#Blakron | Sounds of Blackness

written by John Dayo-Aliya, photos by Shane Wynn



1992 was an important year in my life. It was the year we finally got MTV and the year I, at the ripe old age of 7, wandered into 2 Live Music and bought my first cassette single. The song was “Real Love” by a then up-and-coming hip-hop soulstress Mary J. Blige.  Throughout the years I spent a lot of time at 2 Live Music (or simply 2 Live, for those of us in the know). As I grew, so did 2 Live. It went from an intimate, if not slightly claustrophobic space in the Hawkins Plaza to the much larger superstore now on Vernon Odom Blvd.

For me, 2 Live Music is as much a part of the cultural landscape of Akron as the Beacon Journal or Quaker Square. It’s a uniquely Akron, unapologetically black fount that fed my love of anything with a hot beat and a beautiful melody, and it filled my young life with shades of life-affirming blackness.

When I first conceived of #Blakron it was in an effort to celebrate places like 2 Live Music, places that are mainstays of black life in Akron but are not often part of the larger conversations about the city. #Blakron was born out of a need to have a broader conversation about what Akron is for black people.

This project is about catching a glimpse of black lives in Akron. What’s unique about our neighborhoods? What memories, trauma or transcendence do we associate with the streets, establishments and institutions in this city? What stories do we have to tell that no one has asked us about? How did we get here? Why do we stay? What has the city taught us?

The first thing you need to know about AaRron “Ace” Epps is that he is the best rapper alive. Even Notorious B.I.G. agreed …sort of.

Ace’s encounter with the icon occured at a promotional tour stop at 2 Live Music, where he worked in the mid-1990’s.

“I told him, ‘I need you to sign my CD, “To the best rapper alive.”’,” Ace says.

B.I.G. responded, “Why would I do that when I’m the best rapper alive?”

Ace says he then dropped a few bars that were impressive enough to convince the legendary MC to change his mind.

“He signed it exactly as I asked him to,” Ace says. That signed CD was stolen in Atlanta two years later, but it doesn’t diminish the experience because something special was happening at 2 Live.

Founded by Norma and Vic Heard in 1991, 2 Live Music specialized in bringing the hippest, coolest hottest urban music to Akron.

“We were tastemakers, especially when it came to hip-hop. The community respected our opinions. Cats would come in and ask what’s hot, and I would put them onto something new,” he says.

A conversation with Ace is like a journey through the archives of Black Akron History. From his Jheri-curled b-boy days, winning and hosting talent shows at the Civic Theater, to hanging out with the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan and Busta Rhymes in his beat-up Chevrolet Citation.

Now he’s community manager of BMe-Akron, the local chapter of a national organization that awards $10,000 to black males who are working to build community and empowerment. It’s clear his time with Norma and Vic at 2 Live set him on this path.

“2 Live was a mecca. It was a place that gave me experiences talking to record execs and CEOs. It was a place where industry and community came together, and it taught me how to exist in many different spaces. It was where I was inspired to be an entrepreneur. My life would not be the same if I never worked there. [#]Blakron is about community and that’s exactly what 2 Live Music is to me.”