The “Queen Curator” Pinning Hip-Hop in Downtown Durham
The “Queen Curator” as she is best known, walked into Beyu Café Monday morning assertively demonstrating queen like behavior. Before Crystal was able to accompany me at the bar, her popularity and roots within Durham’s thriving community of young Black professionals, required her to quickly converse with two to three people who sought her attention. I ran to my car to retrieve the audio recorder and upon my return she was both ready and prepared. Earlier I requested for Crystal to wear apparel related to her brand for our photo-op and she came through! Dressed comfortably in clean white chucks, an Underground Collective Tee and her locs freshly twisted, she was spewing out Black girl magic! Our process in aiming for the perfect shot was rather organic. Not only did Crystal look the part, her spirit embodies her passion for hip-hop and the work she does in the community.
Over the past four years, Crystal has curated hip-hop centered events at the Pinhook, a music venue located downtown Durham. Her accomplishments include, “Yo NC Raps,” “That’s the Joint Open Mic,” “The Underground Collective Beat Battle,” and most recently Durham’s FIRST “Beats and Bars Hip-Hop Festival”. Crystal’s innovative curation, marketing abilities and passion for hip-hop sets Durham apart from it’s neighboring cities like Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Charlotte.
As we focused on the presence of hip-hop downtown and the importance of this, Crystal conveyed gratitude for the Pinhook singling out the owner Kym Register in particular, “[Kym] is like a sister I never had, I never knew I wanted . . . [Kym] is one of those people [who] wants everyone to do well . . . be happy . . . be safe . . . be respected and [Kym] loves to learn”.
Kym and Crystal’s relationship began via email a little over four years ago when Crystal was aiming to locate space to host a beat battle. It took the two a little over a year to actually meet in person, but the lack of early physical interaction did not hinder a strong sisterhood from developing. From the beginning Crystal has always felt apart of the Pinhook’s family opposed to a third party affiliate simply renting out space. She calls the staff her cousins and describes the venue as a “safe space” like one’s grandma’s house. Expressing her loyalty to the Pinhook she reveals that she will always want to be affiliated with the Pinhook in whatever she does. For Crystal, it is a major accomplishment to have space specifically for hip-hop on Main Street, a central location for Durham natives and visitors. Acknowledging that her identity as a Black woman making major decisions in hip-hop whether on a local or national level is rare, Crystal insists “can’t no one tell [her] anything”. We both agreed that having the presence of women in hip-hop is an amazing thing and needed.
As far as the future, Crystal has huge plans for Durham’s hip-hop scene. 2016 was amazing and 2017 will be even better. It is clear that she is strategic about the artists she offers a platform to and explained that the purpose of her team, The Underground collective, is to “put people on to [artists] they have no idea about”. She boasts with excitement, “Durham will be this place you can come to where people will know the hip-hop scene is downtown . . . it’s going to be an amazing thing”. And for the Pinhook’s contribution towards this goal, Crystal says she plans on staying in the Pinhook as long as she can, and with laughter adds, “until [Kym] kicks me out and she probably won’t ever kick me out . . .[Kym] has always been supportive and one of my main cheerleaders”.
The Underground Collective Upcoming Events
- December 1st, 2016 8:00pm @ The Pinhook The Closeout
- January 13th, 2017 8:00pm @ The PinhookThe UGC Beat Battle