First Draft with Lenox Mercedes

The High Gravity Hip Hop founder seeks to bridge the divide between hip-hop and craft breweries

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Before he started High Gravity Hip Hop in Atlanta, Lenox Mercedes enjoyed the hip-hop culture of New York City. Born and raised in Queens, he describes himself as bone of a select few Gen X-ers who was privileged enough to be born into and raised by hip-hopbs golden era. Ibve break-danced for money, done graffiti, and MCbd b the only thing I didnbt do was DJ.bMercedes says he enjoyed MCing the most; hebs been doing it since he was 10 years old, often competing in hip-hop and spoken word competitions. bI think thatbs why I am so comfortable on stage today,b he says.And comfortable he is. A week before his interview with Creative Loafing, Mercedes traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak on a panel at the Craft Brewers Conference with representatives from New Belgium Brewing and Brewery Vivant. The trio discussed how hip-hop and craft breweries are bridging cultural divides. It was 2003 when Mercedes moved to Atlanta, and he discovered craft beer just a few years after that. Hebs paid the bills since working in higher education, artist and talent management, and project management. And then, of course, therebs HGHH, which he calls bthe first and only hip-hop beer festival in the world.b It was with all this in mind that CL picked his brain to find out what hebs digging these days and how craft beer and rap music can continue to collaborate going forward.Describe your first beer.My first taste of beer was a Budweiser. I was a kid; it was a sip. My mom loved it and would often cook with it. I have fond memories of weekends at the park, many Budweisers for the adults, and goat stew with a bsecretb ingredient.How did those first sips eventually lead you to your beer-inspired life today?That taste of beer at an early age made me aware of adult beverages. Growing up, I traveled to my motherbs homeland of Guayaquil, Ecuador many times. One of my older cousins became a chemical engineer and also held a masterbs in brewing. He went on to become a brewmaster for AmBev the biggest brewery in Latin America for many years. So that gave me some exposure even if I didnbt realize it at the time. I guess that led me to explore the adult beverage world a bit.I discovered craft beer in 2008 in Georgia. A friend put me onto the miracle nectar and I was hooked ever since. My first beers were Mendocinobs Eye of the Hawk, North Coastbs Old Rasputin, St. Bernardus, and Grain dbOrgebs Belzebuth.How did High Gravity Hip Hop get started, and how has it changed over the years?HGHH started because I wanted to build a better beer festival. It has grown into a complete lifestyle brand and is developing into the go-to agency for diversity marketing for the craft beer industry.Rock bands collaborate with breweries all the time. Why do you think there arenbt as many rap collaborations?I donbt know. The hip-hop collaborations I have seen are awesome. I was just at the latest one b Nappy Roots and Monday Night Brewing teamed up for a sweet hip-hop craft beer event at their brewery. Ibm looking forward to what breweries and the hip-hop community cook up. Therebs an unlimited ceiling in this area for both cultures. There is a true opportunity to bring people together during a time when the country needs it most.What else are you working on these days? We are working on launching the HGHH podcast bThe Audio Tasting,b where we bring craft beer and hip-hop pros together for a beer and a chat. We will be utilizing venues such as music studios, craft beer bars and breweries. We will also have a live studio audience for each show. Very excited about this project so keep your eye out for that.No value assignedUPCOMING BEER EVENTS:Three Taverns and Brouwers Verzet TakeoverWhen: Tues., May 16Where: Brick Store PubPrice: Depends how much you drink

To celebrate American Craft Beer Week, Brick Store will feature a lineup of standards and rarities from Three Taverns in Decatur and Brouwers Verzet in Belgium b the latter was started by Three Taverns brewmaster Joran Van Ginderachter.Brew at the ZooWhen: Sat., May 27Where: Zoo AtlantaPrice: $45-$100An evening at the zoo will include more than 70 different types of beer, wine, keeper talks and animal demos with some of the zoobs 1,000 nonhuman residents. Live music will come from local bands the Geeks, 8 Second Ride, RTW and Brad Jackson.B

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