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Measure For Measure, Boris 'Bluz' Rogers Is The Bard Of Charlotte Hip-Hop And Spoken Word

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Photo courtesy of Boris "Bluz" Rogers.
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Boris "Bluz" Rogers is an award-winning emcee, poet and hip-hop musician in Charlotte.

For the past 20 years, Boris “Bluz” Rogers has expanded the boundaries of poetry, spoken word and musical storytelling. As an Emmy Award-winning performer, he has shared the stage with legends like Outkast, Pink Floyd and Gil Scott-Heron. As a poetry slam master and coach, he's risen through the ranks of spoken word and inspired the next generation to use their voice. And with his recent collaborative album “The Duologue Part 1: Conversations in a Vibe Room” and his organizing of the We Are Hip Hop festival, Rogers is the Shakespeare of Charlotte music and spoken word.

"My father showed me a wide world of what sound could be and where it could come from, and it didn’t matter what you looked like or who you were. If it sounded good to you, it was good music to you."
– Boris "Bluz" Rogers

Interview Highlights:

On his love for hip-hop and performing spoken word:

I was this kid in the ‘80s who was in love with all the sounds that were coming out of his dad’s stereo. This was a time when vinyl was a thing, so I got to dig through my father’s records and discover Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge and all these really cool people doing really cool music. But then this thing called hip-hop flooded my little world. I think the very first record that I owned was the “Rappin’ Duke” [released in 1984 by Shawn Brown]. That was my first introduction to what hip-hop was. Ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with break dancing, graffiti and all those parts of the culture.

I didn’t really get into poetry until my junior or senior year of high school. I had this really cool English teacher who gave us this assignment to rewrite Shakespeare in a modern way (which was ‘94 at the time). So I took “Romeo & Juliet” and made it into this hip-hop version of a love story. In my eyes, it was super cool. It had all the elements of hip-hop and culture like East versus West. … I really enjoyed discovering what you could do with a concept that is very traditional and rigid and break the form down to make it relatable to you. And that’s what hip-hop was: relatable. It slowly bridged into me being able to freestyle and rap, and I was with a band called Urban Abstract that got to perform almost all over the country and open for The Roots at Tremont Music Hall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyr1U7kBZcY

On the rise of Charlotte hip-hop:

We’re living in this time where we’re really not trending for any other city. Whereas Atlanta has a definite sound, and New York has a definite sound, we’re still mining through our own creative gems and jewels in the city. The sound is music. The community is strong and thriving. And we’re still out there trying to discover ourselves.

When we go back and think about how hip-hop has progressed in Charlotte, it’s a story that progresses with the actual city itself with the dynamic changes that happen here. There are genuine pockets of folks who are just doing this music because they love it, and they love the folks they do it with and they love the spaces they get to create out of. There are so many different ways to hear hip-hop coming out of Charlotte, and I think that’s the beautiful thing. We’re not one consistent sound. It’s a lot of different things that you couldn’t pinpoint, and that’s the indicator that there’s a lot of talented people living in this city, just waiting to blow.

In this city where we have so much wealth, [venues and fine arts institutions] were closing their doors to the culture. And it’s funny, because when COVID hit, hip-hop is the thing that’s really surviving and creating platforms and creating things to do. And some of these venues need that and need these people. Hip-hop has a long and storied history of ups and downs, of being the underdog and the overlooked. But we’ve never been quitters and given in to those what folks need us to be. We’ve always figured out who we want to be and who we’re going to be, despite what the world has said about us.

On his 2020 music release “The Duologue Part 1: Conversations in a Vibe Room” in collaboration with Soulganic’s Anthony Rodriguez:

It was based off of seeing [Amplifier’s] conversation with Anthony about his latest release, and I said, “You know, it would be really cool to create something … what if we created something called ‘Quarantine Exchange,’ and we never saw each other!” So we collabed. And it was just that easy.

All of it pushed me out of my typical “write this way” space and out of the bounds of where we were for a lot of things. You know, Black folks (especially creative Black folks) are not a monolith. Before the George Floyd shooting and the list goes on, nine times out of 10, we’re ready to create something funky … like writing a poem about how unicorns can knit a sweater or something different! Then George Floyd happens, and we have to almost stop being who we want to be to address who America is making us to be. We have to stop and create this poem or this art about being Black in America, about being killed for being Black in America… and that’s exhausting. And I would tell my creatives who are feeling the burden or the weight of that, “You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to say a word. You can be yourself. You can reflect on it how you want, when you want. Keep doing what you’re doing.” So Anthony’s music gave me a break to not be that guy for a minute. It was a different kind of release. It was a different kind of freedom. It was a liberation to be funky.

On the present and future of Charlotte arts and music:

It can be very fragmented because there are so many pockets where folks can do their thing, and they just need access to be able to do more. Having access also helps build community and build unity because when you have people out here striving in their own silos, that can be hella competitive and a self-involved thing. So how do we make sure that everybody has a chance to be their greatest? How do we continue to do that? I think a lot of institutions are recognizing how many really dope people are in this city and are trying to figure out the best way to keep them here as long as they can. We fully expect these people to go out into the world and make it beautiful, but we also want them to come home to Charlotte and create again. We always want them to come home and feel creatively safe.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

BLUZ X ANRŌ - “Duologue Intro”
Urban Abstract - “4 Elements”
BLUZ X ANRŌ - “Take it Slow” feat. Cordula Davis
BLUZ X ANRŌ - “What about the Love”
BLUZ X ANRŌ - “Love Supreme”
BLUZ X ANRŌ - “Stronger”

Stay Connected:

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).