Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Journey To Hip-Hop...Milwaukee: JC Poppe

Back when I first reviewed Sleep Therapy by JC Poppe, I had said the following quote about the CD; "Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, JC Poppe delivers a solid effort in his newest effort, Sleep Therapy. If this album should be any realization, with quality tunes like this, how can you get any sleep?" But there's a lot you don't know about JC; he's currently with HiPNOTT Records, and is getting ready to keep the plethora of material flowing with another album aptly titled Tea Party. Here you get to see JC speaking on a ton of stuff, so without further adieu, here we go!

Egypto Knuckles: Talk about your first memories of music, especially Hip-Hop. What was the exact moment in time where you said "This is what I want to do"?

JC Poppe: I first heard Hip-Hop music in 1987 when I was 5 years old. At that time, everything was new to me of course because I was so young, so my love for Hip-Hop wasn’t a conscious decision as much as the result of being surrounded by it and growing up with it constantly in my life. I wish I could pinpoint the moment I fell in love with it, but it just has always been with me. I don’t honestly remember a ton from back in those days but I do remember being a huge LL Cool J fan and I had to see the movie “The Hard Way” with Michael J. Fox and James Woods just because LL was in it.

Egypto Knuckles: Being a figure in the Milwaukee scene, talk about some of your history in Milwaukee. What life experiences shaped your world view and helped shape your subject matter in your songs?

JC Poppe: I mentioned that I have been listening to Hip-Hop since I was 5. Honestly, the reason for this is because I attended a school in the inner city of Milwaukee. Edward A. MacDowell on 17th and Highland. The 5 years I spent at that school set the tone for the rest of my life I suppose because diversity was a part of my life from like the get-go. Because I was bused in from the ‘burbs I got to go to my safe home with hot food every day, but I become very aware of the fact that that wasn’t everybody’s reality. I learned a ton about socio-economics and the racial tensions Milwaukee and the metro area had…and still has unfortunately.

I guess growing up knowing all that stuff as well as all my other life experiences has driven me to make real music and not fluff. I mean, there’s enough fluff out there and in my opinion there is not enough “look at yourself in the mirror” music. I’m a Hip-Hop artist so I do my fair share of rapping about rap and smack talking, but I really try to be transparent in the hopes of giving the listener something more than just music…maybe a connection. I know that not everybody shares the same experiences, ideas, and beliefs, but maybe I’ll catch someone that falls close to the shades I choose to paint my pictures with.

Egypto Knuckles: What are some of your thoughts on the Hip-Hop scene in Milwaukee? What makes it unique?

JC Poppe: The Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene to me is like LeBron James in his senior year of high school. There is so much talent there, but it hasn’t converted into the pro levels quite yet. I strongly believe that it will. The future may prove me wrong, but until it does, I’m holding on to the belief that Milwaukee can hold its own against any other city and will compliment what the established scenes of Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit, have already done for the Midwest.

What makes us unique is that we all know each other to some degree…I mean for the most part. You can’t know everybody of course. But I mean, I just took a few moments to go through my phone and I can’t believe the amount of numbers I have from people connected to the Milwaukee scene. I’m guessing everybody else is like that as well but I can’t speak for them of course. We just have so much accessibility to each other. I don’t know if other cities have that so that’s what’s unique about Milwaukee.

Egypto Knuckles: Talk about your discography here. What projects have you released and what makes each one its own body of work?

JC Poppe: This is great, I just wrote a song about this actually. Well, back in 2004 I made an unofficial entry into the Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene through my first EP called “The Anger EP”. It was a little 4 song demo that I was hoping to get attention with…and it did, but mainly just with my friends who honestly had always made fun of my wanting to rap up to that point.

I tried to get that project into people’s hands all over the place but I wasn’t part of the club scene so I had to kind of piggy back off of the producer/engineer of the project whenever he had a show. He was a Christian artist so I kind of had to watch myself since he was playing to lots of church groups and stuff like that. Honestly, it helped me to really use my vocabulary better when writing songs because as long as I was working with him I couldn’t swear.

