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Lil' Spence aspires to be hip-hop hero

June 16, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

Lil' Spence, an 11-year-old rapper, calls artists Eric B. and Rakim his hip-hop heroes.

He said Kanye West and Bow Wow are his favorite rappers right now, and said he's known he wanted to be a rapper since he was 5 years old.

"My dad would put on a DVD and I would see (the rappers) on stage," Spencer Morgan said. "They looked like they were having so much fun, the way they moved the crowd. They just had this look."

Spencer writes raps that are appealing to the 12-and-younger set, or as his father Charles Morgan described, "bubble gum" raps. But his accomplishments are far from child's play, his father said.

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Spencer, who lives in Hagerstown, has done at least five shows since he started rapping six years ago, including major shows at Howard University and Zanzibar Night Club in Washington, D.C. He's preparing for a youth talent show July 8 at The Maryland Theatre.

Sometimes, it's hard to think of him as a kid, his father said, especially when he comes up with songs like "Hipolitics" - an exegeses on the state of rap music, current events and President Bush's shortcomings.

"It's always been that way with Spencer," his father said. "I have to slow him down sometimes and say, 'You're only this age, don't worry about it.'"

Spencer, the oldest of three siblings, has chin-length dreadlocks and a tendency to smile when he speaks. He'll be a seventh-grader at Northern Middle School next year.

When he isn't writing songs or listening to rap, Spencer spends a good portion of his time doing "word find" puzzles and playing basketball.

"Oh, and math!" he said. "I really like math."

But Spencer said performing will always be his first love. After hearing his father play Eric B. and Rakim records when he was very young, Spencer said he decided then that he wanted to do what they did.

The first time Spencer ever picked up a microphone, there were about 300 people in the audience, his father said. Spencer cried backstage.

"It's part of my ritual," he explained. "That's just how I get out my nerves."

A few might have noticed the dampness and wrinkles on his shirt when he went on stage, Spencer said. But nobody noticed his nervousness.

"I was so nervous," Spencer said. "I messed up this one part, but my dad said nobody noticed, and I was like, 'For real?' After that I was like, 'OK, this is easier than I thought it would be.'"

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