WhatUpWally? Recruits Cincinnati’s Best Rappers & Producers For ‘Pandemic’ LP

Photo Credit: Chaya J.

Wally Hart, aka WhatUpWally?, tapped some of Cincinnati’s best rappers, beatsmiths and vocalists for his debut album, Pandemic. Spanning across 14 tracks and picking up assists from over 15 MCs – not to mention another seven producers – the sharply-made effort cuts through the noise of other quarantine offerings and provides relevant, outspoken takes, rooted in a love for hip hop.

Pandemic was created during Cincinnati’s COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, with WhatUpWally? first approaching fellow artists with the idea in early March. In what ended up being a four-month process, the album’s many collaborators would send track recordings to each other via Dropbox or work at opposite ends of the studio, the hip hop aficionado/music educator told Audiofemme.

“The result is a full coherent concept album with 26 collaborators that is meant to be listened to from front to back, in order,” Hart wrote on Facebook. “The mood of the album represents the mood of various times during the pandemic.”

Photo Provided by WhatUpWally?

“I thought we were going to end Pandemic on a happy and optimistic note so I sent out a beat to AC [the Entity], SamSun, [Sharp.One], and Wonder [Brown] and asked them to write something with a hopeful tone to end the album with. That was it. The album was finished and it was dark with an optimistic ending,” Hart says, but in the wake of continued police brutality that sparked “the beginning of the largest civil rights movement in the nation’s history, we had to go in and rewrite the ending.”

The police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the likely racially-motivated murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery are most felt in the album’s “Outro” and bonus track, “XPac,” which samples a speech by Malcolm X and interview with Tupac. WhatUpWally? also offers a razor-sharp analysis of systemic racism, oppression and economic disparity in the stinging “Capitalism Kills.”

Besides timely boldness, the album stands out in its sonic diversity. Boasting a wide range of talent, Pandemic has songs for classic hip hop lovers and contemporary fans alike, with the unifying factor being thoughtful lyricism. Scratching and nostalgic flows are on full display in the opening “Cincinnati Cypher” and “Use Your Sword.” A few places down the tracklist, “Duke Energy” stands out as a new-school melodic high-point, where Khari and Spirit swap bars about cutting the negative energy out of their lives.

“Some really dope art is coming out of this time,” Hart noted to Audiofemme. On Facebook, he added that Pandemic is a “representation” of these times and, he hopes, will provide a reflective listening experience.

Check out the album on Bandcamp and see the full tracklist below.

PLAYING CINCY: Music Resource Center Brings Teen Musicians Together


The Music Resource Center of Cincinnati is a stable home for low-cost musical equipment and artistic guidance for Cincinnati’s teens. Four times a year, the organization hosts a city-wide showcase where the public joins the Center as audience members and Cincinnati’s youth can put their talents on display.

“The showcases are a place for our students to perform the music they have been writing and recording in the studio,” said Wally Hart, the Rap Coach and Development Assistant at the Center. “They are open to the public. We invite friends, family, and people from the community to come and see what the students are doing and what MRC is all about.”

Chaya J. sings at Music Resource Center showcase. Photos by Wally Hart.

On Tuesday, May 7th, the MRC hosted another successful showcase with around 70 attendees in the audience. This year marks the org’s 10th year of showcases.

“I love observing the confidence that builds in the young artists with every performance. That confidence goes beyond just the performance,” said Wally. “They gain a greater sense of self-confidence in many areas of their lives.”

Spirit / showcase
Hip hop artist Spirit performing at the MRC showcase.

Soulful brothers Sean and Savion performed original songs, marking their second showcase and original music debut. Rapper Spirit unleashed some verses, following up his EP Now More Than Ever, released last year. Pop singer/songwriter Grac:E held down three original singles. Chaya J., a sophomore, sang three original songs. She recently dropped off her EP, History, It Never Changes, earlier this year.

Spirit closed out the performance with a speech, expressing his gratitude for the Center, as he’s a senior in high school and will soon age out of the program.

“I talked about why I did music, I talked about society’s current issues, moral decline in music… People were touched, and I felt good I let it out,” he said. “Think about it – millions of kids want to rap and make music, but how many get the luxury of recording on professional equipment for as little as 2$ a month… That’s why I am there every day as soon as they open and the moment they close!”

The next Music Resource Center showcase will be September 18. The organization and its staff continue to be a source of opportunity and encouragement in creating Cincinnati’s next wave of musical talent.

When asked why these showcases matter so much to the organization and to Cincinnati teens, Wally replied, “Parents, family, and friends of the students get a chance to watch their kids flourish. Friends and family of the staff get to see why we are so passionate about MRC. Donors get a chance to witness first hand the magic that their contributions assist. It truly is magical.”