Cincinnati’s Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center @elementzhiphop

I had visited the Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood first in 2008, and had met the young people there who were learning rap production, writing, graffiti art and hip-hop dance as part of an initiative to curb Cincinnati’s youth violence problem in the wake of the 2003 riots. Since I had last been to Elementz, the center had left its cramped headquarters on Central Parkway and moved onto Race Street further into the Over-The-Rhine. My friend Abdullah Powell, the center’s director, had told me about a beat battle at the new location, but it had ended by the time I arrived. Fortunately, some of the young people who had met me in 2008 were there, and still remembered me from that previous visit. They gave me a tour of the new three-story facility, with its state of the art furnishings and equipment, and I got a brief time to catch up with Abdullah before the building was closed and locked for the night.

6/24/09: Cornhole in Cincinnati/Ocho Cinco Boxing/Elementz Showcase

Breakfast at the Half Day Cafe in the little village of Wyoming, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. Then I started the day of going around to record stores, starting with the FYE stores in malls. At one mall, I entered a shop and found a Cincinnati Bengals Chad Ocho Cinco shirt, which I had to get for the upcoming NFL season. At the CD Warehouse on the westside, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of brightly painted wooden boxes with holes, decorated with Bengals, Steelers or Reds logos. Inside, I asked the store employes about them, and they said “You’re not from Cincinnati, are you?” They explained to me that they were “corn bag hole boards”, and that the game, somewhat like horseshoes, involved tossing bags filled with corn at the board. Hitting the board is worth so many points, and getting it in the hole is worth more.
Meanwhile, as I drove across the riverfront from west to east, nasty black clouds were developing over the hills to the south on the Kentucky side. Soon showers were developing everywhere, and when I got out by Eastgate Mall, the rains came. There was a Cheeseburger in Paradise location there, and I ate dinner there before going across the street to the mall to drop off posters at the last FYE store for the day.
Chad Ocho-Cinco had tweeted that he was sparring at a boxing gym at an elementary school near my hotel and was wanting people to come out and watch him box, but I was late for the showcase at Elementz, so I drove straight over to the center, in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. Elementz board members had been asked to be present, and therefore the crowd was standing room only and extremely hot in the basement auditorium where the event was being held. Many talented young people rapped and sang for the crowd for about two hours, and then the event was over. Abdullah met me briefly at Baba Budan’s Coffee House in the University of Cincinnati area, and we talked over cups of coffee, and then he had to leave, and I drove back to the hotel, watching the employes lock up the Hard Ta Knock hip-hop clothing shop across the street from the coffee bar as I drove past.

02/14/09: Valentine’s Day in Cincinnati

I drove up to Cincinnati on Saturday morning to spend a day there before the Kymp Kamp Music Conference in Louisville the next day. The drive up was relatively uneventful except for the twisted, broken trees everywhere caused by the recent ice storm.
It was already dark when I got to Covington, Kentucky and I drove straight up to Shake It Records on the Northside of Cincinnati, but they were having an instore concert, and the store was so crowded that it was hard to move.
Back at my car in the parking lot, I used my iPhone to call restaurants, but with it being Valentine’s Day, everyone was on a long wait. I finally found a restaurant called Rookwood Pavilion, which was up on Mount Adams east of downtown, and they told me that there wouldn’t be a wait, so I drove over there as quickly as I could, and found that the restaurant was in an old pottery kiln with a view of the river to the south and downtown to the west. Inside, futuristic dance music was playing, and some of the tables were inside the old brick kilns. I had a strip steak with frites, relaxing while some sort of cool neo-soul was playing overhead. I pulled out my iPhone to capture it with Shazam, and found that it was a song by an artist I’d never heard of named Jamie Liddell.
After dinner, I had called Abdullah, my friend from Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati, but he was about to take a friend out to eat, so we agreed to meet up the next day, and I headed downtown to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, where there was live music going on. After midnight, I drove out to the Holiday Inn in Sharonville where I had reservations and checked in.

8/06/08:Good Vibes and Karma in Indianapolis/Elementz in Over-The-Rhine Cincinnati

I checked out of the hotel the next morning, and drove out to Charlie Browns Pancake House in the town of Speedway, which literally sits in the shadow of the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The unpretentious little breakfast diner offered great food at low prices, and I asked the waitress if any of the NASCAR drivers ate there. “All the time, ” she replied. The rest of my day was largely spent driving around to numerous record stores, mostly Karma locations, although I also left posters at Vibes, Ear Candy, Extra Strength, City Music, Unborn Records, Joe Lee Records, Naptown Music and Dragged Up Music. It was nearly 5 PM when I left Indianapolis, and I stopped at Karmas in Shelbyville and Greensburg on the way to Cincinnati. I had called my friend Abdullah from Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati, so when I got into town, I drove into Over The Rhine, and after getting lost a few times, I finally made my way to the center. I was given a tour of the facility and met many of the young people, who were learning production, breakdancing, graffiti art, and most of all, respect for themselves and others. I wanted to eat dinner, but I decided to wait until the center closed so that Abdullah and some others from the center could go with us. We ended up heading out to the Cheesecake Factory in Kenwood, where we barely got in to order before closing time. The food was really good, and then I headed out to the Sheraton North Hotel in Sharonville, where I had reserved my room.