EDITOR’S NOTE: Marcus Mitchell, aka local Hip Hop artist and inspiration Skandal Da Ruckus Man, passed away this week after a battle with leukemia. In tribute, here is an interview with Marcus from March 2005, written by CityBeat contributor Mildred C. Fallen, from our archives. Check next week’s issue of CityBeat for more remembrances of the fallen Cincinnati music supahero.
To dub Marcus D. Mitchell a “big man” doesn’t necessarily state the obvious. In some cultures, “big man” also translates as a local personality who speaks on behalf of his people, commences rituals and parleys with other “big men.” And facing foes, big men fight for honor.
In 2000, Mitchell, better known as Skandal (or Skandal Da Ruckus Man), flew to New York to freestyle on BET’s 106 and Park and contended with other unsigned MCs on HBO’s Blaze Battle. Today, the self-described juggernaut of Supapowers has been reincarnated as an industry ghost writer and producer after someone attempted to rob him of his ambition last spring.
While he was away, thieves carted away his studio equipment and masters. Although his property never resurfaced, he feels he knew the thief’s motive.
“Damn monkeys!” he declares, still affected. “Whoever stole it was doing it to get at me personally, because they didn’t touch anything else in the house, not even money. It was Easter Sunday, at that! Man, they know they goin’ to hell!”
Depressed and unable to produce tracks or record vocals, Skandal bounced back after supportive colleagues bartered their efforts.
“A lot of cats just saw the opportunity (to barter) and was like, ‘You ain’t got no equipment? Man, I been wantin' to do beats with you for years,’ ” he says.
Producers Fame and DJ Scott pitched in and donated many of the tracks heard on Vet Game, his first in a series of mixtape compilations to be distributed through the internet. Presented by Hall of Justice Entertainment and co-sponsored by Supapowers cohorts CJ the Cynic and Da Kid, Vet Game tongue-lashes antagonists, reprimands local radio and guides listeners of a tour of the Queen City, pointing out its idiosyncrasies.
Rounding out the compilation are appearances from Trina Holidai and Michelle Hollis, Piakan, Science, Donte (of Mood), Hi-Tek and J-Wiz.
“As far as the bangers, look for ‘Get Stole On’ and ‘Spell My Name Right,’ both produced by DJ Scott. ‘The Wrong Nigga’ talks about the break-in on Easter, when I was at Mom’s gate eating a plate,” he says. Thunderous vocals set violators straight as they detonate: “Y’all ain’t do nothin’ but put Skan/Back to ’96 with the hunger pangs.”
Reloading, “The Big Payback” unflinchingly fires direct hits at local black radio and venue promoters for lack of support. On the other hand, he shouts out Big Kap of New York’s influential station, Hot 97, for giving “For the Queen” 30 spins in a week, and says the exposure opened doors for him to sell songs to other artists, which subsidized his upcoming CD, Vigilante World.
“People don’t understand; you’ve got to invest in yourself before that big record deal comes,” he explains.
“For the Queen” traces Skandal’s roots back to Woodward High School “Bomb Show” performances and huddling in rhyme-ciphers against out-of-towners on Fountain Square.
“Before all the fightin’ and shootin’ started, we defended this city against all outsiders,” he says. “It was like something out of the movie Highlander.
“(Cincinnati) always had a beast,” he continues, naming warriors who fell into obscurity. “Regan used to be the most feared in a MC battle; he passed the torch to me and Clips (J-Wiz). Now Ill Poetic is the beast.”
“I used to really, really admire (Skandal),” says Ill Poetic, a solo artist and half of the duo Definition. He met Skandal following the Blaze Battle. “He was battling at Top Cat’s and I was amazed that Zone (the other half of Definition) knew him. He was just one of those people I kept hearing about.”
Although the HBO Blaze Battle episodes are available on DVD, Skandal laments, “Ain’t no honor in battling anymore, so now songwriting is where it’s at. There’s money in it. Cats who are known for their battle rep often aren’t known for making hit records.”
Skandal hopes his upcoming release, Vigilante World, will change that.
“I got the formula,” he says. “The problem is that nobody is rockin’ the (Hip Hop) heads and the streets at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with making good music that people who don’t make music can jam to.”
Having hosted local battles, he observes that today too many MCs lack originality and rely on trading insults to win battles.
“(There) was a time when you could murder ‘em with style,” he says. “Now, you only get response from the crowd when you say a punch-line, which is what I don’t like about battling anymore."
Skandal cites crowd-judged battles and MCs who deliver pre-written raps as the demise of the art form. He also emphasizes that styles differ from region to region.
“A lot of New York rappers spit written (verses) in battles and call it a ‘freestyle.’ And in the Midwest we call freestyling right off the top of the head,” he explains. “We used to listen to the New York style, not knowin’ they was spittin’ writtens in a freestyle, and we thought New York was just ‘cold wit’ it’ off the head.”
