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See: Hustle 4 Change will perform during Summerfest ’09, an all-day, all-ages music event June 6 at Headwaters Park
Listen: Music by Hustle 4 Change can be heard at or
Buy: The crew’s five-song sampler, “Spring Cleaning,” is available at the group’s MySpace page. Hustle 4 Change is working on a self-titled LP to be released this year. Also, Custom Made Smitty’s solo album, “Welcome to Fort Shane E.P.,” is available at all Wooden Nickel stores.

Audio: "My Name Is Tino" by Hustle 4 Change

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rockin’ in the region

Transformers of hip-hop

Traditional riffs dated for city-based trio

Local rapper Custom Made Smitty describes the Hometown Hooligans as “the Decepticons of the local hip-hop scene.” This might not mean much to you – unless you grew up watching the ’80s-era cartoon “Transformers” on “Happy’s Place” every afternoon – so we’ll make it simple for you. When all six members of the Hooligans, a local hip-hop collective, come together, they form an all-powerful, super-bad hip-hop machine.

“We all blend together, like a Transformer,” Smitty says. “It takes six of us to make one big one. But we’re like the Decepticons. An Autobot is what you’re used to see win all the time. We’re not like that. We’re the underdog.”

The Hometown Hooligans splinter off into several groups, one of which is Hustle 4 Change – Smitty, Konfewshus and Portable J – a trio of artists who take pride in their outsider status, Smitty says.

“We all hustle, we all work hard,” he says. “But we’re working for change – nickels and dimes. And we’re also working for a change in hip-hop itself. There’s not a lot of rappers out there doing the same thing. So we stick out like a sore thumb in Fort Wayne.”

The crew’s music is both experimental and accessible – providing plenty of rolling beats and old-school turntableism but scattering syncopated rhyme flow and jazz and funk samples throughout. The crew’s upcoming album, “The L.P.,” is a valentine to this off-kilter attitude, Smitty says.

“It’s going to be fun-ky,” he says. “Very abstract. It’s not going to be your average hip-hop album. We want to make good music, not just good hip-hop music. So we’re not putting barriers around ourselves. In hip-hop, everything is just eight-bar chorus, 16-bar verse, outro. That’s not us.”

Hustle 4 Change – and, indeed, all of the Hometown Hooligans – are vocal about shunning popular hip-hop trends and looking for more substance in music, Smitty says.

“Basically our music is devoted to old-school hip-hop, funk and anything original and creative,” he says. “Rap music on the radio is terrible right now. There’s no purpose. There’s no substance to what they’re saying. Bragging gets old.”

Hustle 4 Change makes music for “poor people,” Smitty says. Translation: The crew makes music for their friends, their families and people just like the crew themselves. And that ethos has led the group to give away “Spring Cleaning,” a five-song sampler of tracks, via the group’s MySpace page.

“We’re just some Waynedale kids,” Smitty says. “We’re all poor. In my music, I’m reflecting on my life as a poor man. Making music for rich is too hard. It doesn’t work. You have to please them, and they like junk. It’s those poor people who tell you they want to come to a show but they don’t have $5 or money for beer. We’re dedicating our music to them. Hey, we’re in the same boat as them.”