The independent grind in hip hop has diversified and paid major dividends to enterprising artists like Navelle Hice and King Fresh. The winners of the BET x Nissan Next Up competition have leveraged their individual accomplishments made throughout their respective careers and cliqued up to become a rising duo in the hip hop scene.
Formerly known as “Young Chief,” the Chester, Pennsylvania native lyricist had several noteworthy moments, including two appearances on BET’s 106 & Park and a performance on the great Apollo stage. Meanwhile, King Fresh, also known as Olajuwan Sims, consistently flourished as a producer and songwriter, with the tandem earning top marks with their songs “Biopic,” “Been Different,” and “Get It & Flip It.”
The rebrand that Navelle Hice went through led to him becoming one-half of this month’s BET Amplified spotlights. In such a short period of time, The Hopeman and King Fresh have delivered on the direction of their music and changed the trajectory of their efforts in the process.
With that in mind, these two, who were blessed by the one and only Just Blaze, plan to rock stages in the new year to come. In an effort to celebrate, we spoke with Navelle Hice and present five things you need to know about him and being #TeamLivingProof.
1. True life events inspired his drive and partnership with King Fresh.
Team Living Proof LLC, the brand and company started by Navelle Hice, was inspired by true-life events, including a near-death experience that gave his life an overall powerful meaning. “I didn’t know if I would be able to walk again,” the “L.W.G.D. (Look What God Done)” architect said via email to BET.com. “With God’s grace, I’ve seen things that seemed impossible, be possible.” Team Living Proof LLC is a movement meant to show others that obstacles are but small things to a giant. “Always remember, we all can be living proof that it’s [about following the] light at the end of the tunnel.”
“[The relationship] with King Fresh happened organically and made the creative process full of chemistry,” the Chester, Pennsylvania MC said of his collaborative partner. Fresh, born Olajuwan Sims, partnered up with the “Young Chief” to add some bounce and flavor to Blaze Made Us Do It — a project inspired by Just Blaze spotlighting the two for BET’s Next Up competition.
“I think people will be surprised just how effortlessly this whole project came together,” King Fresh added. “The Nissan Experience just fits like a glove and, as [Navelle] said in a song we have together, “It doesn’t feel like work [when we’re together], [it’s] all purpose.”
2. Real name, no gimmicks.
In an industry still full of Lil Somebody and Young Whatever, Navelle made the conscientious decision to stick with his real name. “[It] was just me making a bold statement,” he shared. “A statement that shows I’m not switching characters or being something I’m not.” As a working family man, a Black man who is a cherished member of his community, remaining focused on growing who he is helps listeners to learn just how true the phrase, “real name, no gimmicks,” is when enjoying Navelle Hice and King Fresh’s music.
3. King Fresh hears things different.
Chemistry and communication are two key components for any two-person rap group to survive. If you think of the otherworldly vibes from past icons like OutKast, 8Ball & MJG, or UGK, then it isn’t surprising to learn that The Hopeman and King Fresh don’t play when it comes to knowing all about the other. “He hears things that the average listener doesn’t pay attention to,” Hice commented, highlighting one tidbit that the BET reader would be surprised to learn. “His favorite artist is Slick Rick which, alone, showed me how different his mind works when creating a production.”
“It was divine intervention,” King Fresh added about their working partnership. “I’m his Quincy Jones or his Chad [Hugo of The Neptunes], something of that nature, respectively. It is a fun opportunity to create something new in hip hop, and the way we vibe outside of music is essential to the sound that we were trying to create.”
4. Consistency with ‘Sunday Samples’ bred enriched goal setting.
For 30 weeks straight, Navelle Hice cooked up soulfully rich and complex melodies that he released as new freestyles and videos. “[‘Sunday Samples’] was done in-house,” he commented via email. “So I would create and record [everything] on a Saturday and then have it memorized to do a one-take video, which was filmed by my wife.” The amount of pressure he placed on himself to be consistent and remain sharp with the flows meant that come game time, he’d be more than ready. “Working under that type of pressure felt legendary,” Hice confessed. “At the beginning of the [new] year, I’ll be starting a new series called ‘Can’t Wait Till Monday,’ which will be bigger and better than before!”
5. Blame all of this on Just Blaze.
The two hip hop bullies were given the opportunity to work in a studio together thanks to super-producer Just Blaze. “It was an amazing experience to be in with a legend and the insane team, Blaze Dojo, [and] to learn any and everything from them,” King Fresh shared in a video recording. “As a producer of music, diversifying the emotion between the ones and zeros is what I took from the messages [with Just Blaze].”
“I was always attracted to having a movement that made [an] impact,” said the Team Living Proof CEO. “ “To see the unity and creativity [that inspires me outside of music,] I’m pushed to do things in a unique way.” The platform to work with such a hip hop icon as Just Blaze led to an assignment that turned into Blaze Made Us Do It, and was completed in only six weeks.”
With their relationship really tapped into pushing the culture forward, Navelle Hice and King Fresh have different stories to tell in different ways that will show you just how distinctive their sounds are.
Watch the official video for “Get It & Flip It” below:
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersection of music, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him @KevitoClark.