Musically, Cincinnati has seen its share of shooting stars in the last decade. A couple were light-years ahead of their time and blew up a few spots, but most disintegrated or got sucked into a black hole of existence. Notably, though, Moe' Tre, former Chicagoan and R&B singer-turned-rapper, says that he and his management team saw mainstream opportunity here when his sports anthems for the UC Bearcats and Cincinnati Bengals began to generate noise.
"Basically, management came up with an idea to create a buzz, which would lead up to an album. So to create a buzz, since we're not getting any spins, we thought we'd take a bigger corporate approach," he explains. "I figured that would help both the teams and myself."
As a result, his song "Crosstown 101," which chronicles highlights of the annual rivalry game between UC and Xavier University, became the theme for the 2004 Crosstown Shootout. The same year, Moe' Tre updated the Cincinnati Bengals' traditional "Who Dey" call/response with the lively, "We're the Cincinnati Bengals," bringing a party atmosphere to home games.
Moe' Tre's enthusiasm also won over the audience of BET's Freestyle Fridays, where he became champion of one round. After a year of consistent accomplishment, he saw his new-found notoriety as a mixed blessing.
"The good: buzz, press, attention. The bad: Friends that you ain't heard from in 10 years find your number," Moe' Tre says.
He also thinks his lyrical ability gets questioned by "back-packers" who aren't impressed with his crossover appeal. His response: a shrug and an "oh, well."
"I haven't been rapping that long. But because of the support I had, as far as the manager and the lawyer and all that, I advanced quicker than, say, some people that's been rappin' ever since they were 8," he says.
Confident that he has what it takes to succeed in an industry usurped by overnight sensations that flop, Moe' Tre describes himself as "a chameleon artist" who can adapt because he writes well, which is why he traded in a fledgling singing career to MC.
At 15, Moe' Tre performed as part of an R&B boy band that later caught the attention of Michael Bivins, then an influential producer of new jack groups such as Boyz II Men and Another Bad Creation. The group became known as Subway, who recorded one album for Bivins' now-defunct Motown imprint, Biv 10 Records.
But before Bivins' decided to sign anyone, Moe' Tre learned the final formation of the group wouldn't include him. This bittersweet fate led him south to Cincinnati where he later revamped himself into a rapper in search of a worthy challenger.
"I kinda took the 50 Cent approach when I first came to Cincinnati," he says. "I just wanted to battle anybody that was supposed to be hot to get my name up."
Finally, he impressed an owner of a management company who noticed his drive and invited him aboard.
"I thought he was hot, and he had all the qualities I was looking for in an artist," says Ricky Whitmire of Thin Ice Entertainment. Since their connection, Whitmire also paired Moe' Tre with Thin Ice's R&B vocalist, Lauren, and together they recorded the sexy single, "Fashion Show." Whitmire says he looks forward to hearing from several labels that seem interested in signing Moe' Tre. The MC says he appreciates the role Whitmire plays in his development.
"As artists, we're supposed to be concentrating on writing or in the studio creating," he explains, adding that being able to focus on honing his craft makes him a better entertainer.
His mixtape, No Spins, will hit local retailers in June and features shout-outs from Slim Thug and Da Band's vocalist, Sara Stokes. While Spins rotates a flurry of styles, two of its standout tracks are street bangers: "Crack Unit Freestyle," with its old school, low rider feel, and "Huh Who Wat," which takes in stride the confused reactions and mean mugs from people who have never heard of him.
According to Whitmire, Moe' Tre will be featured in Source magazine's "Unsigned Hype" column and XXL magazine's "Show & Prove" this summer.
For more on MOE' TRE, check out thinicemusic.com.