If you’ve been on this site before, you know that this past April I toured throughout Ohio alongside J. Rawls, Illogic, and LxE for the Uncool.
In honor of some of our upcoming shows, I kept a little journal on how the tour went but wanted to wait for the accompanying video to follow.
Video is above, courtesy Arris Productions.
Keep reading below for the tour blog.
A few years ago I was invited by Citybeat to share some journal entries I had been jotting down while touring over in Europe. These entries somewhat led to my current side hustle of faux-journalism with the very publication you’re reading now.
Since I’m on tour again, Citybeat offered me another crack at documenting our experiences up and down the interstates. This time, however, I’m on tour with some Ohio-based friends and artists, so the shows (and adventures around the shows) have a bit more meaning. Also, since I’m writing a tour blog, I’m using it as an excuse to forgo some of my usual “editing” and “proper sentence structure”. From here on out, I’m dressing up my literary ignorance as an artistic rebellion.
So, a quick summary of the cast of characters in this story:
J. Rawls – Columbus Producer/DJ, known for his production and work with such acts as Black Star, Madlib, Beastie Boys, Sadat X, Diamond D and various other really cool hip-hop people.
Illogic – Columbus Emcee, known for his catalogue of independent hip-hop releases, toured the country alongside folks like Soul Position, Atmosphere, Eyedea, and releasing music with guys like Blueprint, Aesop Rock, Slug, and a bunch of other cool hip-hop people
LxE For the Uncool – Columbus emcee, known at first as a member of the group Fly Union, more recently known for killing shit on some national stages, notably CMJ’s last October, SXSW last month, and making some really dope music with some really cool hip-hop people.
Micshon Harper (VoiceOfRzn Management) – Tour Manager, My Manager, Illogic’s Manager. Me and this guy built the tour. The organizer, rental car driver, all around business dude on tour.
Myself – Dayton/Cinci/Columbus emcee/producer.
Oxford – April 8th
Our first official date of this tour was actually last Friday with my dude Rideout and the band Soundscape. Not so much an actual set (J. Rawls had a previous engagement), myself, Illogic, L.e and Rideout bounced back and forth on stage, playing off the band. Sort of a soft launch to the tour, we all got an opportunity to figure out our stage mechanics, chemistry and communicative skills before the biggest show of the tour (so far) would hit. Since we had a week before our first “organized” set, we had plenty of time for rehearsals. Matching schedules for rehearsals slimmed the time down considerably (one of the problems that comes with group endeavors), but everyone pulled through and we got it in. Headed to Dayton to press up some merch and we all suited up for our first set in Columbus.
Columbus – April 15th
There were a lot of rappers rapping about rapping at this show. Talib Kweli was the headliner and we were added in as his opener (alongside a J. Rawls set). Previous to the show, there was a local radio competition involving lots of performances drawn out for the first hour and a half, which in turn drew the night out a little longer than I would’ve hoped for. The crowd was beginning to feel restless as well. At this point, the host, in a moment of anxiousness; has begun to ask the crowd if they’re “Ready to see Talib Kweli”. And of course the crowd goes apeshit, mainly out of impatience and desperation. Then, they brought out an opener (i.e. Us). This pissed the crowd off, which in turn makes it reeeeeally hard for an opener to go in, as the crowd is NOT trying to hear anyone but the headliner now. So we basically walked on stage to boos. But…walked off the stage to cheers.
Personally, it was probably one of the more defining points of the tour, an opportunity to see everyone on the same page, ready to just go in and kill shit on stage to the point where the set was undeniable. I think at one point before we went on, folks might’ve wanted to cut our set, though I’m not sure. But as we already had two camera crews and a merch table out, not to mention folks who came out strong to see us, we weren’t really in the business of stepping off stage. So we got our bars off and bounced. Probably one of my favorite shows in recent memories. Walking into a hail of boos and turning them into cheers and applause feels like some “300” warrior shit, just running into a skyline of arrows, throwing your shield up and walking steadily past them. It was a great way to start the tour and gave us a chance to see just how potent our set could be for the remainder.
Columbus & Kent– April 16th
**Writer’s note – as of this point, I will begin instituting tour slang and inside jokes into this entry. Only a few people will get the references. Sorry to the public, will do my best to explain.
