Jermaine Foster's alter ego, Jermiside Scarwell, has an undying love-jones for Cincinnati. He reps for her on CD. She doesn't know. He moves away. She doesn't know.
After contending in Top Cat's Wednesday night MC battles, releasing the slept-on CD, Biology of Kingship, in 2003 and relocating from Forest Park to Atlanta in 2004, the Rip/Smash recording artist harnesses his energy as one half of The Red Giants, in which he and David "Brickbeats" Gray present sentimental sides of Hip Hop and Cincinnati.
"I love Cincinnati. It's home. Nothing can beat it, really. It's where I'm from, so I'm always gon' represent it," Jermiside says.
"There's a lot of talent here, and being in Atlanta, I'm realizing more how talented the people up here were."
His anonymity in Atlanta helped him focus on writing when Brickbeats, co-producer of Cincinnati/Brooklyn trio, Tanya Morgan, mailed him tracks, which spawned a "He's the DJ; I'm the rapper" relationship. He'd write to the ones he liked, they'd meet in Atlanta to record.
Telltale signs of homesickness are embedded in The Red Giants. Peep inside the album logo; the letter "i" bears likeness of the old fountain that outstretched her arms to visitors of Fountain Square. Without coincidence, the name Red Giants alludes to the Cincinnati Reds' unrelenting heyday as The Big Red Machine. But on a much grander scale, the name also personifies some of Jermiside's sentiments toward Cincinnati and Hip Hop music.
After reading an Internet page that described billion-year-old stars too weak to radiate called "red giants," his connection became three-fold: dying, late-stage evolution stars, Cincinnati's dying interest in its consummate culture and Hip Hop's dying interest in itself.
"(A red giant) is basically a star that's on its way to dying out and as a result it gets hotter and shines like three times brighter than the sun," Jermiside says. "It's like a metaphor for Hip Hop. People kinda think Hip Hop is dying off, but we're like, 'OK, if it's dying off, we're gon' shine even brighter than when (Hip Hop) was in its heyday."
Jousting wordplay and nostalgic pop culture references make The Red Giants feel like revisiting complex mid-1990s MCing. Not surprisingly, Jermiside cites the Artifacts' Tame One, Nas and Ras Kass as writing influences. "The way they're fittin' these syllables in between bars is just amazing," he says. "Ras Kass, he used to say stuff that made you rewind the tape, and there'd be stuff you wouldn't catch until two or three months later," he says. "It's like the gift that keeps on giving."
Jermiside likewise spits more than the ear can absorb in one sitting. "I like having stuff where people might not catch it the first time, but after a couple of listens, down the line it's like, 'Oh, I understand what he said now.'
"A lot of stuff you hear right now, I'd say 95 percent of it, you can sing along with it right after you hear it," he continues. "That's kind of a good thing, but me personally, I'd want the listener to just think a little bit."
Metaphors swelled with imagery alert the senses, making nimble fingers rewind a rhyme as Brickbeats' "Impeach the President" — styled drums snap precise 4/4 time. Chopped and filtered Soul and Jermiside's introspection about everything from hot leather car seats that "scorch your leg" to "white tees on black-ass kids" feel like an overcast day, cruising in a Monte Carlo, bumping a Hey Love! compilation inside the deck.
"I intentionally made (The Red Giants) more lighthearted, not as deep and heavy as my first release," Jermiside says, with the exception of "Good Morning America," a two-minute bulletin that recalls grisly headlines that shamed the nation. "Soundgazing," "FP," "Oneder Years" and "Beautiful Day" share episodes from Jermiside's upbringing, which include discoveries of Hip Hop, girls, Atari and Pan-African literature.
Affiliated with The Lessondary, a clique of grassroots focused MCs spanning Cincinnati, Brooklyn and the Bay Area, Jermiside says of The Red Giants' material, "It really wasn't a specific direction we were trying to fire in, we just said, 'Let's just sit down and try to make the best music we possibly can, represent what we see as Cincinnati, and go from there.' "
THE RED GIANTS (myspace.com/theredgiants) perform at Between Rounds Sports Bar in Madisonville on Saturday and at The Greenwich on April 26.
The Red Giants