Amethyst, the state mineral, is a purple variety of quartz said to enhance passion, creativity and spiritual awareness.
It's also the name of a new album released on Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, that features tracks by more than 40 rappers and producers from South Carolina, almost all Black artists.
In December, those creators from across the state gathered at a Summerville studio to record an album in less than 72 hours. They were each invited by project organizers, who sought a diverse group within the genre.
The gathering space was divided into a meeting room, where artists mingled and teamed up with beatmakers, and a studio, where the lines were delivered and producers worked to capture the spontaneous magic. Lyrics were written on the spot, most not even scribbled down but improvisationally spit into the mic, hook by hook and verse by verse.
In one long weekend, more than 40 songs were recorded, then whittled down to 27 for the album, which is available on most streaming platforms. Some bonus tracks will be released on a later deluxe version.
Dave Curry, the fashion designer behind Charleston Hype and a local music producer, spearheaded the endeavor. He was inspired by Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist J. Cole's Dreamville Records documentary, which goes behind the scenes on the making of compilation album "Revenge of the Dreamers III."
For that project, 343 artists and producers were invited to Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta to create music over the course of 10 days. During those sessions, 142 songs were recorded.
Curry wanted to create the South Carolina version — to put South Carolina hip-hop on the map and uplift Black art. But he also wanted it to be a project that could succeed outside of the South Carolina music scene. He believes in the talent.
"I think a lot of us put ourselves in boxes to be the 'best thing out of Charleston' or 'South Carolina' or even 'the South,'" Curry said. "But I just want to make the best thing, period. I wanted to make something that was able to compete on a global scale."
Curry said egos were checked at the door. The competition was friendly, and artists pushed each other to write the best verses and stretch their boundaries, he said.
"There was a sense of unity and camaraderie I feel hasn’t been seen before in the state," said Greenville-via-Columbia's Justin Daniels, known by stage name H3RO. "Everybody was willing to work with everybody, and there were compliments thrown left and right."
Daniels appears on two tracks, "Nomad" and "Goodfellas."
Contributing Charleston rapper Javone Graham, who goes by CrucialBGR, said he didn't know a lot of the other artists before arriving, which is what drew him in. During the weekend, he made lasting connections with other artists and producers he hopes to work with again, he said.
"This is a big notice sign from artists all over South Carolina," said Graham, who appeared on "Just Like That" and "Wartime."
Kris Kaylin, a radio host at Z93Jamz, was one of the organizers of the project and on site during the recording process. She hand-selected some of the artists who were invited. She said it was hard narrowing down the huge pool of hip-hop artists that exists in South Carolina.
About a month ago, she played some of the songs from the album on her radio show "Next Up Charleston" before they were released and called it the "Amethyst Takeover." She received an overwhelmingly positive response from listeners, she said.
"Someone called the station and said it was the best quality music they had heard on the show," Kaylin said.
During the recording process, Kaylin enjoyed observing each artists' creative process and listening to each song develop.
"It was cool being in the atmosphere where artists were creating music and getting to hear it played back right then," Kaylin said. "I would be vibing, and then there would be an instant when I knew I had just heard a hit. It was fascinating to see other artists create."
The Juneteenth release of the album was serendipitous, Kaylin said. It wasn't originally planned that way, but the coronavirus and other delays slowed down the process.
"It worked out, because June is also Black Music Month," she said. "I'm proud to be pushing this energy. I'm proud to be a part of history. This is a momentous thing for South Carolina hip-hop."
One rapper and producer who was voted in by fans to fill one of the slots for the weekend was Jaleel James of Hartsville, who goes by BluFlame James. This project was the first time he had recorded in a studio. He ended up working on several tracks and thrived in the collaborative environment.
Columbia audio engineer and producer Zach Finley, who goes by Offkey, said he "cooked up beats" on the spot, letting interested artists come to him and then working with them one-on-one.
You won't see BluFlame James' or Offkey's names in the song credits, just like you won't see Curry's. They all worked as producers behind the scenes, but their work was integral to the project.
Hip-hop collaborations throughout the state aren't uncommon. In 2019, Columbia hip-hop legend Fat Rat Da Czar released "Tribe," an album that featured around 40 other collaborators. The album ultimately reflected his taste, and he appeared as a guest on each song.
"That was a Fat Rat album" Curry said. "This is something different. They don't really compete. He was using his brand to elevate South Carolina hip-hop, but I'm creating a brand."
For the "Amethyst" project, the goal was to the let different artists work on each track, with no one standing out.
"A lot of people won’t do something until they see it’s doable," Curry offered. "If someone can see someone from their community win, then they feel like they can win."
Videographer Atom BLK and photographer Raven Brianne of New Moon Visuals were on site to record behind-the-scenes footage. Curry hopes to release a documentary soon. Visit amethystinsc.com for more information.