09/24/08: Hanging With The O-Dubbs in Barton Village/Soulful Cyphers in Augusta

I was invited to speak at the Southeast Music Entertainment Summit in Myrtle Beach on Friday and Saturday, so I left early from Memphis, stopping by a Chick-Fil-A in Olive Branch for a quick pick-up breakfast, and then driving straight through Birmingham to Anniston. There I stopped for coffee, and a lunch from Zaxby’s, but finding gasoline was difficult, as there were still shortages in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.
I passed through Atlanta and stopped at a Panera Bread in Lithonia to meet a representative from DMP Records, who was bringing me some promotional items on the Hittman release. From there I continued toward Augusta, where I found that traffic was complete chaos due to heavy construction on I-20 and I-520. I had reserved a room at the Microtel Inn on Gordon Highway, so I checked in there and waited to hear from V-Tec, the rapper from Millionairz and Playerz that I had an appointment with. That group had been one of the first rap groups from Augusta, garnering attention from a single called “Barton Village Souljaz”. By an odd sort of coincidence, the Barton Village subdivision was but a stone’s throw from my hotel, and V-Tec had agreed to give me a tour of it. He soon arrived at the hotel, with several other people with him, and I rode in his truck down to Barton Village, which was not necessarily what I had expected. A large boulevard with a sign marked the entrance to the community, which had clearly been a suburban subdivision at one time. The houses were fairly large, and had decent front and back yards, although one could see that some of the houses had been allowed to deteriorate.
Built in 1969, Barton Village had been a private housing subdivision, but problems set in early, and the development company went into bankruptcy before the community was complete, so the US Department of Housing and Urban Development stepped in, and took over a subdivision where many of the houses were boarded up or even partially burned. The Augusta Housing Authority ended up with much of it, renting the houses much like project apartments, although some of the houses were still privately owned, and the area soon gained a reputation for drugs, then violence.
Local law enforcement and media associated Barton Village with a gang called the O-Dubbs, which the Augusta-Richmond sheriff claimed might be slang for Old McDuffie Road, which runs through the area. All of this brought a laugh from V-Tec, who could have told them that O-Dubb was short for Only With True Thugs, the old name of his record label when he and a partner named John Wolf first started recording rap music in the late 1990’s. On the song “Barton Village Souljaz”, there are numerous references to “OWTT” the acronym. People who lived in Barton Village came to associate this name with the neighborhood, and began to throw up a hand signal comprised of the letters O.W. to represent the area. Apparently the gang tag came about in two ways-one, the sheriff needed Augusta to have gangs in order to receive a coveted grant, and, two- some young members of O-Dub got involved in fights with nearby neighborhoods such as the Meadowbrook Click (MBC) or the Circle Boyz in Glenn Hills.
But now in the early dusk, as we rolled through the streets, V-Tec pulled up in front of one of the houses where some friends of his were hanging out, and he introduced me to them. People would come up to the truck and acknowledge V with an “O-DUBB” shout, and then we headed out to T-Bonz on Washington Road where other OWTT family members met us, and we got a big boardroom table to eat and hang out. V-Tec and I discussed digital and physical distribution, and then afterwards, he took us down to Soultry Sounds Cafe in downtown Augusta for a local showcase of rap talent. Some of the rappers were particularly talented, but I wanted a cappuccino, so I walked around the corner to the Metro Coffeehouse, and then back to the event. V-Tec wanted to stay and hang out, so his uncle drove me back to the motel

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