For the past few weeks, Milwaukee hip-hopper JC Poppe -- currently resident in western Wisconsin, but such a frequent visitor to his hometown that you barely know he's gone -- has been penning his Milwaukee UP Brew City hip-hop blog for OnMilwaukee.com.
But before he was writing about hip-hop, he was writing hip-hop and he's currently readying the latest fruit of his labor for release later this month.
Now, Poppe is launching two full-length records at the same time. "Shadowlands" grew, he says, out of his family life and his role as a husband and father. "Tea Party," meanwhile, is more a product of the world at large and how Poppe views it.
Both a built on big beats, funky samples and to the skull rhymes. There are also a couple guest appearances by the likes of A.P.R.I.M.E., Raze and SPEAK Easy.
You can hear some tunes from "Shadowlands" and "Tea Party" right now at Poppe's Bandcamp page.
Turning the tables on JC, we hit him with some questions about how these new records came to life.
OnMilwaukee.com: Why two records at once?
JC Poppe: One of the nice things about being an indie artist is that I can do whatever I want with the music that I create, and after I went through the process of introducing myself through "Sleep Therapy" I guess that I wanted to do something that pressed the conceptual envelope. Double albums, doing two albums at the same time, isn't common place and I guess where a lot of other people are doing the whole mixtape thing I preferred to dig a little deeper than that.
OMC: Why not one longer one?
JCP: I developed two very different storylines that honestly, when looking at the songs I had finished, I couldn't imagine ways to make them fit with each other. I guess one of the biggest complaints about my first album is that there was no transition from track to track, so I wanted to listen to that critique and make sure things flowed better. The music just wouldn't flow together had it been one long album.
OMC: Did you plot out the two storylines?
JCP: This wasn't by plan but actually it's a result of the music that I ended up getting from the different producers I contacted. They drove out a lot of emotions I had bottled up inside of myself for a year or so, and I guess it was time to release all of it.
One album, "Shadowlands" is a very personal album that explores me having to deal with a lot of instability over the last year or two. A lot of it revolves around my family and learning how to be a husband and father through crisis as well as some good times.
OMC: And what about "Tea Party"?
JCP: The other album, "Tea Party" is less personal and more view based. We've seen a lot of crazy stuff happen in the last two years around the globe and it seems that people are getting more and more away from moderate thought and deeper into polarized ideals. There is also some of your standard style hip-hop on this album.
Both of them are definitely uniquely me, and not generic in any way, which I understand some people thought of "Sleep Therapy" as being generic. Well, I've let everything go, be it good or bad, so both albums are different but they are both completely who I am.
OMC: How did you decide which tracks to put on each?
JCP: It was pretty easy after looking at the topic matter of each track. The personal life stuff went to one side and the personal belief stuff went to the other side. That essentially wasn't the difficult part. The hard part about the music is deciding which songs would be good to have features on them to help enrich to project.
OMC: So, based on that, can you tell me about the ones that have features, what they bring to it and how you decided?
JCP: When we were all done recording my parts for the album, me and my engineer Raze, sat down and listened to everything and identified places where we felt work still needed to be done. We mapped out a few ideas and contacted several people to see if they were interested in working with us and for those that said yes, we sent the music over to see what they could come up with.
The end result is poet/producer doing some great work on the title track of "Shadowlands" and A.P.R.I.M.E. and Raze joining me on a song called "Broke Rappin" in which we talk about the plight of doing music as the penniless artists that we are.
Over on "Tea Party" it was a lot easier to get people involved because I wasn't really asking the emcees to tap into some sort of emotional experience or reality. I gave them a loose concept and they were able to do what they wanted with it.
The prime example of this is "Mess Around" where I told A.P.R.I.M.E. and Raze to do whatever they wanted and boy did A.P.R.I.M.E. take liberty with that. It made the song incredibly fun and possibly a gem for the listener after so much intensity.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.