There's no father to the Animals Crackers' style of music. The group, made up of 8.27 esoteric white boys, meld together the basic foundations of Hip Hop—turntables, mixing and rhyming.
On the back of their latest album, Vanilla Haters, they describe their music as "a new insane musical line completely reversing all concepts known, ever removing simplicity."
Animal Crackers befits this clique: late-night trips to UDF for Heineken, Camel cigarettes and junk food. The personalities of the members are as varied as a pack of Life Saver's: Noah (the Cincinnati Kid), a tri-polar dred-head; Tobe (Casual T), a driven, unassuming guy; Dan, a John Updike character; BJ, a high-strung candidate for Ritalin; Haiku, the newbie; Mike, quiet and stoic; Casey (Snow King), charter pilot by day and Cracker by night.
The only real animal to speak of in the group is an unnamed turtle.
Noah got his first turntable at the tender age of 13. Two years later at Princeton High School, we befriended one another.
Eccentric and full of adolescent angst, Hip Hop bought us together. Before Jay-Z was Big Pimpin and when Diddy was still Daddy, Noah was my personal DJ and I his captive audience, as he spun records in his parents' attic.
Noah met Tobe through his brother; the pair hooked up and the Sharon Road attic studio relocated to Tobe's attic, birthplace of the Animal Crackers.
An unassuming building on Cherry Street in Northside is the current Crackers location. Studio 210 looks like it could have doubled as a set for AClockwork Orange — half mannequin bodies in a shopping cart, street signs and green carpeted walls, all a little unsettling at first. But inside those walls each Cracker can be himself and make the music he loves.
The group's single on the Scribble Jam 2003 compilation, "Three Course Pork (verbage mix)," is like listening to a latter-day version of the Beastie Boys, except the Crackers' rhymes are clever, the beats are phatter and their scratching can't be fucked with.
Despite Cincinnati's finicky appetite for Hip Hop, the two-time Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners have been able to carve out their own niche. They hold it down every Wednesday night at Top Cats and wherever a rhyming or scratching battle is jumping off. ©