Former VCU student Chris Scholar, who goes by the stage name Scholar, has created a noticeable buzz with his debut album “Language Arts.”
Scholar opened for Mindless Behavior on tour and has been featured in respected industry publications including Fader and Complex magazine in recent months. Currently, he is working on his sophomore album “Director’s Cut.”
Since the mid ’90s, a swath of popular artists have emerged from southern Virginia’s music scene. The first was Richmond’s own R&B singer D’Angelo, who released his debut in 1995 before going on to claim four Grammy awards and release a total of three critically-acclaimed albums.
A decade later, Tappahannock’s superstar singer-dancer Chris Brown followed suit when he entered the music scene. Petersburg’s Trey Songz released his debut album in the same year as Brown, and Songz has remained one of the most successful music artists to date with more than 7 million album sales worldwide.
Now, another Richmond native has set his sights on maintaining the impressive lineage of record-breaking Virginia artists.
Influenced by the time he spent in church, Scholar said he began singing at eight years old. By the times he began his freshman year at VCU, Scholar was taking his music seriously and had cultivated a loyal internet following.
When one of Scholar’s music videos caught the attention of legendary music producer Jermaine Dupri, an instrumental figure in the careers of artists including Usher and Mariah Carey, Scholar said he had to make a tough decision.
“I was supposed to take a midterm that day and my professor wasn’t going to let me make up the midterm,” Scholar said. “I was supposed to meet up with L.A. Reid and Jermaine Dupri in New York with Sony.”
Scholar said he considers the encounter his introduction to the music industry, despite the meeting not resulting in an official signing. Shortly after, Scholar said he decided to end his time at VCU so he could focus exclusively on his music.
“For me, it was a character builder,” Scholar said. “In high school, you learn about yourself but in college, you become free so that’s what VCU did for me.“
Scholar, whose older brother also attended VCU, said his decision to leave the university wasn’t an easy one, and he is grateful for his time on campus.
“I think colleges are the middle ground because you’ve got students who have little brothers and sisters and spread the music to them,” Scholar said. “They can also do the same to the older generations so I feel as though it’s the perfect medium to push your music through.”
By noting the influence and impact college can have with his music, Scholar also promotes the importance of education with his music. This process started with the creation of his stage name, which he said is testament to his respect for anyone willing to learn and better themselves.
“Music is my education,” Scholar said. “Whether studying artists who are currently hot or older artists — the scholar element is basically just taking all of this knowledge and putting into my music.”
With his upcoming album slated for an early 2016 release, Scholar said his new work is unlike anything he’s released before.
Inspired by legendary artists Nina Simone and Charlie Parker, Scholar said “Director’s Cut” is symbolic of his work being a creation that strictly embodies his point of view.
“Considering the fact that I’m not signed to a major label yet, I think this is the perfect opportunity for me to just say what I want to say,” Scholar said. “When you’re younger, you have a lot of people in your ear and you’re afraid of perception and how you’ll look. Now, as an artist whose grown, I’ve realized that you can’t compromise your art.”
With his eyes set on more shows in the near future, the possibility of a major record deal and the impending success of his new album, Scholar said he sees no bounds for the trajectory of his career and he looks to embrace the energy he’s been surrounded by.
“As millennials, there are no more categories for us,” Scholar said. “I don’t think I’m in a certain genre. I rap sometimes. I sing sometimes. I dance. I just think people are embracing individuality more than ever before.”
Staff Writer, Muktaru Jalloh
Muktaru is a senior double majoring in English and political science with a minor in media studies. Topic areas Muktaru enjoys covering include music, sports, pop culture and politics. // Twitter | Facebook