My freshman year of high school, I joined the track and field team and met two men: Dwight Dunston and Keenan Willis. They had both graduated years earlier, and were returning to their old school to coach the track team. I learned they were rappers, and the following year, they laid down some bars while I played piano at what essentially equated to a school open-mic (video evidence of this exists here). You may know Dunston and Willis as Sterling Duns and Rick Banks, two emcees in Hardwork Movement, a name I’m willing to wager will someday be called the most important within Philly’s independent hip-hop scene.
Their free show Wednesday evening at Spruce Street Harbor Park was fresh off their signing to Chill Moody’s #nicethingsMUSIC label, and true to their social media mantra, “for the people,” I was hard pressed to distinguish between fans and friends in the crowd—audience members eventually jumped on stage to dance with vocalist Jeremy Keys. Trumpeter Becca Graham dedicated a new song, “Take Your Freedom,” to the victims of the Orlando shooting and to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, emphasizing that a Hardwork Movement show is a place where people can feel free to be who they need to be.
Below, check out photos from the time I spent with these torchbearers of home-grown, soul-infused Philadelphia hip-hop, and catch them on August 12 at MilkBoy; tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.