Well I kind of started paying my dues right away. Milwaukee had this GREAT Hip-Hop show called The Late Night Hype Show from like 1998-2008 (that’s an approximation…but it’s close) on 91.7FM WMSE. It was every Tuesday night and it was a huge goal of mine to get onto that show. Well I gave them my music and the DJ, Aaron Wade, dug it enough to play it and maaaan did one of the co-hosts (Bobby Brewski) rib the hell out of me. He refused to say my name right and kept saying I was a nobody that came out of thin air, stuff like that. It was harsh but I understood it. Nobody did know who I was. I wasn’t insulted, but it was definitely a “get yo mind right” moment for me. Years later I got a chance to talk to Aaron about it and we laughed over beers. I’m sure Bobby Brewski STILL has no idea who I am. Maybe my next album will change that.

The show that ended up taking over for Late Night Hype was the MadKids and they kept the tradition alive of bringing great Hip-Hop to that Tuesday night slot. However, the DJ who runs the show, Kid Cut Up, actually tossed that first EP in the trash at an underground Hip-Hop show that I was working merch at for my producer/engineer friend. He stopped by to give me his mix CDs and so I gave him my EP and I watched him pitch it later on. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember this, but again, that was another “get yo mind right” moments. I really needed to make sure that my skin was tough enough to accept stuff like that. And again, there’s no beef…Cut Up has played my music on his show and had me come on for a great interview and he really does support local music. He probably didn’t have room in his pockets for it that day.

It’s just been a long time since 2004 and I have to send a shout out to B. Reith for all his help. He’s down in Nashville and signed to Goatee Records and has been doing his thing for several years now. He gave me my first shot and I’ll always be grateful for that.

I have a ton that I could say about the two failed EP attempts that followed “The Anger EP” and I could talk about Sleep Therapy again, but I’m sure this answer is already too long.

Egypto Knuckles: Say you were showing a person around Milwaukee and its different locales for Hip-Hop. Which places to you are worth frequenting?

JC Poppe: Well with me, nothing is worth doing on an empty stomach and regardless of the fact that it’s not a Hip-Hop spot, we’d have to stop at AJ Bombers for the best burger in Milwaukee. Then after that your best bet would be to hit up Center St. in the Riverwest section of the city. There are several places on that street that are dedicated to hosting Hip-Hop shows and DJs. Mad Planet is the place to go if you care about sound…everything sounds good there. Stonefly is the place to go to be seen. The sound is shitty but it’s big, the drink prices are decent, and it’s a decent chill spot. Quarters is generally where you want to go if you are looking for the hood shit but it’s pretty small and can get crowded ASAP. If you like hood shit Texture would be more up your alley…it’s an actual club and not just a spot. If that fails, The Highbury in Bayview or BBC/Live on North on the Eastside are places you can typically find some dope shows or DJs. The Jackalope Lounj use to be the spot but they’ve cut back. And then after all that, you have to get a late night meal and all depending on the day it’s either Oakland Gyros, Pizza Shuttle, Streetza Pizza, Jimmy Johns, or AJ Bombers again.

Egypto Knuckles: Anything else you'd like to tell the folks out there?

JC Poppe: Yes. Basically, if people have taken the time to read this interview and really don’t know anything about the Milwaukee Hip-Hop scene, get familiar with it STAT! There’s too much talent to bypass. Start with the Yo! MKE Raps compilation I put together…you can just Google that or grab it from HipHopDX (they sponsored it)…it’s free and does a decent job of just giving the listener a taste of what’s out there.

Lastly, if you like an artist from MKE, buy our music. Most of us are on iTunes or We don’t have label budgets and a marketing department. We just have our love for the music. Big shout out to all who support the small guys (and girls) and peace to every Milwaukee artist trying to do it the right way.

Oh yeah, one last thing...I have a new album coming out this May/June called Tea Party so keep an eye out for well as my homie SPEAK Easy's new album So To SPEAK...not too mention the new solo joints A.P.R.I.M.E. and Raze (both of the House of M) are going to drop...and go and get that new Dana Coppafeel that just came out on

"Get Live With It (Remix)" Featuring Guilty Simpson; produced by Dave Audiopilot Derrilykt

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