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Making the Connections

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"If you have someone else with talent applied to your thing, that's always good," Bateman says.

"We'd be happy to see anyone in our scene make it," Johnson adds.

According to Luggage, Richmond's scene is fertile but still forming. Cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and even St. Louis already have well-defined sub-genres of hip-hop. Richmond has no particular sound of its own, but that's what makes it fun. It gives performers flexibility.

If you met Luggage on the street, you'd probably peg them for rockers. When Bateman and Johnson discuss their influences growing up, it's punk acts like Operation Ivy, Danzig and the Misfits that come up first. They're comfortable saying the guys in the nationally known metal band Lamb of God love them.

"Our roots are in punk rock and metal," Bateman says. "I think they're the closest kinds of music because of the attitude and community."

While their punk-turned-hip-hop mix might remind people of the Beastie Boys, their records are more melodic and thematic, like Eminem's. Luggage isn't what you'd call experimental, but it has nonetheless staked out a unique sound. It anchors some of its tunes with cute hooks but nods to earlier hip-hop history with narrative schemes that run throughout an entire song.

Johnson and Bateman are happy where they are, but they plan to keep growing. "We want to get the Richmond scene behind us totally and then take it from there," Johnson says. "We want people ten years from now to say, 'Yeah, we knew those guys.'"

So far, the members of Luggage have self-produced, -recorded, and -distributed everything without the help of a label, but they're hoping that will change soon — something they're not shy about. They're calling their most recent record "Sign-us Pressure." — Amy Biegelsen

Luggage released two previous albums under the name Speakeasy. These will be rereleased and are available at Luggage regularly plays Nanci Raygun.

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