Kingdom’s Jamal Cooley has heart. He uses a solid portion of that heart to spread his love of local hip-hop and is an advocate in getting people involved in the scene and getting their voices heard. He’s excited about the upcoming Kittery Block Party and its Foreside Music Festival and, as part of the festivities, he has a mainstage showcase lined up that he’s both excited to play and partake in as a fan.

EDGE caught up with Cooley to learn a bit more about local hip hop, what makes it (and he) tick, and how one can get involved in the movement.

EDGE: Let’s chat about hip hop in Seacoast, New Hampshire. When and why did you get involved?

Cooley: I got involved, seriously, about six years ago. There wasn’t a lot going on in town, but I would often travel to Portland, Maine for a taste of the underground hip-hop scene. My urgency for it derived from a way to channel my frustrations into a much more creative outlet than substances or partying.

EDGE: How has the scene evolved in the last half-decade or so? What’s the importance of it in your mind?

Cooley: Well, it has definitely grown. Rap Night Manchester is celebrating its sixth anniversary. For a while, it was the standalone spot for hip hop. “Rap Night” itself as a brand is an expansion from the scene in Portland, Maine and over the years has brought legendary acts such as KRS-One, RA THE RUGGED MAN, Apathy, AZ, and many more into the area in addition to the immense amount of local talent. But in those six years, the culture has seemingly demanded growth as myself, and a few others have organized events closer to the Seacoast. The importance of it to me is to develop an environment for creativity. Not all the rappers I know started as rappers. Many were in hardcore bands and have gravitated toward hip hop, perhaps because even minimalistic it can be really impactful. It’s also important to me to preserve the culture a bit and encourage young people to continue to harvest their art from a place of sincerity.

EDGE: Your group, Kingdom, has been around for a few years. What do you appreciate about having this platform to spread your messages?

Cooley: I appreciate the community, and those open-minded enough to see the magnetic force of hip hop. Kingdom’s first show included a very successful food drive at 3S Artspace. We raised nearly 2,000 pounds of food for NH FOOD BANK and had a little over 100 people show up to check it out. That was beautiful to me and since then we have been striving to make an impact in similar ways.

EDGE: You also make a go of things as a solo artist, just releasing a solo EP entitled “imPERFECT.” What were your goals behind this collection of tunes?

Cooley: I started solo, with just the desire for fun. I didn’t have any serious goals, but as I noticed friends of mine becoming complacent with just a routine of alcohol and substances, my goal became to fill my life with things more enriching. This latest release was a challenge, by Craig Mosher, who runs the local hip-hop show on WSCA The Graveyard Shift, to put a project out. I’ve been a steady guest of his since he started the show six to seven years ago, and I haven’t really released anything official despite working on band projects and group endeavors. The title "imPERFECT" is a reminder to myself that with any flaws I have I’m perfect ... "imPERFECT."

EDGE: Admittedly, I’m not particularly well steeped in the hip-hop culture around here. The shows I have been at have been very well attended. This tells me that there’s an appetite for this kind of music. Would you agree with that? What can we do to bolster and foster the growth of this medium a bit more?

Cooley: Absolutely, the hunger for it is here. Local emcees have been meeting up recently to discuss this same question, how we can expand it and plug in to those folks who are on the outside. It would be amazing to see more shows like the DRE DAYS that would go down at the Red Door or even toned-down NPR TINY DESK series rap shows, and like a weed it will grow. A little shine, a little water and I’m confident it will bud into a beautiful scene of diverse people of all ages. Our group member Joey Painter has an 11-year-old boy who raps and incorporates it into his schoolwork and gets an impressive A+. Maddoc Johnson from Portsmouth is already an incredibly talented performer who is rumored to be on this season's AGT and rapping under his moniker “Patches.” To grow the medium, we just have to provide the space for it to grow. We have the organizers and all the talent. Just need to be able to book.

EDGE: One step you’ve made is introducing hip hop to the mainstage festivities at the Kittery Block Party. Seems like a perfect fit. What excites you about being involved?

Cooley: It’s my fourth, maybe fifth year involved, but this will be the first year hip hop gets on the mainstage, then hopefully we can slide into Market Square Day next year. I love this event in particular because the nighttime event involves a lot of local artists. Less vendors, more music, and it creates this magnificent feeling in the Foreside. The town of Kittery pays, and lets us do our thing. I would love to see more of that.

EDGE: What’s the importance of collaboration? How does collaboration strengthen not only a song, but a group or movement?

Cooley: I think collaboration has the potential to foster something with much more longevity. I know without Kingdom I would not have met people or opened as many doors as we have. People working together is infectious, it’s hard to not root for a group of people serving the community. We just hope to grow and pass on the attitude. We all should be having fun, but also thinking how we can help our community.

EDGE: Speaking of involvement and collaboration, how do folks get involved? How do you embrace the next generation of emcees, DJs, etc.?

Cooley: Folks can contact me, in person or online. Reach out to Joey Painter, TI - Doub. Craig Mosher from WSCA is another solid contact to get you up to speed on this area’s hip hop. We embrace the younger generation just by encouraging them and reaching out with opportunity when we can.

EDGE: What can folks expect when they come out to the Block Party on Saturday, June 16th? What do you hope they take away from the music happening from the hip hop realm?

Cooley: It’s going to be a blast. When we go on at noon, we get to show who we are. Our music is so honest, and we love what we do. You can expect a lot of energy, some local collaboration ... our family is involved. I know we will gain friends and maybe give birth to more collaborations. Maybe one with the Soggy Po’ Boys – I know a couple of those guys make beats. Who knows? The nighttime event is the first time we have DJ MYTH who runs Rap Night Manchester and is an incredible scratch DJ ... I know he will get people grooving to all the golden era hip hop and '90s R&B records. We are also bringing out Ape the Grim and Chatham The Sun, who are known for their infinite freestyle skills. Balance Brothers with intellectual rhymes over break beats are scheduled to perform. Philly G and Baylen from Boston, Massachusetts. There is a beautiful lineup planned, and it’s absolutely free. It will be memorable!

EDGE: What do you take away from these experiences?

Cooley: I take away love, man. It fills my heart to spill it onstage. See people smile, kids dancing. For these moments, I feel like my voice and my influence are bigger and matter. Also seeing my friends get to do what they love. It all is so wonderful.

Go & Do

What: Kittery Block Party and Foreside Music Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 16 for daytime music; nighttime festival runs 7  to 10 p.m.

Where: Foreside area of Kittery, Government Street through Wallingford Square to Walker Street

Admission: Free

More info: Check out for more information and a schedule of the performances