It's August's Scribble Jam Festival, and the parking lot of Annie's Entertainment Complex is crawling with MCs slinging CDs and flyers. Amid this, MC Till walks up, hands over his CD, Beautiful Raw, and holds a conversation. Some other guy announces, "He's from out of town," butts in with a hard sell for his CD by freestyling -- ad nauseam -- to the point that a huddle of people finally tell him, "Sorry, I don´t have any money" like he's a panhandler.
"I think we're in a place and time where people know what good rappers sound like, so that's not a novelty anymore," Till explains. In the beginning, his question was, "How do I stand out?"
Being interactive became Till's way. He books quirky little "home tours," playing in people's living rooms -- flyers advertising may say, "Show at Cathy's House." Or, he'll write beautifulraw/Podcast.com blogs to brief people about the CD:
"Beautiful Rawis the passion for (and against) something or someone, like a previous girlfriend," Till writes. "It is how I looked into her eyes and saw beauty then heard her talk down to me and (I) felt ugly."
The West Chester rapper credits a guy named Ralo from Indianapolis, who puts on free shows by raising money through churches and generous benefactors, for giving him the idea to write blogs.
Till recalls, "I was just talking to him like, 'How do I get my music out to the people a little bit more?' And he said, 'Write emails. When you write emails to people or blogs, don't just promote yourself because people can care less. They don't know you, they don't know about your new album, just be personal with them, just tell 'em about what's going on in your life, how the music's going.' And so I do that, and it works. When you're authentic with people, I think they appreciate it."
"In June, I sent out emails about relationships," he says. "In July, it was about Hip Hop. In August we kind of fused Hip Hop in with the Church."
On the album, Till questions incongruities he finds in the institution of church, Hip Hop and in women. Together, these entities form sort of a triptych he places on a pedestal one moment, and is ready to tear down the next. On the cover, cutouts of Till, a boom box and an estranged woman pulling him in the direction of a church inspire questions: Is he using Hip Hop to endorse the Church? Or is he dissing the Church?
"The concept is that I'm frustrated with the Church, I'm dealing with hypocrisy, I'm dealing with things that are ungodly that are going on within the Church and I'm saying, 'Enough, I'm tired, I'm sick of this, and I'm trying to leave, but there's something that's still pulling me back in," Till says.
"And so with the boom box there, I'm trying to get to some fun, light, innocent stuff, and here's this girl pulling me back to this church. That's kind of the concept of the artwork, and pretty much the album as well."
Prior to Beautiful Raw, Till recorded Black Guy Meets White Man with EMI Holy Hip Hop artist, K-Drama, and on it the two mesh well over lighthearted Disco breakbeats.
"I'm a very optimistic person and I see beautiful things going on, even in the midst of all my frustrations with church, I see such beautiful people involved," he says.
Some of his biggest endorsers include Reverend Freddie T. Piphus of Zion Global Ministries in West Chester, who calls Till a "Christian Hip Hop artist" who "lives what he professes." But Till says being a poster child for Christian Hip Hop would mean being "very evangelical," "converting people and reaching the lost," which isn't his aim.
"I think that what this album does, it allows for discussion. It allows for a place where we say, 'Okay, we know what we've been taught, we know what we've learned growing up, now let's discuss it."
For more on MC TILL, go to myspace.com/mcbeautiful or mctill.com.