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The Richmatic Crew: Sean Kramer (DJ Krames), 23, Billy Nguyen (DJ Chinky Eye), 26 , Jeremy Zavik (DJ JAZ), 27

Hip-hop organizers

"It's almost like an art store, where you can come and get supplies," Kramer says. An MC with a few fresh-faced lines can come and meet that producer with the clever beat, and there, a new song or a new group takes its first tentative steps. The monthly Producers' Cup gives DJs a chance to try out new material against one another, with audiences deciding who wins. MC battle nights feature a lot of back talk and a $200 prize.

Inevitably, the Richmatic crew has attracted bigger names to their underground lair. Artists like Breez Evahflowin', Louis Logic, Storm the Unpredictable and others have come around to mix it up with Richmond's own, building Richmatic into something that brings in the big names, while giving the little ones the opportunity to practice their skills.

What's next: Zavik, Kramer and Nguyen have recently set aside the first Thursday of the month as a Networking Night, a sort of buffet of loose lyrics and fledgling beats. Everyone gets to try out their new tidbit; the Richmatic crew just stirs the pot, waiting. Then there's the Notebook Graffiti Battle in February, where participants get to tag a Richmatic logo on sheets of paper to a turntable soundtrack. In the DJ democracy, of course, the crowd chooses the best work. And the trio's hoping to book some national underground hip-hop artists this spring. — Brandon Reynolds

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