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ODU Student and Hip-Hop Artist to Perform at World-famous Music Festival

By Brendan O'Hallarn

He's an Old Dominion University communication student and a hip-hop artist. But more than anything else, Vernon Robinson is a storyteller. Soon, to that resume, he'll add South by Southwest music festival veteran.

Robinson, who goes by the stage name RobV, says his songs speak to his experiences growing up in Newport News and express a hopeful view that life can get better. "For me personally, music has always been something to push me to a happier place," he said.

In high school, Robinson, now 21, decided he wanted to try to make a career out of music. "I started working on developing my own style," he said. That style includes infusions of soul and gospel, along with other eclectic styles, into his lyrically focused hip-hop.

Robinson will see "things get better" very soon. He has been selected to perform at the world-famous South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March. He is part of an evening of performers, taking the stage at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 18.

The festival's tradition of providing a platform for emerging artists along with global superstars thrills Robinson. "Being able to perform in the same venue as some of my musical heroes is inspiring, and will provide exposure to my music," he said.

Tim Anderson, associate professor of communication at Old Dominion, met Robinson in his Music Industry class. Robinson came to his office to play Anderson some of his music.

"In class he was quiet, so I was surprised by how boisterous and fun his music is," Anderson said. "The music is a funky brand of hip-hop that is both fun and edgy."

Anderson says he's too old to be an expert in contemporary hip-hop, but he wasn't surprised that RobV was selected to perform at South by Southwest.

"Many people view SXSW as a tech or even a film conference, but it started out as a live music event for new and up-and-coming talent and remains the premier venue for live, up-and-coming talent to find national exposure," Anderson said.

Robinson is grateful for the guidance and counsel he has received from Anderson. To him, it's reflective of the welcoming atmosphere and openness he has found at Old Dominion, where he is a junior. "This school has taught me a lot about myself," he said. "It's so diverse, and with the music I do, I feel like my experiences here have become influences in my music."

Robinson has released two singles on his personal Soundcloud account, and is planning to release his single "Have You?" on Valentine's Day on that site. "It's a story about a female I was talking to and how I felt so strongly about her, but we didn't work out," he said.

Robinson aspires to "deep storytelling" in his music. His first long release, an eight- to 12-song concept piece called "DOAP" (Diary of a Prophet), tells the story of his musical self-discovery.

"Right now, it's really about finding balance. I love storytelling, with a deep message in my music, but I want people to enjoy it without feeling like they are being preached to. It's music. I want it to be fun."

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