But since New York MCs assumed the precedent for battling, Skandal says he and his friends used New York as a benchmark in the beginning until they crafted their own niche.
Endearingly, he refers to his friends Supapowers as “stand-up guys I’d take a bullet for.” But of everyone, his mother is his best friend.
“She gives me an insight to things that you can only get from experience. I’m a true mama’s boy and if anybody got anything to say about it, come holla at me,” he says.
His weightiest ambition is to appeal to the female market and he’s slimming down because he feels that MCs like Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher and Heavy D were merely lucky to be seen as sexy.
“They were rarities,” Skandal says. “When you’re fat, I don’t give a fuck, people are biased. I wanna have the whole package, not just the skills. I wanna have the whole market on lock.”
"ATTN: Biggest bummer post-summer? Our grand opening weekend has been postponed. This weekend’s shows have to be delayed due to a few last minute construction challenges.
We are completely committed to opening the right way to make your experience the best it can be. We just can't in good conscious present anything below the very best.
Says Morrella: “We are sorry to have to delay sharing this magical venue with the music fans of the area, but our first concern will always be to make sure that it is safe and ready for public occupation. The City of Newport, our wonderful construction crews and crew of volunteers have all been working very hard to make this happen. We thank them so much. We look forward to seeing everyone next weekend for CincyPunk Fest. We will announce rescheduled dates for these shows very soon.”
Anyone who had pre-purchased tickets for this weekend’s dates may be issued a refund through ticketfly.com or may hold on to their original tickets for the soon to be announced rescheduled dates"
The grand opening of the Southgate House Revival at 111 East Sixth Street in Newport, Kentucky scheduled tonight at 9 p.m. and The Newbees CD Release show scheduled for tomorrow night, Saturday, October 6 have been postponed. This weekend’s shows had to be delayed due to a few last minute construction challenges.
The 1866 property, the former Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, has been under a massive renovation since May that includes all new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, as well as roof repairs and new flooring.
“We set a very ambitious goal,” said Morrella Raleigh “and we were very, very close.” “We are sorry to have to delay sharing this magical venue with the music fans of the area, but our first concern will always be to make sure that it is safe and ready for public occupation.
The City of Newport, our wonderful construction crews and crew of volunteers have all been working very hard to make this happen. We thank them so much. We look forward to seeing everyone next weekend for CincyPunk Fest. We will announce rescheduled dates for these shows very soon.”
Cincinnati homeboys Walk the Moon have been tearing up the road since the release of their self-titled debut for RCA Records earlier this year, not to mention making the promo rounds all over the television dial (from the late-night chat shows to various appearances on VH1 and an MTV Unplugged set). The band is currently touring Europe with the band fun. ("We Are Young") and this morning they debuted the music video for their latest single, "Tightrope."
The video is Walk the Moon's first since the stellar DIY clip for "Anna Sun," which was made even before the RCA deal was in place and continues to draw massive hits online. If you watch even a few minutes of TV a week, chances are you've already heard part of "Tightrope." The track is used in commercials for the HP Envy 4 Ultrabook.
When Walk the Moon wraps up its current European jaunt, they'll perform a homecoming show Nov. 1 at the Madison Theater in Covington. The show is also the second anniversary of The Counter Rhythm Group, the locally-based music promo group that has worked with WTM, as well as local bands like Wussy, R. Ring and Alone at 3AM. Tickets for the Nov. 1 show are $16 and apparently moving very fast (i.e. it will sell out). Fellow local-gone-national Indie act Bad Veins opens the show. WTM hits the road for a North American headlining tour soon after the Madison show.
Here's Walk the Moon's new clip.
And here's the HP commercial featuring a bit of the tune.
Area Pscyh/Pop/Rock trio Buffalo Killers and vintage Rock/Soul/Pop master Brian Olive will be featured heavily on a new live album that includes tracks culled from performances at the 2012 Deep Blues Festival in Minnesota. The three-day, sold-out fest featured 26 bands, seven of which (including Olive and Buffalo Killers) record for the Alive NaturalSound imprint, which is releasing the live set.
Alive at the Deep Blues Fest is due Nov. 27 on CD, digitally and on "BBQ-sauce red colored vinyl" (the fest was presented by the owner of a BBQ joint near the Twin Cities). Brian Olive has the songs "Traveling" and "Bonelle" on the release; Buffalo Killers open the album with "River Water" and an epic version of "It's a Shame," which is available for free download. Give it a listen below and hit the download button for your very own copy.
Buffalo Killers headline the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre on Nov. 16 with Hollis Brown opening. Tickets are just $8 in advance. Click here for tickets and more details.
You'll also be able to get a ticket (according to the email you'll be sent) at the OFA-OH Woodburn Office, 2718 Woodburn Ave.
Get a ticket to see The National in Cincinnati
To get a ticket, beginning Wednesday, October 3rd at 10:00 A.M. stop by an OFA-OH office listed below and volunteer.
Tickets will be required for entry to the event. One ticket per person.
1112 Walnut Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Doors open: 7:00 P.M.
OFA-OH Over the Rhine Office
1130 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
During the heat of the current presidential election, you can always count on Team Coco to keep those LOLs and ROFLs alive and well. For its weekly Rdio mixtape, Team Coco has procured the perfect songs for a Mitt Romney playlist. Featuring tracks such as Money, Money, Money, Polygamy Blues, I Gotsta Get Paid and many more, this playlist is sure to get anyone’s Romney on.Enjoy! Well, most of you. Forty-seven % of you can
MidPoint News and Updates: Are you ready for some MidPoint! The MPMF.12 kick-off celebration takes place TONIGHT. The pre-party is in The Hanke Building on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. Entrance is down Michael Bany Way, just across from the 12th and Main streets intersection. The party starts at 6 p.m. with a set of “MPMF mash-ups” by local DJ Ice Cold Tony. Always amazing local rockers 500 Miles to Memphis perform at 9 p.m. The kick-off shindig is free and open to everyone of drinking age (even if you think MPMF is “killing teh scene!”). There will also be free Vitaminwater and Eli’s BBQ; one lucky attendee will also go home with free VIP tickets to see The Afghan Whigs’ New Year’s Eve concert at Bogart’s.
Here's an early classic from 500 Miles to get your psyched:
The MidPoint Music Festival countdown is down to just one day. Yup, starts tomorrow. Here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Chain and The Gang (Washington, DC)
Dinosaur Jr. (playing Friday on the Grammer's/Dewey's Pizza stage) isn’t the only MPMF band that was influencing today’s music-makers beginning in the ’80s. Ian Svenonius made his name with influential DC bands Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up, wiry Punk Gospel group that he led with the possessed, wild-eyed intensity of a Southern Baptist preacher gene spliced with James Brown and Iggy Pop. His presentation of the “Gospel Yeh-Yeh” in clubs worldwide proved his reputation as one of Indie Rock’s greatest frontmen, night in and night out. Svenonius’ religious experience may never die; whenever a project ends, he simply finds new parishioners to help him spread the gospel and carry on.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird War. (Mike Breen)
Chain and the Gang performs Saturday at midnight at MOTR Pub. Here's a video for the band's "Certain Kinds of Trash":
The Ridges (Athens, OH)
Orchestral Indie Folk
This Athens, Ohio-based Orchestral Indie Folk troupe has built a solid following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated show dates in town, including providing highlights at a few past MidPoint Music Festivals. So they're not exactly a "sleeper" (because I've seen them and they're great), not exactly a "Local Lock" (though their ties to Cincinnati run deep) and merely on the verge of being Big Shots. Regardless, you won't be disappointed should you add them to your MPMF.12 itinerary. The Ridges — who perform in different configurations, depending on which members are available (including string and horn players) — are currently prepping a full-length album (recorded here in Cincinnati), so fans may even get a few new songs
Dig: Soulful, acoustic Folk Rock that builds into emotive orchestral swells. (MB)
The Ridges perform at Know Theatre on the Biore Strip at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Here's a special video the band made just for the occasion, shot on a rooftop in OTR:
LOCAL LOCK PICK
The Grey Academy (Cincinnati, OH)
Cincy singer/songwriter Josh Hill first came to attention with his band Ellison, which introduced the region to a songwriter with impeccable chops for someone so fresh to the local music scene. The band’s wonderfully crafted Pop/Rock started earning Hill attention both locally and beyond, but in the midst of it all, the songwriter began writing different, darker songs that reflected his changing listening habits, which veered into the still catchy yet less calculated sounds of bands like Bloc Party, Interpol and The Killers. Hill has shown that his skills weren’t limited to Ellison’s instantly hooky style; with The Grey Academy, he brings the same sensibilities to a less predictable, more moody brand of Rock.
Dig: Interpol, Smashing Pumpkins, Death Cab for Cutie. (MB)
The Grey Academy plays MidPoint Saturday, 8 p.m. at Main Event. Check out the band's "In Stride":
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
MPMF news and musings: Three-day wristbands are running low (get 'em here now, quick-like). If you miss your chance (or are broke like me), there are ways to win freebies. (It's the luck of the draw, so don't bank on it, but definitely worth a shot!)
The fine folks at local club conglomerate 4EG (which operates The Pavilion, The Lackman, Keystone, Righteous Room and several other bars around town) is giving away 10 MPMF 3-day passes. Click here for details. And seek out the CityBeat booth at Oktoberfest this weekend, harass our employees and sign up for s chance to win a pair of fancy-schmancy VIP tickets. (You can find the official Oktoberfest guide in the CityBeat on streets right now.)
