Little Brother Block Party outside long-awaited Missy Lane’s Assembly Room highlights the Significance of Hip-Hop and Jazz in Durham

There is a lot of pride in being made in Durham.

Hip-hop duo Little Brother, consisting of rappers Phonte Coleman and Big Pooh, made their Bull City pride known earlier this season during their block party celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album, The Listening. 

Made in Durham: A Little Brother Block Party, was a collaborative effort and sponsored by Dr. Cicely Mitchell, co-owner of Missy Lane’s Assembly room—a modern jazz club set to open in mid-January. Dr. Mitchell speaks about her experience with organizing the event, explaining how she was excited to collaborate with Phonte to bring an experience to Durham hip-hop lovers that they have been missing out on. 

“Phonte Coleman is a good friend of mine. And so when he called originally, he called to see if my venue was open. I told him that my venue is not going to be big enough to hold all the people who will want to come see him. And so then we just came up with this big idea to just do it right outside on the block.”

That block was East Main St., right in the heart of downtown Durham. 

“I feel like Made in Durham was a moment that a lot of people around here have been really looking for as far as a live outdoor music event,” expresses Dr. Mitchell.

This is not Dr. Mitchell’s first time organizing a music festival. From 2014 to 2018, Dr. Mitchell co-founded the Art of Cool Festival, which featured music legends such as RUN DMC, Jill Scott, Ari Lennox, and Durham’s very own 9th Wonder, JGunn, The Foreign Exchange, and Little Brother. 

Besides hip-hop, Dr. Mitchell is also a big advocate for jazz music. 

The long-awaited opening of Missy Lane’s Assembly Room comes after a decision to open a club that is dedicated to jazz and Black American music in Bull City. Dr. Mitchell wants to build a home for the community: “There really isn’t a home for jazz or Black American music where there’s a big audience. And so I really wanted that freedom to have a space where I could curate that kind of experience.”

Many Durhamites wait in high anticipation for Missy Lane, despite challenges in keeping the grander audience of Durham interested as the space continues to develop. As for jazz artists and music-goers, they can expect to make lasting memories in the space.

Durham has always been a hotspot for music artists, many emerging out of North Carolina Central University. One example is Little Brother—Phonte Coleman and Big Pooh had made their first mixtape in their dorm room of NCCU’s campus. Although 9th Wonder departed the group in 2007, he played a role in producing Little Brother’s early music, including their debut album—which sits at a listening time of about 45 minutes and consists of 18 tracks. 

Little Brother has since laid a heavy influence on hip-hop culture, earning accolades from artists such as Drake and Doja Cat. With that being said, North Carolina, and Durham in particular, has had a large impact on hip-hop music as a whole. 

Just another reason to have that Bull City pride.