Craig Carozza-Caviness knows how to throw a party. The artist known as Incwell blends traditional rap/hip hop with a full floor rock and roll sound that can make even the stiffest of caucasian boys shake.

I didn’t plan on making it over to the Strathmore on that nasty Friday night, but while doing the line by line for the listings of the Express, I came across the show, thought it sounded interesting, listened to a few tracks and then hit Incwell up so we could preview the show.

No surprise to anyone who halfway knows me, I’m not the bigget fan of rap/hip-hop(whatever you want to call that general sphere of music). Kanye grabbed white people with sticky hooks and sweet melodies, but live, it’s hard to translate the appeal of those spit-flying lines and bass thumping moments.

Watching white people at rap shows often feels like a parody of a concert experience that eventually devolves to all the backwards-hat wearing brothers doing the fist pump along in time with whoever might be controllling the mic (see Wale, circa Virgin Fest ’09). This isn’t to say that I’m not pumping my fist along with the rest of the crowd. When a rapper flips one of my favorite songs  and spins a new way to dance, baby, I’ll be grinning like a fool. Oh, and if he happened to throw “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the chorus? I’ll bounce with that.

Incwell’s something different though. He’d be a closer relative to Jimi than Biggie,  more Woodstock than “8 Mile.” This isn’t to say he can spin rhymes with the best of them, there’s something just bigger about him than just a rap artist.

Start with the background, Incwell’s the product  of a broken family, a rap sheet-filling father who was shot when Incwell was four, a mother who’s struggled to stay out of jail and a slew of relatives that are well acquainted with the flashing reds and blues.

That’s not to say that Incwell grew up alone. There’s a grandmother and step-grandfather in Silver Springs, MD., that have kept the quiet-spoken artist out of trouble since he was a kid, and it shows in the tunes that he spins.

Incwell doesn’t write romance novels to the streets, he doesn’t front about time behind bars, and he doesn’t see anything beautiful about dealing from the corner–Incwell isn’t like that.

“You have to take responsibility for what you’re doing,” said Incwell. “It’s not always our fault, and there are bad situations around us, but I tell kids, “don’t make any excuses, because people have come from worst situations.” You have to always keep perspective. That’s why I love Jimi Hendrix, because he was poor. Eating out of the trashcan whatever, man that’s something my family has never had to do, no matter how poor my family has been.”

Incwell draws from his life, from the challenges of surviving difficult, difficult times. He calls himself the Sun Don’t Shine Boy, but then he writes about the streets, there’s flicker of light that streams into even the darkest nights.

“One of my favorite songs is “the way I feel”,” said Incwell “… my canvass is candid/ your eye full of problems/ in these moments I can’t get behind”

“That song came from a real place, like I was mad, I was downtown in the city and I I was blown. I go to my car and there was this dude playing on a shopping cart and buckets. No one’s on the street, it’s 2-3 in the morning, and he’s just rocking them. I’m bobbing my head, and I had $5 in my pocket–my last $5– so I gave it to him.  I’m walking away, and he’s like, “Hey my man, come back, I got something for you..”

So I come back, and I’m like, “what’s up?”

And then he just starts singing, like this beautiful voice, like “Jesus loves you tonight, Jesus loves you tonight” just crazy and weird, but something I needed to hear, then I went home and wrote that song.”

It comes out in his music, that night in Strathmore was sold out. Half the floor seemed to be filled with Incwell and his band. There were saxaphones, bass guitars, electric, trumpets and two of the sweetest backup singers you’ll ever hear. Sleepy can hit the high notes behind the white glasses, and there was a female who could soar when she needed to.

This let Incwell stalk, smile and direct the show like some type of ringmaster of soul. The room was dancing, Scotland was smiling, and there was a sweetness to the fusion of genres that transcended traditional lines drawn around race or age. There were grandmothers (literally) moving alongside the drunk bleached blonde who fell into the microphone.

I’ll throw some of the highlights into this, in a second, but all you should know is that when they closed with a cover of Frankie Valli’s peace-bringing standard “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” (yes, RIP Heath), there wasn’t a frown in the entire slippery house.

Just remember the name, “Incwell,” this flower child isn’t going anywhere.


Bitterweet Symphony

Southern Man

The Way I Feel

About The Author

Nathan Martin

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