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 Happys Place every afternoon – so well 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 were like the Decepticons. An Autobot is what youre used to see win all the time. Were not like that. Were 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 were working for change – nickels and dimes. And were also working for a change in hip-hop itself. Theres not a lot of rappers out there doing the same thing. So we stick out like a sore thumb in Fort Wayne.
The crews 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 crews upcoming album, The L.P., is a valentine to this off-kilter attitude, Smitty says.
Its going to be fun-ky, he says. Very abstract. Its not going to be your average hip-hop album. We want to make good music, not just good hip-hop music. So were not putting barriers around ourselves. In hip-hop, everything is just eight-bar chorus, 16-bar verse, outro. Thats 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. Theres no purpose. Theres no substance to what theyre 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 groups MySpace page.
Were just some Waynedale kids, Smitty says. Were all poor. In my music, Im reflecting on my life as a poor man. Making music for rich is too hard. It doesnt work. You have to please them, and they like junk. Its those poor people who tell you they want to come to a show but they dont have $5 or money for beer. Were dedicating our music to them. Hey, were in the same boat as them.