Local MC Trademark Aaron has emerged as one of the top up-and-coming Hip Hop talents in Greater Cincinnati with an increased live presence on area stages, compelling music videos and a string of mixtapes and other releases that have gradually caught national attention and shown his impressive growth as an artist over the past four years. That expanding attention should only increase as the Florence, Ky.-based rapper releases his solid new EP, Act Accordingly.
The EP was released on Aug. 5, and this Saturday Aaron will celebrate his latest effort when he appears at the free Beats by Self-Diploma concert on Fountain Square (myfountainsquare.com), featuring national headliner Dizzy Wright and support from area artists Young Ill, Jaylee, Odd Fella, MCB and Jameze Latrail. Showtime is 7 p.m.; Aaron is slated to perform at 9:30 p.m.
Collaborating with producer Corbett, Act Accordingly is musically magnetic, with spacious, ambient soundscapes peppered with thick, EDM-centric tweaks, distorted vocals and shape-shifting rhythms that move between skittish, cicada-buzz beats to heavier grooves. Aaron has proven to be a great hook writer, and the tracks on the EP feature some of his catchiest choruses yet — the sung melodies on cuts like “We Win” (featuring a great guest spot from local MC Powder) and opener “Don’t Sleep” stick in your head almost as well as any Hip Hop-to-Pop crossover hit that has climbed the charts in the past decade.
While previous releases by Aaron have shown him to be a versatile lyricist when it comes to subject matter, Act Accordingly definitely has more of a pinpoint focus, with each track dealing with the drive, hard work, hustle, backlash and pride Aaron has dealt with as his star has risen and talents have sharpened. The lyrics are still strong, giving insight into what goes in to building a name in the Hip Hop game. Typical of the mix of braggadocio and aspiration, on the track “Gold” (featuring driving drums from The Upset Victory’s Aaron Roy) Aaron raps, “I’m a little less rusty since the last time that you heard me/I been staying up late and I been getting’ up early/I been layin’ awake with this feeling I can’t shake/Like I was born to be great and they’re tryna make me wait/But I’m ready now.”
It’s like a smaller-scale Kanye honesty-boast, something West might have busted out on his debut album as he was first fighting his way to the top. It’s not surprising — the approach has been a part of Aaron’s lyrical arsenal all along and he did release an album in 2012 called Prelude to Greatness — but part of the MC’s appeal has long been his deft ability to address a wider range of topics. It’s fitting that one of the EP’s two bonus tracks (available on the hard-copy version of the release) is “The Best,” a powerful collaboration with Cincinnati MC Lantana, who made national waves last year with his single, “All Hustle, No Luck.”
But that missing dynamic doesn’t take away from the overall effectiveness of Act Accordingly. From its monster hooks to its mesmerizing production, the EP should do wonders for expanding Trademark Aaron’s national profile.
Visit trademarkaaron.bandcamp.com to stream/purchase Act Accordingly.
More Local Notes
• The MidPoint Music Festival, returning to various venues downtown and in Over-the-Rhine Sept. 25-27, has unveiled its full lineup and schedule. Around 150 artists will be performing at this year’s fest (which is owned and operated by CityBeat) and the schedule announcement has revealed a few new MPMF venues for 2014. Christian Moerlein, the official beer of MidPoint, is turning over its Over-the-Rhine brewery to the fest, which will run music on a large outdoor stage (replacing the big-tent stage at Grammer’s) and smaller indoor stage throughout the event. The beautiful Memorial Hall, located next to Music Hall and across from Washington Park (which will feature headliners like The Afghan Whigs, OK Go and Chromeo), will also be a venue for MPMF this year. Find the full schedule, ticket info, song samples and much more at mpmf.com.
• The It’s Commonly Jazz music series — free Jazz shows at Eden Park’s Seasongood Pavilion every Thursday in August — kicks off its 29th season this week. Thursday’s opening show features Cincy Jazz favorite William Menefield and his quartet, while the Aug. 14 show also keeps it local with the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (featuring members of CCM’s Jazz faculty and guitarist Dave Stryker) performing. NYC-based saxophonist Camille Thurman will head up a quartet for the Aug. 21 event, while Indianapolis drummer Kenny Phelps — along with saxophonist Rob Dixon and vocalist Cynthia Layne — closes out the series for 2014 on Aug. 28. Music begins at 6 p.m. each week. Visit itscommonlyjazz.com for complete info.