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As D.C.’s population continues to expand, so does its arts and cultural offerings. There’s a plethora of unique organizations like DC to BC, Rock Creek Social Club, Bombay Knox, and Broccoli City magnifying the artistic side of the city—specifically its music scene—but it’s a new collective on a quick rise that could be the next hub for music and culture in the District, and beyond.
This group is The HRCHY C.I.A.—short for The Hierarchy Creative Intelligence Agency—a creative agency that’s been spotlighting some of the D.C. area’s most promising new artists, including Virginia’s Masego and up-and-coming D.C. rapper Kelow. Founded by Chanelle “Airplane Penelope” Whitfield, HRCHY is making waves in D.C. not just by premiering new music on its hyper popular Soundcloud page, but by throwing unique and highly popular events in the area.
But before HRCHY—which also includes Camille Camejo, Sofia Hassan, Sade Mckoy, Nadia Ford, Synclaire Taylor, Roda Hassan, Jasmine White, and Erniece Dawson in addition to Whitfield—into fruition, the nine women who make up the agency were managing huge events around the country, like the Fader Fort at SXSW, while Whitfield worked with local music collective Bombay Knox. “I used to help Bombay Knox with some of his events,” the founder tells City Paper. The relationship with Knox soon lead to HRCHY’s first live event, “Fort Knox,” in 2013, which included several nationally known artist including Denzel Curry, Sir Michael Rocks, and Key! Later in 2013, Whitfield later helped put together a listening party for M.I.A.’s album Mathangi for BC to DC, which was one of the most popular listening parties in D.C. that year.
While HRCHY has curated some critical events with national talent in the D.C. area, it has a deep-rooted history spotlighting artists in the local scene as well. “We used to basically have residencies at Everlasting Life Café, back when the Carry Out DC hosted open mics there around 2010, and we literally started a whole alternative D.C. underground music scene for kids,“ Whitfield says. She also went to school with several D.C. artists including Sir EU, Kelow, Avionadramida, and Cal Rips, which has helped her establish homegrown relationships with rising talent. Currently, HRCHY is also working with a number of D.C.-area artists, including Nappy Nappa and Kendall Elijah, premiering new music from the artists through Soundcloud.
HRCHY has made a quite a splash in the local scene in recent years, but it’s outgrowing its pond. “We are not strictly D.C.-based anymore.” Whitfield says, “we’re going to be stationed all over. So stay tuned.” Whitfield also says that they’re working on hosting an event at next year’s Art Basel in Miami. And as it gets more popular, it strives to spread its female-empowering message through its work: Just a couple weeks ago, it dropped the first in its new playlist series, Girl Gang #1, featuring all women musicians.