Eight rap artists will convene on the Strand Ballroom stage in Dover, New Hampshire on Saturday, Oct. 22 to promote sobriety and positivity in the Granite State community. Jamal Cooley, Eddie McGabe, Joey Painter, Henry Crane, Aaron Ward, Michael Tilley, Onyx Smith and J Rivera make up the hip-hop collective called Kingdom.
McGabe, aka “Mr. Positivity,” Painter, aka “J.O.E.Y.,” Tilley, aka Ti-Doub and his daughter Harmony recently squeezed into the back corner of Durham’s Breaking New Grounds coffee shop to discuss their musical vision and their civic mission. They’re teaming up with SOS Recovery Community Organization, a local group focused on creating safe spaces for recovering addicts, to put on a “Halloween for the Sober” event, complete with costumes, refreshments and hip-hop entertainment.
By collaborating with SOS Recovery, the Kingdom members said they hope to provide an opportunity to participate in sober nightlife for New Hampshire community members, both non-addicts and recovering addicts. McGabe said he believes that breaking down the barriers of judgment that exist between these two demographics (non-addicts and recovering addicts) will help make a difference with drug addiction issues in the area.
The Kingdom members grew up in and around the New Hampshire Seacoast, which is why they said this event hits so close to home for them. McGabe, who said he spent a majority of his childhood both in the foster care system and living in low income housing, knows first-hand how difficult it is to resist the temptations of drug culture. Some Kingdom members have similar past experiences, but have ultimately gotten their lives back on track.
“Life is so much better when you’re just loving each other and helping people. We’re doing that through music,” McGabe said. “This event is very important because of what’s going on in our community right now. We’re losing friends and family out here.” He specifically referenced the New Hampshire heroin epidemic.
Kingdom aims to inspire change for the long term. They said they want to spread the word about recovery and show people, particularly children, what sober fun looks like. They help out with food and toy drives, host teen events and frequently visit schools to spread their message.
“Halloween for the Sober” is an 18+ event, but with parental supervision all ages are welcome. The 18+ is due to possible profanities in the rap lyrics. Kingdom members said they believe that this kind of hip-hop is different from the other hip-hop that’s out there. They call it “lifestyle hip-hop”: positive, inspirational and progressive.
Half of the profits from this event will go toward SOS Recovery and the other half will go to the Strand Ballroom venue. “We just put blood, sweat and tears into this; we don’t get paid. It’s not about that for us,” McGabe said.
“A lot of people do this for the money. I do it because I love music. It’s about giving back to the community,” Tilley said.
Painter said that his family members’ support has been unparalleled. “Every single one of our family members are so for what we’re doing. There’s no second guessing,” he said, adding that he thinks it is amazing to see Kingdom’s work positively influencing his own children. “It’s a really good, unified feeling,” he said while smiling.
McGabe said that he sees Kingdom as a bright light in a world plagued by darkness. He refers to the group as a “breath of fresh air” and quotes Muhammad Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
“I like to keep my rent paid,” McGabe said.
Kingdom’s members said that their group just fell together, as though it was a natural, inevitable development. They said they like to think of themselves as brothers who were graced with good timing, even though most of them have known each other for years. Tilley said he remembers making music with McGabe in the closet of a trailer back in the day.
Now, performing at the local venue where they used catch movies in junior high school, they said it still doesn’t seem real to them and that they couldn’t feel luckier. “It’s humbling for me,” Painter said.
Cooley, who Kingdom members refer to as their captain, wasn’t able to join them for this discussion, but they accredit many of their accomplishments to him. McGabe, Tilley and Painter maintain that Cooley is the origin of inspiration for the work that they do. He’s the one who kick started the idea of positively impacting the community through his own actions and through music, according to group members.
“I could never imagine that every dream would come true for me. I don’t need to be on a Grammy stage. I just need to be with my crew and with my people and doing it out of the good of our hearts and doing it because we love to do it. It’s like I won the lottery,” McGabe said.
With momentum building and new developments being made every month, Kingdom members still manage to keep one-another down to earth. “We check ourselves, we check each other, we keep ourselves level,” McGabe said.
“We’re always representing Kingdom no matter what we’re doing,” Painter said.
“That’s our brand, that’s what the cloth we’re cut from,” McGabe said in agreement with Painter.
Head out to the Strand Ballroom on Saturday to check out live performances by Kingdom’s emcees and additional artists, participate in the costume contest and enjoy a night of sober fun, all for a good cause. The event runs 8 p.m.–12 a.m. and has a $10 cover charge.
You can check out Kingdom’s music and bios at kingdomclique.com or on Facebook @KingdomNE.