Coming from Lynchburg with a name like Divine Profitz might make some people reflexively think of Christian music -- or bands that play festivals with names like Night of Joy, selling T-shirts that read "His Pain, Your Gain." But Divine Profitz is a hip-hop group that tackles the kind of socially conscious material that would've sent Jerry Falwell into full-froth mode.
The group formed during the mid-'90s and built a strong following in Lynchburg before relocating to Richmond in 2000. Its lineup includes founder/producer Chadrach (Chadwick Ashwell), emcees BeenOfficial (Brian Crawford), Chris Chronicles (Chris Patillo) and Ran (Ran Neblett).
"Most of us grew up in Lynchburg listening to hip-hop," Crawford says. "It's a more diverse city than people think but everything we heard came from radio and TV. There were no places to perform."
Things aren't so different for underground hip-hop in Richmond. At least ever since Nanci Raygun shut down and Alley Katz stopped hosting hip-hop battles after fighting broke out several years ago, Crawford says. "The scene here was a lot bigger a few years ago. Now you're back to rhyming on the floor in front of people instead of onstage," he says.
The group does perform a regular gig at the Cary Street Café, which hosts hip-hop on Sundays usually twice a month. It's also toured the mid-Atlantic region, performing at the Knitting Factory in New York and opening for bigger touring acts such as Killah Priest (of Wu-Tang Clan). Chadrach just released his own solo album, "Soul Search" (on Richmond label Concice Records). He also engineers the Profitz records, including their last album, "The Riot," a fairly angry, if slickly produced, affair.
A quick perusal of the group's MySpace page shows that it uses some classic samples, from Nancy Sinatra "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" to the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." But Crawford says they're not worried about legal ramifications. "If it gets to the point where they're suing you, then you probably don't have to worry about clearing samples," he says. "Look at Kanye [West]."
The group is now finishing a new album, which Crawford says will be more upbeat in tone. It should be ready for a summer release.