n A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare based the character of Robin Goodbody on the mythical English sprite Puck. The Bard’s description of Goodbody in the play — he calls Puck “that merry wanderer of the night” — is an indication that he shares many qualities with the mischievous elf.
Springboro, Ohio native Austin Puckett has long been known as Puck, both to friends and to the fans of his Hip Hop performances and his DJ sets. Having read A Midsummer Night’s Dream not all that long ago, he can certainly identify with his namesake’s impish qualities and love of the adventures the night often brings.
“Yeah, definitely, I would say that,” Puck said with an infectious laugh during a recent interview outside Washington Park. “We read (Midsummer Night’s) in my sophomore year in high school, and we would say, ‘It’s kind of fitting.’ ”
At 23, Puck has achieved a great deal, with designs on even more. He’s released a series of mixtapes and EPs, done several accompanying videos and is currently writing new material as well as working on increasing his profile as a DJ. And yet, to catalog all of Puck’s almost unfathomable life accomplishments in his brief but tumultuous existence, his musical aspirations seem like the simplest and most attainable goals of all.
“We’ve put out a lot of videos. I want to put out a lot more videos than I do (recording) projects,” Puck says. “Projects are cool, but it seems people get more out of it when they see what’s going on than when they’re just listening, so for the moment I’m trying to do that.”
The most obvious indication of Puck’s journey is the mode of transportation he’s used to navigate it — a motorized wheelchair. Born with muscular dystrophy, Puck has been confined to a wheelchair for the majority of his life, but it’s done nothing to constrain his talent or ambitions.
“I’ve been rapping since I was 11, just messing around, but when I was in my senior year of high school, we put out an actual mixtape and ran with that. That’s when we started taking it serious,” Puck says. “I started commuting down here to do open mics at (Clifton Heights hangout) Baba Budan, and I’d do some shows at (Covington, Ky., club) Mad Hatter and I’d just catch some steam from all that. I ended up with (local promotion company) Self-Diploma guys and they were throwing a lot of Rap shows at the Madison (in Covington),
and I opened for a lot of people with them.”
Getting into Hip Hop through his brother and sister, Puck found an outlet for his burgeoning creative skills when he shifted from writing poems to writing Rap songs as a teenager. With his friends focused on sports and other school activities, Puck felt disconnected from their experiences, and so that was the subject of his writing. By making his disconnection the focus of his writing, he became connected.
“That’s it, 100 percent. And there was the cool factor, too. I wanted to be cool,” Puck says with a laugh. “I just fell in love with it. There was this show on BET when I was a kid called Rap City. This character lived in his mom’s super decked-out basement and rappers would come and freestyle, and they would play videos that were not exactly mainstream. I would always record it on VCR.”
Looking back along Puck’s relatively
brief timeline, the young man has overcome impediments that most people would consider insurmountable. An alcoholic mother, absent father and his mobility limitations put him in the unenviable situation of having to live in a group home after high school.
The living conditions were so stressful that Puck wound up gaining an enormous amount of weight; if you look at his earlier videos online, you’ll see there used to be a whole lot more Puck.
“I lost like 200 pounds,” Puck says. “I got in a better situation. It wasn’t for health reasons and it wasn’t even a conscious thing. It just happened by living on my own and learning how to do things by myself. And I wanted to look better and fit into some fresh clothes.”
Now living in his own apartment in Springboro with a dog and the help of a full-time aide, Puck’s next benchmarks are weaning himself from his aide’s constant assistance and learning to drive, a new challenge that he’s excited about tackling.
“I fought and fought to get out of the home and now I’m on my own,” he says. “Music is cool and everything and I love it, but I am so hyped to drive. I’m getting more mobile and getting better as time goes on.”
Puck recently spent several months at Elementz, a Hip Hop urban arts centerlocated in Over-the-Rhine, sharpening his DJ skills and adding a few new wrinkles to his set. He gives accomplished DJ and instructor Apryl Reign the highest marks for helping him elevate his turntable game.
“She’s so awesome, she’s like a mom DJ,” Puck says. “She’s seriously the best. She taught me the right way. I’ve been working on that, trying to get some gigs; we just dropped a mix, some songs that I mixed together and put my drops on. That’s another venture I’m getting into.”
Puck is looking to wrap up a new EP before the end of the year, but at least a hint of what to expect from it can be found in the video for the track “Ruined.” Atmospheric beats and effects propel a laconic rhyme about the vagaries of hitting it big while still keeping an eye on the prize, philosophically linked to the positive reaction feel of Will Smith’s early work, but firmly rooted in the sound and sensation of today (Puck loves Kanye West and there’s no bigger innovator in the genre). And playing video games with a Bud Light-slamming Bugs Bunny, as he does in “Ruined,” is a nice touch as well.
“I’m just pumping this last video,” Puck says. “The Internet is crazy, like blogs with Hip Hop, they know they have the power and I’m just trying to do my thing. I need a platform; I don’t have a platform. It’s just me in my apartment sending out the emails. I’m just trying to build the platform to where it can reach more people. I mean, I get it, I know the perception is weird — wheelchair, white dude, it’s kind of wild, but it is what it is. I don’t look at it like that. I love Rap, I’m a rapper and I’m fully into this.”
Check out PUCK’s music, videos and more at puckxmusic.com.