By Dave Rossetti   Published Feb 22, 2005 at 5:27 AM

{image1} Ill Groove Movement's style is so wholly its own it had to coin an original phrase simply to describe it.

They call it "organic hip-hop," a sound that's infused with splashes of old-school jazz, funk and rock, then mixed with hip-hop rhymes and beats. Ill Groove's unique brand of hip-hop, which began to take shape three years ago, has been winning the Milwaukee-based group the respect of its peers in the local music scene and a steady flow of new fans.

They've been making inroads in Milwaukee thanks largely to their kinetic live show. Emcees Professor and Catalyst roam the crowd spewing original rhymes, and the band's wide-ranging covers -- from Ice Cube's "Good Day" to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Aeroplane" -- showcase the all-encompassing nature of the band's stylistically diverse palette.

The band's fans are usually lively as well, moving to the beat and often taking part in Ill Groove's tradition of offering open mic sessions to anyone with anything to say artistically -- be it poetry, freestyle rhyming or playing an instrument.

In turn, Ill Groove -- rounded out by guitarist Adam Lovinus, bassist Dave Hanson and drummer Steve Kulwicki -- does whatever it can to fire up the audience.

"You get whatever energy you give," Professor says. "If you give a ton of energy, even if it's only in front of six people, you just get that given right back to you."

They've become adept at bringing spontaneous dance parties to almost everywhere they play in Milwaukee, but 2005 finds Ill Groove poised for a breakout. The group recently earned a 2005 WAMI Award nomination for R&B/Urban/Scratch/Hip-Hop Group or Artist of the Year. They also made their mark with an impressive showing at Vnuk's Lounge during the first round of the Emergenza Festival, an international battle of the bands contest, in early February. Ill Groove, the only hip-hop act to take the stage in a sea of rock bands, took second place for the night.

"We stood out like a sore thumb, but that was good," says Catalyst.

With the second-place finish, Ill Groove secured a spot in the contest's Milwaukee semifinal round, to be held April 2 at The Rave. A win there means a spot in the local finals, and more wins would be followed by trips to Detroit, Boston and the international finals in Taubertal, Germany.

Catalyst says a run all the way to the international finals would be huge for Ill Groove. "Being able to touch that many new people, that's what we're looking for," he says.

But, the members of Ill Groove aren't getting ahead of themselves.

They're tuning up for their set at The Rave with gigs at 10 p.m. March 18 at Points East Pub, 1501 N. Jackson St., and 9 p.m. April 1 at Conway's, 2127 W. Wells St. The group will also hit the studio to put the final touches on its first full-length album, "The ILLiad," which is set for a June 1 release.

Until then, the band hopes its fans continue to "fall into the groove." Ill Groove, meanwhile, continues its evolution.

"What I feel like we're discovering is you can add hip-hop to anything," Lovinus says. "As long as you can bang it out, you can flow to it."