Mike Breen at CityBeat has been gracious enough to give me a monthly column to exercise my thoughts and ambitions on the Cincinnati Hip Hop scene. So without further ado, here’s a brief synopsis of who I am and why you should care to read to the bottom of this column. (Heads up: I dropped out of English 103; I am no Kathy Wilson.)
I moved to Cincinnati from Dayton to attend UC in 2000. I dropped out of college a couple years later, but only because I was too addicted to the Hip Hop scene. What started out as high school ciphers and battles back in Dayton grew to UC talent shows, Top Cat’s battles, Scribble Jams and a lot of forgettable shows. All necessary and most fun. Over time, I branched out of the city, along with my cohort, Zone (together, we’re Definition), and began performing around the region. It was at this point that something began to not sit quite right with me.
Let me rewind, though. I look at a scene like a family and it’s my personal belief that the parents of a scene have a responsibility to teach their children how the world they grow up in works. In the early 2000s we were those children, running around with flyers and burnt CDs, trying to get signed to any label we could because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do. It was then that I began to have a growing issue with the lack of knowledge that was being passed down to our generation (spanning the early and mid 2000s).
It’s counterproductive to name names, and there were certain key people (whaddup Piakhan) who were fantastic teachers. But for the most part, nada. On some Onyx shit — “All we got iz us.”
This was a blessing and a curse. It might’ve taken us longer to establish ourselves, but now we’re doing it. And we’re doing it with a full understanding of how the system works.
No disrespect to the groups and artists set to blow in the early and mid 2000’s (there was one every summer). I genuinely respect their drive and music. But with all due respect, fuck these false starts. Every summer felt like the summer, the summer Cincy would “finally” be on the map. But it doesn’t work that way. It works on a much more long-term level and takes a lot more work.
We can’t continue to hope for some magical beans to grow an interest in our city’s scene. How can a major label sign any of us when they’re laying off A&R reps and VPs across the country? Even superstars on a label are on some Mobb Deep shook shit.
Last fall, I left Cincinnati to gain a perspective of the city from the outside in. And even I wasn’t prepared for the perspective I’d gain. The same city that suffocated me from the inside looked so beautiful on the outside. After touring the world, traveling back to New York and then (kind of) settling in Columbus, I can truly appreciate the talent that the Cincinnati Hip Hop scene has to offer. And it’s building something special.
However, from my perspective, I also see the limitations that still exist in Cincinnati for artists. These monthly columns are like chapters. If you save them and put them all together, they should be able to build a template for the 2009 (and beyond) Cincinnati Hip Hop artist/group. I don’t claim to know everything, but I’ve seen and absorbed a lot over these years, and I want to pass the info down in the most responsible manner possible.
Over the next year or two, I’ll be writing columns in CityBeat that deal with a range of issues for a lot of people in the Hip Hop scene. I’ve been an artist, producer, promoter, booking agent, engineer, graphic designer and a lot more. And I’m honestly not the best at any of them. But I definitely know what the hell I’m doing at all of them. With that said, I want to share the perspective of each of these job titles so that everyone in the scene can understand what everyone else does a little better.
Every time I come back for a visit, I get re-inspired to do this because there’s just too much fly shit going on in this city for it not to be noticed. I’ll be working my ass off 25 hours a day just the same to spread my and our vibe out to the country, press and world the best I can. All I ask is that everyone just keep hustling forward. In the interest of city and scene unification, I honestly believe we can do this. And if we can’t, the generation following us should have a hell of a blueprint to lead off with.
If you’ve made it this far, then stay with me every month. You might never use 95 percent of this, but it’s worth it for the free 5 percent. And CityBeat is free. So, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Fuck it.”
ILL POETIC performs Saturday at the Gypsy Hut with Zone, DJ Rare Groove and Eclipse. His column will appear in CityBeat monthly. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.