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Josh "Rowdy" Rowsey
Josh “Rowdy” Rowsey

The department is deeply saddened to share the news of Kevin Joshua “Rowdy” Rowsey’s unexpected passing this past Wednesday, April 17, 2024. An educator, performer, and community activist based in the North Carolina Triangle Area, Rowdy was an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill and taught rap and MC lessons for numerous years with the Carolina Hip Hop Institute and the department’s Community Music School.

Rowdy was featured on BET, NPR, and PBS Kids, in addition to giving a TEDX talk on the importance of Hip Hop Culture. On stage, he was a part of the national collective No9to5 Music, and played with a live jazz band (J) Rowdy & The Night Shift, which was nominated for a 2017 Carolina Music Award. The band shared the stage with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Rakim, Ari Lennox, 2 Chainz, Juicy J, and many more.

Aside from his work on the stage, Rowdy held the position of a U.S. Hip Hop Ambassador through the U.S. Department of State and the Next Level Hip Hop Program, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching (UNC Greensboro).

His passion for Hip Hop Culture radiated through his creation of two Triangle Area cyphers, The UNC Cypher at Carolina and the Med City Cypher in Downtown Durham, and his involvement as executive director of the Downtown Durham Afrofuturist teen center Blackspace. Whether it was performing, educational workshops, or curating a Hip Hop Cultural environment, Rowdy tirelessly continued his mission to spread Southern Hip Hop at a national and international level.

Rowdy’s presence will be missed profoundly. Future tributes and memorial plans to follow.

Rowdy performing in DC

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