RICHMOND, Va. — This upcoming weekend, an annual community festival dedicated to the life and legacy of one of the area’s most groundbreaking musicians will enter its fourth year.
God’s Morning Foundation will hold their annual Community Festival Saturday, April 29, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church in the city’s East End. The fundraising event will feature food, games, raffles and live music from DJ Marc and local radio show The Listening Party.
Scholarships will also be given to multiple recipients.
The foundation and event began in honor of late Petersburg musician Darrell Durant, also known as Kleph Dollaz. The K-Bux scholarship, given out yearly in Kleph’s honor, is specifically focused on helping at-risk youth excel in the arts, at a university.
Trenna Grice, Kleph’s sister, helped carry on Kleph’s vision when it came to helping young people in the community.
“When he passed away, I got his IPad and read all the things he was trying to do with the youth, and the music,” says Grice. “That’s what really spawned the birth of God’s Morning Foundation.”
“He always planned he wanted to help the youth, that was his day-to-day occupation,” says BJ Morris, former manager, and friend. “Whether it was being a supervisor of the Boys and Girls club or being an at-risk youth counselor, it was always the plan to impact the youth.”
Kleph moved to the Fort Lee base with his military family from Germany in 1986.
He started playing drums at the age of 9 and then attended Petersburg High School, where he met his future rap partner Deeda Bam. They formed the trailblazing central Virginia group The Ill Biskits.
The group’s solemn single “God Bless Your Life,” along with its gritty B-side “22 Years” gained buzz through outlets such as legendary 90s hip-hop staple “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show” along with a couple videos in rotation on BET.
The group signed to Atlantic Records and their debut album Chronicle of Two Losers: First Edition was slated to be released in early 1996 with production from New York heavyweights such as DJ Mike Loe, Lord Finesse, and Buckwild.
Problems with Atlantic at the time kept the release from the commercial light of day. The album would eventually leak and become a cult classic, thanks to YouTube and online blogs. It was officially released independently in 2007.
Meanwhile, Kleph stayed busy making music with longtime collaborators Bear-One and Rahstar Khariz, along with Reaz. He started his own label, Independent Contractors Music, along with producing tracks for Sean Price and Talib Kweli.
Kleph would later on become the minister of music at Mount Olivet. Kleph would never forget his rap roots, releasing Square InThe Circle in 2011, an album that displayed his journey and faith like never before.
“It’s about the struggles each of us go through everyday, especially if you have a great relationship with God,” Durant says, in a 2011 interview.
He also built a studio, dubbed “The Klubhouse,” where he would tutor young musicians across the city how to work an MPC and give advice as well. “Not only were they doing music, it was a place to get together to share and talk,” says Grice.
Kleph would unexpectedly pass away at the age of 40 in 2012.
His life and legacy would be honored almost a year when a mural was painted in his honor on Walnut Alley in Shockoe Bottom. The visual aesthetics of the mural, along with its corresponding quote embodies everything for which Kleph stood.
“He was an MC, producer, and teacher of the youth,” says Morris. “He was a big advocate in music of being yourself.”
The community fair is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mount Olivet Baptist Church, 1223 N. 25th St. For more information, click over to godsmorningfoundation.org
image caption: This mural was painted on Walnut Alley in 2013 by artist Michelle Angela.
Ill Biskits-God Bless Your Life video:
Kleph Dollaz-Square In The Circle: