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.”
The National’s set was evidently well thought-out, opening with the powerful "Mistaken for Strangers," with the vocals and drums seemingly soaring through the theater. If you haven’t had a chance to catch a show at Emery Theatre (my first experience was last week), you should certainly make that a priority. The theater, coupled with a band like the National, truly makes for an unforgettable experience. The venue alone creates a sense of intimacy between audience and act, something that is usually sacrificed to see your favorite bands.
From the very start of
the set, the audience was completely engaged with the boys on stage, bursting
into cheers and applause at the every songs beginning and end (and even during
songs at times). The only drawback for me was the fact that Matt Berninger would
simply not let me forget that the show was political. It seemed as if in
between every song some sort of Democratic rhetoric (not that the other side’s
rhetorical strategies are any better) was interjected. Something about the importance of voting, or how
privileged we are, which is somewhat obnoxious at that point. It’s highly
doubtful that anybody was suddenly converted by The National, and even more so
that anyone in attendance last night was slightest bit unsure about their vote.
I suppose that’s mostly my fault, though — I should expect such from a campaign concert.
All that aside, the audience was left in a state of bliss by
the concert's end, as The National closed out their set with an unplugged
version "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." Earlier in the night, I had spoken to a
friend who had said the venue was acoustically pure, meaning that even without
any sort of amplification, the sound would still resonate throughout the entire
theater — and he couldn’t be more right.
The sound was not hindered in any way (I was a few rows back) and it
carried through the historic site as if I was the only one there. The closer truly unified the entire show into
a ecstatic experience that I will certainly not forget.
On Sept. 19, Scruby released Boy Genius, which is his second Hip Hop mixtape in less than a year. In two weeks, Boy Genius is less than a thousand downloads from surpassing Best Foot Forward, which Scruby released last November.
Over the 10 months since officially entering the music scene, Scruby has taken off. While making Boy Genius, Scruby studied at Ohio State University and played a few shows. His biggest shows included opening for J. Cole at May’s BuckeyeThon Benefit Concert at OSU. Recently, he opened for Machine Gun Kelley and performed at Ohio University’s 10Fest.
Along with live performances, Scruby and his team at LandSea Media produced enough videos to keep fans entertained while they worked on Boy Genius.
The wait for the new music was worthwhile. I was instantly blown away at the quality of the music. It didn’t sound as if it was produced in a dorm room, but rather a professional studio. The audio was balanced and the vocals weren’t hidden under a blanket of bass.
As for the lyrics, Scruby uses a mix of wordplay and comedy in his songs, and it works. His tracks follow a life of love (or rather, lovemaking), success and partying. Although I find these themes to be a stereotype of rap, Scruby pulls off the stereotypical rap lifestyle with ease.
Mixtape opener “Double Time” features Cincinnati’s own DJ ETrayn. He welcomes fans to the musical journey before the song begins. The start of this track is reminiscent of Dumbfoundead’s “Green.” This song makes me want to lean my driver’s seat back and drive with one hand on the steering wheel while doing 50 in a 25.
What seems to be a fan favorite is “Fux With Me.” Crowds at 10Fest wore shirts donned with "I Fux With Cal Scruby." The song isn’t my personal favorite, but I enjoy the tour of people who "fux" with Scruby and how he doesn’t let it slow him down.
My personal favorite is the bonus track “Midwest City,” which is a tribute to his hometown, that city where they sin two times. This closes the album and leaves me wanting to hear more from Scruby.
Even though high school is long gone, I can’t go somewhere
without hearing about the guy who was super cereal about ManBearPig and now,
he’s super cereal about his music.
Before I get into to the nitty-gritty of the A$AP Mob, Schoolboy Q and Danny Brown show at Bogart's last night (Oct. 4), I’ve got a couple of bones to pick first.
Bogart’s, what the hell is up with searching your patrons 90 times before they're let in? I mean, I know it’s probably scary having blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos all in the same place, consuming copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, but I thought the presidential campaign event with The National was at The Emery Theatre downtown and not in Corryville. I appreciate your high standards for keeping the venue safe, but next time I go out to smoke a cigarette, trust me when I tell you I’m not going out to get my 9mm.
Secondly, Cincinnati Hip Hop heads, what’s up with your lack of punctuality? We finally had an awesome lineup of up-and-coming Hip Hop artists come to one of our bigger venues and you guys can’t show up and support them? I get it, alcohol is expensive at the venues, you can’t do your drugs there and you may have just bought the ticket to see A$AP Rocky. But next time, show up for the openers. Maybe you’ll find a new artist to know and love.
Anyways, that’s enough bitching; let’s get down to it.
When I first arrived at Bogart’s, it only took until 7:38 p.m. before I got that first aroma of Mary Jane, which not only got more prominent as the night went on but was the perfect precursor to opening act, Danny Brown.
Danny Brown started in a timely fashion (right at 8 p.m.; kudos for actually starting on time, dude) but, unfortunately, it was to a sparse crowd. Though the place wasn’t filled, Brown played to the audience like it was a sold-out stadium.
In his unfairly short 30-minute performance, Brown blew through 12 songs, including fan favorites like “I Will,” “Piss Test” and “Monopoly,” ignoring the fact a lot of people didn’t know what to make of his abstract approach to hip-hop. With his bottle of Hennessy in hand, Brown closed his tight set with the smoke session banger “Blunt After Blunt," which had most everybody in the crowd, fan or not, sparking up and chanting the chorus.
After Brown, member of the Black Hippy Hip Hop group and T.D.E. star Schoolboy Q took the stage. I have been a fan of Schoolboy since I first heard his mixtape, “Habits and Contradictions,” but seeing him live totally change my perspective on him as an artist. He’s got this calm cool on stage and this subtle charm really won me over throughout the set.
Surprisingly, his show was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. His heartfelt song “Blessed” made me want to cry, his need for an inhaler halfway through his performance because he is “sicker than a motherfucker” made me laugh, and cuts like “There He Go” and “Nightmare on Figg St.” made me want to do the crip-walk (don’t worry, I didn’t do it, mostly because I don’t know what it is.)
Although Q ended on a new, bass heavy club-banger, he promised us it wouldn’t be the last we’ll see of him, quieting the hushed moans and groans from audience members waiting to hear his hits “Hands on the Wheel” and “Brand New Guy,” both of which feature headline act, A$AP Rocky.
It became abundantly clear to me that everyone was there to see A$AP after the crowd nearly doubled in size before his performance, especially when I went outside and saw people were still buying tickets (who spends $30 for an hour of music?)
Anyhow, I feel a bit torn as I write this because I truly do enjoy A$AP’s music and found his show to be really fun and energetic. But I ended up being really disappointed by a lot of it. Tracks like “Purple Swag” and “Wassup” got the crowd bouncing and were choice show-starting songs, but there was just too many weird fillers awkwardly inserted in his show. Between his obscure pre-recorded spoken word interludes, his “cockiness dance” inspired by D-Generation X wrestler X-Pac, the excruciatingly long time that A$AP Mob was on stage and handing the microphone out to random fans, it just seemed like he was trying to waste time or something.
Don’t get me wrong, it was really cool that he referenced my early childhood hero X-Pac, gave the fans a chance to speak (one kid even spit a pretty sick verse when he got the mic) and let his crew get some air-time (A$AP Twelvy killed it, by the way) — it’s just not what I paid to see.
But the performance wasn’t all bad. The high energy of his set and appearances by openers Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q gave the show a whole new element. Especially when Q and Rocky were trading verses on “Brand New Guy” and “Hands on the Wheel,” which easily became the highlights of the night.
When A$AP Rocky finally took the microphone back from his exponentially less captivating crew (again, minus A$AP Twelvy; think Odd Future but slightly less talented), he brought some “phonk” to the end of his show by playing drug-induced southern style tracks like “Trilla” and “Peso,” steering the entertaining but peculiar night to a close.
I thought the concert had a terrific atmosphere and you could tell there was a lot of love between the fans and the showmen, making it a wonderfully intoxicating time for everyone.
Now if A$AP Rocky just cut out the filler by playing more of his solo tunes and security at Bogart’s took a couple hits off the chronic (the crowd was smoking and chilled the fuck out), everyone would have had a better time.
At one point during the show Rocky said, “It’s OK to dislike things, it doesn’t make you a hater, you’re just human.”
This really sums up how I feel about the night; I’m not trying to be a hater, Rock, there’s just room for improvement.
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.
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