Besides releasing new albums on the same day, each act is also known for their community works. Till is a part of non-profit organization the Walnut Hills Fellowship, which helps Walnut Hills residents in need; Little has taught a course for aspiring Hip Hop artists in Evansville, Ind.; and MC Forty has assisted with Cincinnati’s Elementz youth outreach, serving as a mentor for young Hip Hop performers.
Here’s a little on each artist and their latest recording efforts:
• MC Till has been a positive force in local Hip Hop for the past several years, promoting a tight, fun style that is laced with smartly delivered, uplifting messages that never come off corny or didactic (Till’s religious beliefs serve as the basis for many of his songs). Till’s latest is The Beautiful Shining, a remixed re-recording of 10 songs off of his last album, A Beautiful Break. The tracks pay tribute to legendary Hip Hop producer J Dilla, Till’s “favorite beat maker of all time” who died in 2006 at the age of 32. Till collaborates with the modern Hip Hop hero on the new release (the name inspired by Dilla second album, The Shining) by taking his original album tracks and blending them with Dilla’s beats.
• Like Till, Wonder Brown & MC Forty leave the materialistic bragging and violence glorification to others in favor of thoughtful lyrics that are constructive and, most importantly, honest and real.
The duo’s Walking Words album features a lot of Cincinnati shout-outs and references while the lyrics veer from the personal to the socially aware (often simultaneously). The pair’s distinct flows and vocal tones work well together as they trade off or intertwine rhymes, while the production is dazzling, combining choice samples and loops to create a radiant backdrop of Soul vocals, strings, piano, horns and more. Mixed with fluid, funky beats, the album is a wonderfully satisfying listen from start to finish.
• Sean Little — who was born and raised in Cincinnati and currently resides in Evansville, Ind. — has worked with Wonder Brown (member of the Scribbling Idiots collective) previously on the collaborative album a love aPhiliated, and it’s easy to see how the two bonded. With a similarly crafted mix of tastefully integrated R&B and Soul samples (as well as a nice Reggae groove on “Shame”), Little is releasing his latest, VS, at Rohs. Little seems to thrive on collaboration — the new album features several guests, including Braille, Cas One, Playdough and others (Little appears on the new Wonder Brown/MC Forty release, as well). VS seems to focus on how to deal with adversity, relationship issues and staying true to yourself and it includes each track’s instrumental version for aspiring remixers or Sean Little karaoke hopefuls. Highlights include “Zenith,” the fantastic closer that is built over a compelling Electro synth riff and includes some turntable pyrotechnics from DJ Aslan.
Expatriates Come Home
• Singer/songwriter Holly Spears celebrates the release of her first full-length album, Heartache to Hope, at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley this Friday. Spears is a West Virginia native who met Eliot Sloan of Cincinnati’s Blessid Union of Souls while interning at a radio station. Sloan worked with Spears to craft and sharpen her sound, leading Spears to eventually move to Cincinnati after high school. Produced by Mitch Dane and featuring contributions from the members of hit Christian AltRock band Jars of Clay, Heartache to Hope showcases Spears’ acoustic-based, exceptionally catchy songwriting and magnetic voice. Alas, recording in Nashville must have rubbed off on Spears — she has recently relocated to Music City to pursue her career. Friday’s showtime is 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $10 (from brownpapertickets.com) or $12 at the door. Carole Walker and Maureen Murphy open. (hollyspears.com)
• Singer/songwriter and visual artist Matthew Shelton recorded a handful of songs in Cincinnati before relocating to Chicago, so this Sunday he’s returning to town to host a free release party at MOTR Pub (with an early start time of 7 p.m.). The Waltz EP showcases Shelton’s eclectic brand of Indie Folk and has a lot of local connections. The EP was recorded in Cincinnati with Dwight Dyer (soundman at Mayday and leader of the Sexy Time Live Band Karaoke band) and mastered by Austin Brown (Staggering Statistics, High Heels), while Lisa Walker of Wussy sings backup on “Our Better Selves,” a song written by local Folk singer/songwriter Chris Haubner (The Sheds). The record also includes a cover of Wussy’s “Jonah.”
Shelton is working on new recordings in Chicago and his latest series of “lightboxes” (the visual art medium he’s most known for) is a collaborative project with Jad Fair (Indie Rock pioneer with Half Japanese) that will be exhibited later this year. Check flexyourlovemuscles.com for more on Shelton’s recent works.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org