In five years, Da Muttss will look back on May 29, 2004, as the day they broke ground, crossing sands from Glendora Street onto the stage at Bogart's as the opening act for Cypress Hill. For them, the experience was a nail-biting one, and miles away from the local dives they'd played weekly along Cincinnati's cover-band chitlin' circuit. Moreover, being in front of a larger audience meant they had to really deliver. Despite a couple of failing microphones and a slacking soundman, Da Muttss pulled through and commandeered the audience.
A week before, Donald "My-stro" Williams, G. Benjamin "Bimu" Bishop, Rodney "L-Born" Brown and Douglas "Doogas" Quinn sat fanning themselves with towels in their studio on Glendora, the Sweatshop. Downstairs, two large boxers, Pacino and Hercules, romped about, panting from thirst.
Anticipation is driving Da Muttss to prepare for the upcoming Bogart's show, while a discussion brews about Cincinnati and Hip Hop.
"We're out of the loop," says Bimu.
L-Born, originally from Orange County, N.J., asserts that Cincinnati doesn't have a loop. "I don't feel like you need to be a part of a certain clique to be able to make shit happen," he says. "The grown-up thing to do is support each other."
Groups like Da Muttss continue to play weekly to sparse crowds, so to spice up the sauce, they barter their talents with one another. "A couple of weeks, we tried playing with a live band, and we did the MC-battle thing, but it didn't pan out," My-stro says.
Stagnation weighs heavily on Hip Hop's progression in Cincinnati. For nine months, Da Muttss dedicated Sunday nights to hosting an MC battle at The Mad Frog, only to return to a standstill.
"It seems like we played so much, people got tired of seeing the same show," says Doogas, the group's DJ.
Their remedy for bar-scene blahs would be to break away and produce new material. Describing their style as "wordplay," My-stro explains that their eclectic mixture of influences is what keeps them outside of "the loop." A native of North Little Rock, Ark., My-stro is "city-influenced with southern dialect," bringing back-porch, down-home punch to the party, especially on "Beat Hog," his hog-call to horrible MCs. "Are y'all suey?" The group replies, "Hell naw, Beat Hog!"
In contrast, L-Born brings Brick City grit to the table, making the three MCs a Midwest balancing act between Northern, Southern and West Coast styles.
"It's party influenced, but in a humble way," My-stro says. While L-Born and Bimu tend to talk about partying and kicking it, My-stro says he prefers to talk about going home and kicking it with his family.
Another integral piece that enhances their style are the side-splitting cap sessions that spring up. Bimu throws out the next topic: My-stro's mama. The topic quickly changes.
Back on track, the group listens to some of Doogas' latest projects, ambient instrumentals that sound like a Rock opera of sound bites and deft scratches.
Big papa of the crew, Bimu (originally from Colorado), says that they try to make quality tracks that "moms can listen to, as well as your kids."
Naming Native Tongue alumni as influences, Bimu's plaintive but confident delivery is akin to Posdnuos of De La Soul, especially on the Beatnuts/Grand Puba-esque farce, "No More Brews," inspired by last call at Inn The Wood and Mad Frog. Another standout is "Please Make a Note of It," because of its familial, Native Tongue-esque collaboration with Ron C of Admiral Walker, DJ Mista Rare Groove and guest MC, No Bull.
The group's upcoming disc was mixed by Jay Reynolds of 4-Track Allstars and Freekbass, who helped Da Muttss re-capture the essence of their Sunday nights at Mad Frog. Now, L-Born says Da Muttss wants to be able to "touch the masses." From Sunday collabs to opening up for Cypress Hill, maybe this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. ©