‘Beacon’ lights the way for up-and-coming Charlotte rappers

Omavi Minder, left, and Immanuel Allen, along with Micah Hollins released “Beacon” Jan. 1.
Omavi Minder, left, and Immanuel Allen, along with Micah Hollins released “Beacon” Jan. 1. Hadiya Presswood

Omavi Minder knew Micah Hollins was talented when he heard him talk for the first time in a sophomore English class at Phillip O. Berry High School.

"Bruh was like stupid quiet,” Minder said. “He said something in class and I was like, dang dude, you gotta really great voice, you sound like a rapper."

Minder and Hollins solidified their friendship through mutual admiration of the raps and beats they create. The pair met Immanuel Allen during junior year, and they connected via a common interest in Vince Staples, a rapper from Long Beach.

Minder -- rap alias Mavi -- Hollins, and Allen collaborated on the album “Beacon,” which was released Jan. 1st. It’s now available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music.

“Beacon” was written over a span of 10 months. Minder said he would sit down for 55 minutes or so and just write, or he’d get inspired and go to Hollins' house to record, often in a closet because the clothes provided better acoustics. After Minder recorded with Hollins, they send the music to Allen to master.

“When it comes to me mastering up the music … I listened to the tape repeatedly for two days, not even like changing anything or tweaking the knobs; I honestly took time to just listen to it,” Allen said. “I thought it was gonna be one of those projects where I could … cram through but I wanted to try a different approach … hear all the different melodies, see how they correlate, hear (the) frequencies … and see how I could best match his voice to the instrumental.”

What makes “Beacon” different from other rap albums is that many of the tracks have no hook or bridge, and at times there appears to be a lapse in rhyme scheme.

Minder’s emotions were a source of inspiration for lyrics, as is the case with “cold summer,” a poetic reflection of summer 2016, a period full of failed romances, moderate depression, and the passing of his grandmother in September.

Minder describes writing the track titled “beacon” after his visit to the Grand Canyon. The beauty of the natural landscape left him breathless.

“Today I realized I didn’t matter,” he raps over the track. “Today I found my home will last long after I’m gone, ashes to ashes, and I spent half of my life on my phone.”

The “Beacon” trio is inspired by MF Doom, Kendrick Lamar, Noname, and Isaiah Rashad, for their use of multi-syllabic rhyme, ability to tell stories, and flow versatility. Hollins references Schoolboy Q’s “Oxymoron” and Rashad’s “Cilvia Demo” as albums that encouraged him to experiment when creating music.

Although the trio isn't planning to make it big, the praise and recognition they receive feels good. On Soundcloud, six of the album’s 10 tracks have more 4,000 listens, with “comethroughwithit” coming in at 11,900. They aren't quite famous, but they are recognized walking through school.

“Fame is just an exercise in projected legitimacy.” says Minder. “People in school recognize me as making it.”

He admits that the recognition does serve as a bit of an ego boost. “I’m human,” he says laughingly.

The trio has received support from their followers and accolades from their musical peers, including Charlotte rapper Ahmir the King. He met Minder at Studio 345 located in Spirit Square. King not only heard the album in its entirety post-release, he was able to listen to parts of Beacon before it was publicly available.

“I just thought it was dope...hearing it as a whole was crazy,” Ahmir said. “I just thought it was really really good rapping and beat selection … just the overall sound. The flows, wordplay, approach, content. Nothing about Beacon is anything that's being done by anybody else anywhere, let alone locally.”

One way the trio measures fame is by their parents. As of yet, their parents don’t know about “Beacon,” so if any of their mothers came and began quoting from “tribute” they would know that they have made it.

Post high school, Minder and Hollins will attend Howard University. Minder intends to major in biology. Hollins is considering several paths, including business, writing, or music related studies.

All three artists say they will continue to write, produce, and create music.

This story was written as a part of the Charlotte Observer’s high school journalism Explorer Post. Questions? Email Corey Inscoe at cinscoe@charlotteobserver.com.