- The Ill Disciples are on the Foxxy wagon.
In an age of mega-corporate sponsorships, the grassroots novelty of the Foxxy Tour cannot be overemphasized. Foxxy, an Amherst-based beverage company, sets up an Ohio-only package tour, spotlighting the local hip-hop talent in each city it stops at. It sounds like a throwback to '20s and '30s marketing, when bluesmen and country crooners drove across the South, singing and selling everything from laundry detergent to tonic. And while the tour obviously serves as a promotional vehicle for Foxxy, the company's involvement stems from the owner's love of hip-hop and the city of Cleveland, where the Foxxy Tour -- featuring the Ill Disciples -- kicks off on December 8 at the Agora.
But first things first: What the hell is Foxxy? Well, it's a noncarbonated energy drink made from -- believe it or not -- coffee, Kool-Aid, and a lot of sugar. With a taste that's kinda-sorta like fruit punch, the drink is best mixed with your favorite alcoholic beverage, the company says.
Perhaps the very thought of such an elixir bewilders the mind, but the origin of the drink is far stranger. In the mid- to late '80s, while attempting to create a drink that produced a quick buzz, prisoners in the Ohio correctional system stumbled across the recipe, which quickly became a popular drink among inmates from Grafton to Pickaway. Thus, Foxxy's tag line -- "The original prison drink" -- isn't just some ploy for street cred. It's fact.
Eventually discovering this odd concoction, Cleveland native John "Shorty" Oldwine decided to package and sell it. Today, Foxxy can be purchased at more than 30 locations throughout Ohio. And with such catch phrases as "O.G. certified" and "Think inside the cell," Foxxy advertisements clearly target an urban audience. Of course, one could argue that it also glorifies life in the slam.
"We're just letting people know where it comes from," says Shorty, who hopes the company can create something positive from the prison experience.
Whether that happens is debatable, but what's not is Shorty's dedication to local hip-hop. The mere fact that Foxxy backs a tour of mostly unknowns speaks volumes. Shorty himself handpicked the participating artists, including the Ill Disciples.
"They are one of the most talented and fresh acts in Cleveland right now," he says. "They put on a great live show, and you can definitely realize they have lyrical talent just by listening to their songs."
The Ill Disciples have just finished their demo, which they plan to shop to various major record labels. But while they have hopes of making it nationally, the trio's also looking to forge a stronger rap community at home.
"The state of hip-hop in Cleveland could be better," says A.J. Jennings, aka D.A.P.P.E.R. A.J. "There is no unification between DJs and rappers. There are a lot of people who are making small strides toward making a name for themselves, but no one can get over that hump because we don't have the same local support other cities show their artists."
Jennings, who prefers his Foxxy mixed with rum or Hennessy, also believes Cleveland hip-hop lacks an identity. "Most of the music you hear is tailored after something from other cities," he says.
Self-proclaimed "real emcees," the group returns hip-hop to its roots as a lyrically driven art form. In modern, mainstream rap, says A.J., "Lyrics seem to have taken a back seat" to high-tech beats -- but not in the Disciples' music. With few fancy production tricks, their words bounce across crisp drum loops and a steady dose of sampled instruments, such as flute and strings.
The Foxxy Tour will showcase a wide cross section of homegrown hip-hop to the very people who matter most: Clevelanders. The Ill Disciples will take the stage alongside a host of other homegrown talent, including 1Mind, T.R.I.P., and Victory. Give or take a prison beverage, it's exactly how the music and its culture started back in the late '70s. Long before the rise of corporate bling, rappers served as urban folk singers for their 'hoods -- kind of like those southern blues dudes hawking household goods.