I’m grateful to have known Marcus “Skandal Da Ruckus Man” Mitchell the last 15 years. The veteran MC, producer, DJ and the man behind Sharkface Entertainment died on Oct. 10 at age 36 after a bout with acute leukemia.
The day I learned Skan died, I looked for the only tangible thing I knew of that we shared, our 2005 CityBeat interview. It was no longer online, so I hit up CityBeat’s music editor, Mike Breen. He quickly retyped it and posted it as a music blog. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when the article was published, so to see it being majorly shared online was surreal.
My heart sank when I thought about our interviews — there were two. During the first, we’d been talking for two hours in Kaldi’s Coffeehouse on Main Street when I discovered that my recorder’s red light was on, but nothing was on the tape. I was devastated but he was smiling and very jovial.
“I don’t care how long this takes,” he said. “You are the only person who ever asked to write about me since I’ve been rapping.”
Skan encouraged me that day, as he’s done with many people in the scene that I wouldn’t know if he hadn’t endorsed them.
For once, my social media feed wasn’t flooded with political propaganda or “Fail” pics. “NY had Biggie, and Cincy had Skan” was one of the first posts I saw. No matter how well any of us in the community knew each other — or Skan — we were in agreement that Cincinnati’s music scene had lost an inimitable titan.
In my opinion, the music industry’s dogged notions of race and class correlating “street rap” with the crime underworld and “conscious Hip Hop” as more palatable intellectually were as stereotypical in the ’90s as they are today. Skan’s down-to-earth personality and lyrical reputation around the city gave him entree into both worlds and he helped to merge Cincinnati’s shadow cultures into a community by being willing to battle anybody, anywhere.
In Corryville’s culturally ambiguous college area, Skan was an unyielding competitor in the Wednesday night MC battles at the old Top Cat’s run by Bobby Nicholas and Vickie Cunningham. Skan said that because he helped the night become so popular, Nicholas and Cunningham, whom he called his “honorary white grandparents,” helped pay for his trip to New York for the HBO Blaze Battle in 2000.
The televised version shows the formidable competitor losing to his opponent in the first round, but Skan told me he had to “battle 30 cats and win” just to get to that round.
Whatever scars he got scrapping in the industry, he did have support. On his single “For the Queen,” Skan shouted out former WIZF DJ Terri Thomas and Hot 97 FM in N.Y. for mainstream radio spins, and club DJs like Scuzzy, Nate the Great, Bizzy Bizz and Adam T.
In his more recent videos that promoted the radio show, The New B-Boys Underground, or events around town, you’ll see he had thin patience for those who shirked work ethics.
On the other hand, in his efforts to unite the scene, he resuscitated Cincinnati’s independent Hip Hop culture. Without the showcases he hosted at Mad Frog, Baba Budan’s, The Greenwich and The Mad Hatter in Covington, the scene would be still be as small as it was 15 years ago. He made a difference to the countless artists and producers who tagged his Facebook wall to say he gave them their first recognition and support. He was a mentor to a new era of Hip Hop.
In memory of Skan, I’m motivated to cut out procrastination from my life. His Twitter hashtag #DoItDoItNow was more than a captivating brand slogan to promote events. It was a reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised, and right now, as a whole community mourns his loss, that couldn’t be more evident.
For a scene with a history of communicating in silos, it’s bittersweet that Skan’s legacy united thousands of people through social media. And if the Hip Hop benefits given on his behalf this past week are any indication, I hope it means his legacy continues to inspire us to be the change he said he wanted to see — Cincinnati Hip Hop finally coming together.