We basically had to be up early the next day to prep for a weekend full of shows (this weekend would house 5 shows in 3 days). We met up at Magnolia Thunderpussy (A record store next to Skullys) to rock a set in support of National Record Store Day. We had a pretty nice crowd. Wives and kids came out, friends came out, barbecue, beer. Everything about the afternoon felt like a nice sunny spring day, except for the lack of sun and spring.
After we rocked, we marched out (aka sold merchandise) and hit the road up to Kent. Kent was our first opportunity to really perform our fully-realized, fleshed-out set. This was the first show where I found myself getting the chance to just watch L.e and Illogic rock, being a fan who somehow snuck on stage. Truthfully, performing is fun as hell, and these dudes raise the #bar so high that it forces me to go in (pause) on my songs, but it’s honestly just as fun, if not more fun, to just watch them perform some of my favorite songs in front of me.
It was about at this point that I realized this is turning into one of my favorite tours period. Not the biggest (at the moment), but the most endearing. I feel like everyone on this tour is a genuine fan of each other. We all know each other’s lyrics, not just because we hear them every night, but because we already knew them before the tour even started. This tour is a prime example of how artists in their own lanes of music can find common bond in the craft and culture we love. We took no time in diving into nerdy-ass hip-hop conversations, dissecting flow patterns, styles, and shit that only rappers and producers talk about, just happy to find more people that care about that shit too.
Pittsburgh & Cleveland – April 17th
We woke up super-early Sunday from Kent to head out to Pittsburgh for an In-store at a really fresh spot called 720 Records. My dude DJ Big Phill brought us out. I hadn’t seen Phill for years. Last time I was there, I crashed at his spot and his wife fixed us all waffles the morning after the show. His son Little Phill was toddler-size. Years later, we find ourselves back in Pittsburgh, where Phill’s wife would again hook us up on food, this time at Red Robin; Holy shit it was amazing. Little Phill grew a couple feet since I last saw him which made me realize how long it had been since I’d visited Pittsburgh.
And on a quick side note, I have to say this. I’m pretty sure the reason Cinci and Pittsburgh keep this rivalry going so strong has to be because the cities are almost exactly the same. EXACTLY. Hills, architecture of houses, overall tone of the city. Rawls (UC alum) could see it too. Same thing. Sorry.
The in-store was fantastic. Great response again. Merched out and prepped for a two-hour drive to Cleveland. At this point, I really started feeling really good about the set we’d all built.
Eventually we made it out to Cleveland. Really strong showing for Illogic in Cleveland. On a personal note, I got to see some friends/family out there and catch up which is always great. Another nice benefit of such a localized tour is that we get to have our friends come out from city to city whom we don’t always get to hang with often since we all live in Columbus. Cleveland was definitely a highlight in a tour full of highlights.
Drove back that night and enjoyed a much needed off-day on Monday, which gave us time to prep for Tuesday in Dayton.
Dayton – Tuesday April 19th
From an organizational standpoint, Dayton was a gimme. I’m from Dayton, so I go back a ways with a lot of the promoters and venues I work with out there. We arrived early to catch a couple interviews with some websites and get set up. Our dude Zerostar rolled up with us to grab a set as well, which means if our conversations in the van weren’t ridiculously “hip-hop” before, they were going to hit overtime here. Emcees talking to other emcees about emceeing is so nerdy and awesome. I would’ve thought I’d be tired of these conversations by now, but somehow they never get old. Having Rawls in the car is dangerous to my producer side, because as soon as an emcee conversation fades, I can just jump into a Crate-digging, vinyl, or production conversation with him.
As far as the show goes, there was a really genuine crowd and a lot of strong acts on the bill. And on a personal note, I also got to hang out with some high school friends I hadn’t seen in a while; all in all a cool experience. No crazy stories, just another fun set.
Athens – Thursday April 21st
One of the coolest things about this tour is that the shows felt like they were getting better and better each night. Not just the sets, but the crowd numbers and energy; folks that really came out to see this tour. Athens was a great example of this. The venue, Casa Cantina, was really nice. Laid back feel, great location, good sound. Great acts all around as well. From the (always amazing DMC Champ) DJ Sparechange riding up with us to co-spin with Rawls, to the Athens-based DIsfunktional Family who started the whole night off perfectly, Athens was definitely the biggest highlight of the tour thus far…until we traveled to Cincinnati the next night.
