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PROFILE: Lo Keys featured in Fayetteville Observer newspaper "Listen Up" section

"Fayetteville Observer Newspaper Writes A Featured Article On Lo Keys And His Rise To Success In The Hip Hop Industry".

Good to see the homey making editorials after blazing every urban music blog site across the internet.

Check out the write up after the Jump....

By Mike McCray (Staff Writer)

The last we spoke with Lo Keys, the rapper was set to release a new mixtape and was attracting attention from several blogs, all while still navigating the digital music landscape. Fast forward about a year, and the 25-year-old Fayetteville native - born Merton Woolard - has flipped that small blog exposure into frequent mentions in reputable hip-hop publications, including The Source and XXL. He has made guest appearances on tracks with big names in hip-hop, including Prodigy from Mobb Deep, Killer Mike and French Montana. Keys, who rapped just for fun before February 2010, fondly recalls being such a fan of Mobb Deep that he snuck into the gate at Foxy 99's studios when he was 17 while the duo was doing an interview. Keys waited outside for them to finish, just to rap a few bars for them.

But even after releasing a song with one of those idols, the Western Harnett High graduate remains humble about his recent success. "To be quite honest with you, I hardly ever think about it ... because I know it's more to do," Keys said. "It's great being recognized by those outlets, and those are like, it's almost as big as it gets as far as the rap world goes, but it's more stuff to do."Everything's just moving so fast you don't really just have a whole lot of time to just sit and really reflect on it," he added. He may have work to do, but that doesn't minimize the following he has cultivated online. He went from being mentioned in tuned-in but obscure blogs to becoming a fixture in national media outlets every time he releases new music. It's a process he has worked at slowly but steadily. 

"I'm my own PR, so when you see something that's going out, and we blast a record, and it goes to 100 websites, that was 100 websites that we contacted on our own and built those relationships with those people, so it requires a lot of work. You've got to be good at building relationships," said Keys. Having more than 14,000 followers on Twitter is part of that relationship with his fans. But one of the most crucial contacts Keys cultivated is Terry Owens, his former neighbor who is now his manager and video director. The two met in 2009 when Owens recognized Keys from a music blog he read and suggested - across the parking lot of the complex they both lived in - that the rapper release some videos. Keys decided to make the leap from pastime to career after a lot of listening, studying and a little soul searching."I just love music. It's like every time I listen to music, I'm just like, 'Yo, this should be me. I can rhyme, I can really rhyme.' " Together, Keys and Owens shot and released 30 videos between June and December of that year, nurturing their relationship and raising the rapper's profile in the process. "I knew that the Internet was the new wave," Keys said. "Around that time, a lot of rappers weren't up on that, so I feel like we caught that fairly early, and that's another reason why we're at where we're at now." 

Where Keys is at now is a fixture on mainstream rap music blogs - a feat Keys thinks is harder than getting on radio now. "It's so tough because there's so much ... coming out," said Keys. "There's like 20 to 25 new blog posts a day. It's to the point now where we know what days to drop, and what times to drop it to where we're going to garner the most posts." Keys figured out early on that just bombarding his favorite sites with content wasn't the route to get noticed, and that bloggers now understand the power they have."It's ways and channels to go through it and get your music heard the correct way," Keys said. "They're not going to post somebody that they get an email from every once in a while. They want to post people who they think they're going to be able to break." Keys may be on the verge of that break. With big performances lined up for festivals, such as next month's South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Keys has combined his social media savvy and consistency into a winning formula. Keys said his influences vary widely, from hip-hop staples such as Nas, Jay-Z and Eminem to soul artists such as Teddy Pendergrass and rock icons like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. 

Keys expects to release his next mixtape, "American Greed," in April. He says the project will display a big transition from the sounds and flows he toyed around with on previous releases, "G.L.E.E. Season 1" and "The Green Hornet.""It's just a process and a relationship of moving, with different sounds, but sticking with what has gotten us here in the first place," Keys said. Keys admits the tone of the album was inspired by the political uprisings, like Occupy Wall Street, and protests going on around the world. "We just kind of wanted to put it in perspective to what's really going on in the world right now. 'American Greed: Scams, Schemes and Broken Dreams.' It just kind of touches on so much," said Keys. Staying true to himself - a military brat who grew up in Fayetteville and moved back to the area - has paid off thus far. What a difference a year makes.

Staff writer Mike McCray can be reached at or 609-0649.