’s interracial.”
How Poetry Inspired a Hip-Hop Youth Camp
Eric and his family are no stranger to the arts. His father, the late Norman Jordan, is one of the most published Appalachian poets. He even won an award from the United Nations. Norman Jordan also started a youth art camp 30 years ago. It was known as the African American Arts and Heritage Academy.
“My father was a mentor to me. I’ve been a mentor to artists. Honestly we are in the talent development business. We have been in that business for a long time,” Jordan said about his father.
The camp is for all children ages 13 to 18.
“We concentrate on African Arts to teach, but we want students of all races to be involved," said Jordan.
The art camp is a week where kids can come to the camp, pick a discipline, theater, graphic arts, dance, or hip-hop, depending on which instructors are available.”
To honor his memory and legacy, the camp was renamed the Norman Jordan African American Arts and Heritage Academy. Kids pay an entry fee, but he tries to keep the fees low. Recently the camp has been struggling financially. So the hip-hop community from all over the state came together to host a fundraiser at a venue in Morgantown called 123 Pleasant Street.
To honor his memory and legacy, the camp was renamed the Norman Jordan African American Arts and Heritage Academy. Kids pay an entry fee, but he tries to keep the fees low. Recently the camp has been struggling financially. The hip-hop community from all over the state came together to host a fundraiser at a venue in Morgantown called 123 Pleasant Street.
Jordan says the academy is more than a camp. It’s an opportunity to mentor young people who might come from a rough background.
He's toured all over the American hip-hop scene, learning lessons along the way He enjoys sharing what he’s learned in the studio, but especially in the camp. It’s a way to give back and invest in the future of his community.
“It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever been a part of. If you have any kind of success, you have to take on the accountability that comes with that success," said Eric Jordan. "Some people say, ‘I don’t want to be a role model’. But that situation and what’s going on in our communities is bigger than any damn song. You know? It’s bigger than any radio play that you’re gonna get.”
“Kids that are coming out of these communities— they don’t have confidence. They don’t have experience. The arts does that. Especially if you’re dealing with hip-hop and production. Our message is always going to be about, ‘how as we as a community can be better.'”