And now, with the countdown down to just seven days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Laetitia Sadier (France)
Fans of French Post Rock favorites Stereolab need no introduction to Laetitia Sadier. She was the co-founder of Stereolab and also founded Monade in the mid ’90s. Along the way, she was also a frequent collaborator, working with everyone from The High Llamas and Blur to Common and Mouse on Mars. In 2010, Sadier went solo, releasing The Trip on Stereolab’s U.S. label, Drag City Records. This summer, she followed up the record with Silencio, a dynamic album that runs from lush, orchestrated pieces to quirkier electronic Pop to warm Tropicalia, all driven by Sadier’s trademark sensual coo.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Nico, Jane Birkin, Stereolab. (Mike Breen)
Laetitia Sadier performs at the Contemporary Arts Center on Thursday, Sept. 27, 11 p.m. Here's her new video for the Silencio tune "Find Me the Pulse of The Universe."
Denney and the Jets (Nashville, TN)
Denney and the Jets may be one of Nashville’s most mysterious bands. A Google search reveals almost no biographical information about them, just plenty of references to the quote on their Tumblr page. (“One warm night in July an angel came to me and said, ‘There is nothing I can do for you. Nashville is dead and so is Rock ’N Roll.’ ”), which brings up an interesting question: Do you need to know anything/everything about a band to enjoy their music? As far as Chris Denney and his Jets are concerned, the answer would seem to be a resounding “Hell no.”
UPDATE: Since the official guide went to press, we dug up (i.e. got a press release with) info on the group. From their PR:
Frontman Chris Denney began writing songs in the Spring of 2008, recruiting Wes Traylor (Natural Child), and Jake and Jamin Orrall (of JEFF The Brotherhood) to be the very first of his Jets. After each member parted ways to pursue their own individual careers, Chris signed on Daniel Pujol (eponymously of PUJUOL) and Joe Scala. After Pujol's departure, Denneysolidified the lineup by adding longtime friend Sean Cotton on lead guitar, Joe's little brother Evan Scala and most recently bringing in Ric Alessio on keys and sax. Denney and The Jets have turned songwriting into a full realized communal process and have grown in to one of the South's finest.
After releasing a 7" single and EP (a limited Cassette only release) on JEFF The Brotherhood's Infinity Cat Recordings, the band returns with their new 5-song Self-Titled EP on Miami, FL-based label Limited Fanfare Records -- Recorded in the Spring of 2012 with Producer/Engineer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, The Parting Gifts) -- with "Close The Blinds" recorded at Cleft Music by Nashville legend, Loney Hutchins. The result is an insanely fiery batch of tunes that Nashville Cream calls "[Straight-up rock and roll music] — not bastardized, compromised, corrupted or contaminated."
Dig: Bob Dylan and Paul Westerberg get drunk on bathtub gin and listen to Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys. (Brian Baker)
Denney and the Jets play MidPoint on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11 p.m. at the Cincinnati Club. Dig the vintage swagger on this track, "Fun Girls."
LOCAL LOCK PICK
Jody Stapleton and the Generals (Cincinnati, OH)
Jody Stapleton has always had an ear for the past and a finger on today's pulse. With the Stapletons a decade ago, Stapleton made Psych-fueled Garage Rock that sounded vaguely phase shifted from another time and yet completely fresh, a talent that earned them CEA awards for Best New Act and Rock Band of the Year in 2001 and 2003 respectively. With his new outfit, Jody Stapleton and the Generals, Stapleton is similarly tapped into bygone days, this time the sunshine-on-your-shoulder days of '70s AM radio Pop, combined with a modern sensibility and approach.
Dig: Paul Westerberg listening to a transistor radio tuned permanently to 1973. (BB)
Jody and the Generals perform Thursday, Sept. 27, at Main Event, 11 p.m.. Here's a few tunes from the band's recent debut release.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
Zeng is an award-winning performer and a music educator but he’s never ventured into song writing, until now. He’s currently working on an upcoming album titled Through These Doors about the discrimination he’s faced and he wants to influence others.
"During difficult times in my life, I have always turned to music. This time, for the first time, I was inspired to write and perform my own music. After personally experiencing discrimination, I hope that my music will help others who face similar situations,” said Zeng in a press release.
Combining his story with his professional knowledge in opera and musical theater to create an album that’s both emotionally driven and musically appealing.
His singles “Through These Doors” and “Now” are currently available on iTunes and other major music distribution sites, but audiences have to wait until October to get the full album.
Zeng is hosting a free launch party on Friday, Oct. 19 from 8-10 p.m. at the Below Zero Lounge in Over-The-Rhine. The party is open to the public and those attending will see Zeng perform his singles as well as unveil other album songs.