Random moment of the night:
Rawls swags on us by calling Ed OG to tell him his song just premiered on the radio, putting into perspective just how little the rest of us have really accomplished in this game.
Cincinnati – Friday April 22nd
If no one has been noticing, it’s been raining for the past 20 years now, and this week of touring was no different. The trip to Cincinnati from Columbus was hazardous to say the least. The first show we were actually running late for and Nature did not help at all. We were all especially looking forward to Cincinnati for a number of reasons:
1. Our First stop in Cincinnati was the Elementz Youth Center downtown. I could write an entire column on this place alone, so I’ll summarize here for those that don’t know. Elementz is a Youth Center (duh) off Liberty St. and Central Pkwy that lets kids enter in to study any and everything hip-hop: DJing, emceeing, production, graffiti, dance, etc. They’re producing an array of amazing talent that crosses an astounding palette of music. I’d been friends with Elementz’ leader Abdullah since college and reached out to him about doing something at the center before the show. Though rain kept a lot of folks in doors (typical Cincinnati weather), we still had the opportunity to come out and talk to some of the younger artists in the city about the luxurious life of independent artists and the high level of sarcasm the lifestyle injects into it’s patients. After our visit, it was time to hit the Drinkery.
2. I was looking forward to this show more than any other show on tour (sorry ‘other cities’). This was my first time working in conjunction with one of my favorite (ok, my favorite) promoters in the city, Rome. Cinci folks may know him for his highly successful Clifton-Heights Music Festivals over the past few years. As soon as we stepped in the venue, I think we all knew this night was going to be on point. Everything about this night was just so top-notch: From the level of organization and the other acts on the bill. As the night passed, the spot filled with patrons, many of whom being friends I hadn’t seen in a while. This show felt like such a homecoming for me personally and may go down as one of my favorite, if not favorite Cincinnati show ever. Every act brought it, with Goldshoes giving us an amazing lead-in on energy to jump off of. When Rawls hit the stage to spin, he ran through so many Cincinnati classics. As soon as Holmskillit walked in, he dropped “Cincinnati”. The crowd had packed in at this point and I kind of had to pinch myself to remember that I was actually performing at this thing. The set itself was SO Fun. All four of us had fans out, which worked amazing given the nature of our show set-up (interweaving our songs and verses together). I think we all had highlight moments on that stage. One of my favorites was L.e FINALLY Performing “Polo On My Body” on this tour, and the crowd going ape-shit over it. Everything I ever could hope for about a show was at this show. Friends from all walks of my Cincinnati life showed up, even someone I hadn’t seen since I was a child in Dayton was there. The show was packed and it was packed for the right reason. No gimmicks, just people who came to see a quality night of good music and go home with good moments and special memories. With that said, thank you for such special moments and memories, Cincinnati. You really pushed an already fantastic experience over the top.
Youngstown – Saturday April 23rd
It was going to be really tough to top Cincinnati. I don’t think any of us was expecting anything to top Cinci by that point. We were cool just to have a good show and strong ending to the tour.
Which is exactly what Youngstown gave us. On a personal note, my good friend Pryslezz rocked the show with us. Some of you older Cincinnati heads may remember him during his days at UC (we both produced his first album and Citybeat actually did a write-up on it back in 2003). He’s gone on to achieve some amazing things in music over the years, and it was an honor for me to have him rock the tour with us.
The night really turned out a good crowd, though the energy at the beginning of our set was really questionable. This was the first night where we couldn’t find the vibe of the crowd, and we spent the first third of our set really trying to gauge where folks were at. But by time the second portion of set began, we began finding the crowd’s rhythm and vice versa. Youngstown was actually kind of reminiscent of our original Columbus show in that we really felt like we had to fight for that energy throughout the set. Each song felt like a show-and-prove to really grab the people there. By the end, we got them, and it felt really good. After a strong run of sets where everyone vibed to pretty much everything we rocked, it was kind-of a nice reminder that you can never get to comfortable in the crowds adulation. You always have to be ready to fight for what’s yours. An amazing end to an amazing tour.