- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

“There’s really no originality in commercial hip-hop,” says musician and activist Head-Roc. Rather than compromise his beliefs in exchange for a label contract, Head-Roc steers clear of the corporate music machine to focus on “fellowshipping,” his word for sharing knowledge and artistic expression with others.

“My dream is to be touring and fellowshipping with the crowd,” he says during a phone interview.

Head-Roc (Vancy Levy) wants to create music with like-minded artists at home and elsewhere. He’s looking to reach a wide audience, too, ranging from tonight’s crowd at the Black Cat show to Internet users who listen to Head-Roc songs at www.head-roc.com.

Earlier this year, a lifelong passion for music became a full-time mission for Head-Roc, 33. The Northwest D.C. resident left his day job and released his debut album, “The Return of Black Broadway.”

The 24 tracks showcase Head-Roc’s ability to transform emotions as raw as the unedited pages of a diary into head-nodding musical manifestos. It’s his state of disunion address about problems that plague his hometown — especially the lack of statehood for the District — and larger issues such as racism, television’s lack of diversity, and disenfranchisement at the polls for blacks.

Head-Roc and his producers, including Theory from Infinite Loop, emphasize lyrics first, then expand the soundscape with jazz keyboards (“Sermon on the Metro”) and hypnotic synths and video-game sound effects (“Eggsquisite”).

Head-Roc, who also goes by Heady, writes about situations that are true to him. His next album, “Negrophobia,” scheduled for a spring 2005 release, will delve further into his feelings about the oppression of people of color all over the world. He’ll also address the dispiriting conditions of the District’s public schools.

“Our society,” he says, “is a reactionary society where we don’t think.”

Through his songs, Head-Roc believes he can be an agent of change. In October 2003, he and DJ Eurok spoke out for D.C. statehood during a Capitol Hill rally with Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and D.C. council members.

Asked about his New Year’s resolutions and goals for 2005, Heady says he wants to build nationwide support for the cause of statehood by embarking on a 50-state tour.

His first chance to move a crowd happened more than a decade ago. He participated at a show in Silver Spring in January 1993 while he was working for the Arlington County government and attending the University of the District of Columbia.

“I fell in love with performing at my first show,” he says. “The next day in class I dropped out of school” to devote more time to his craft. Since then he’s performed with the Infinite Loop collective and Three Levels of Genius.

As an independent artist, Head-Roc has to balance the fun — writing, recording and performing — with the grunt work. One of his biggest challenges is “getting myself disciplined to handle the elements of the business that absolutely need to be taken care of,” such as managing his calendar and being on time for events.

He does two to four shows per month. Head-Roc flew to Europe last June to promote “The Return of Black Broadway.” The trip was especially meaningful, he says, because he met people who shared his passion for drawing attention to social injustice. He was especially encouraged because the fans there look for more substance than the typical rap lyrics about diamond-flaunting high rollers and gold-digging women.

Head-Roc is particularly excited about the opportunity to “fellowship” during tonight’s show. The area punk scene, known for its activism in community affairs, will be there to support headliner Q and Not U, and Heady wants local hip-hop supporters to pack the club, too.

• •

Three thriving local bands celebrate the new year with revelers tomorrow, New Year’s Eve, at the Grand Hyatt. Lloyd Dobler Effect, the Pat McGee Band and Carbon Leaf perform at the “Downtown Countdown” event.

Lloyd Dobler Effect, named after John Cusack’s character in the film “Say Anything,” should have no problem winning over a crowd that’s ready to party.

The group’s recent release, “Live 2004,” captures 12 energetic performances. At its core, the band plays contemporary rock with heavy doses of saxophone and percussion. Singer/guitarist Phil Kominski and his bandmates season “Sabrosa” with Latin influences and add a convincing swagger and go-go percussion to “Kangol Black.”

Lloyd Dobler Effect is one of the most active bands in the mid-Atlantic area, playing venues from Nags Head, N.C., to New York City. If the Grand Hyatt event isn’t on your New Year’s Eve agenda, there’s another opportunity on Saturday, when the band plays at Ned Devine’s in Fairfax.

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