Up and After, Milwaukee UP, JC Poppe

Do experiences ever end as they started? If they end, then I suppose not. JC Poppe became known in Milwaukee’s hip-hop music and media scene, and beyond, as a pretty solid fixture after about two years on the keyboard creating content for his own website Milwaukee UP. Early on, OnMilwaukee added Milwaukee UP as a regular contribution to its online space.

That’s an over simplified synopsis of a voice that grew for many years before that fed on a steady diet of beats, rhyme and general nerve to challenge the commonly accepted. Alongside his unintended journalistic success, JC Poppe released several solo music projects and lent a little industry moxie as manager of a several of talented hip-hop acts, started a family, and in the process laid the foundation for what would become his next chapter.

JC Poppe recently closed Milwaukee UP to focus on family, new projects and endeavors. Graciously, Poppe obliged to do a cyber-curtain call with Local Trolley to share a few past, present and futuristic thoughts on music, politics and life.

L.S. Trolley:
So you recently retired your very popular online music outlet Milwaukee UP. It’s been a couple of months, how has the process of moving on been? Its almost like the music scene lost a friend.

JC Poppe:
Surprising, moving on has been very easy. I was ready to be done with it. This is not because of my feelings about the Milwaukee music scene, but more a reflection of the change in interests that has taken me to a whole new place intellectually. Since March, I’ve hardly listened to music on any consistant basis. Occasionally, I get an idea for an article that I just file away for later. I’ve mainly been focusing on family, preparing myself for going to get another Bachelors degree, and enjoying ESPN radio.

There are members and consumers of the hip-hop scene that are immersed almost on a religious level, where the this and that opinion of the who’s and the what is’s get really passionate. It’s interesting to hear you be able to separate yourself out intellectually so easily, even more so because you’ve got a couple of hip-hop music projects of your own. How has your outlook changed over time?

There are a multitude of opinions within the Milwaukee hip-hop scene. That passion and competition is crucial to the growth of the talent of the city.

The intellectual schizm is something that just happened recently. Music was my life for over two decades. I was never the type that was dedicated enough to sit down and learn how to play [instruments] even though I desperately wanted to. This is why I focused on words. With zero talent of voice, and a strong love for rap, rapping is the way that I displayed my passion. All of that passion is gone, or nearly gone now. I was writing about music and culture in a very simple way and couldn’t paint the pictures that I wanted to paint. It was at that point that I knew that I had to move on and pursue the new path I was beginning.

I know a lot of artists and music lovers appreciated your efforts to say something about the Milwaukee music scene, myself included. What were some of your fondest moments/sub-eras of that 20 year obsession with the music, I mean when the glamour had you most captivated. I know there are some obvious periods that come to mind, but what were yours.

The first moment I heard hip-hop and new jack swing when I was still in the single digits age-wise, I was hooked. I just loved it. At that time most kids around me were listening to Guns N’ Roses or pop music, but I was all about Hot 102 and V100 when that popped up. That’s not to say that I didn’t listen to New Kids on the Block and Madonna, because I did, but artists like LL Cool J, Bel Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Public Enemy…and of course MC Hammer…were what I was really into.

When I stopped going to Edward A. McDowell on 19th and Highland and went Brown Deer School District, grunge was in full swing and so I learned about rock music and came to love that sound too. I was in 6th grade when Kurt Cobain died and I can still remember the 7th and 8th graders walking about the halls, crying. Little did I know that that would be me when I was 14 and Tupac died. He was me and my friend’s Kurt Cobain or John Lennon. I will stop there because I could write a book about my musical progression.

That’s great, JC you had Hammer pants?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have Hammer pants. I wish I had though. Those pictures and memories would be priceless.

I remember at Robinson Middle School DJ Quick and Geto Boys couldn’t get played enough. By ’94 though, I can remember thinking I was real cool at about that same age going to a Digable Planets and Gumbo (they were local) show at the Marquette Annex. Are there any projects from local artists you came across in the Milwaukee UP years that you really thought were interesting that were kind of unsung locally? Not asking you to play favorites or anything.

Local project or artist that is kind of unsung, without playing favorites… I’m going to say something that is going to sound crazy: Prophetic. My reason for saying this, speaking about it locally of course, is that it seems like people only pay attention to him because of his name and not because of his talent. The guy is talented and deserves more than just name recognition.

I like that pick. I really only credit him with the Green and Yellow track, but then again I don’t stay purposefully current with music anymore either. That may be one worth giving more of a chance.

So even though the blog is retired that doesn’t mean your stepping away from music does it? I thought you put out a couple of intense solo projects with Sleep Therapy/Tea Party, etc… Then you’ve got the projects with The Hollowz. You also got political around this time last year just snatching the covers off of Scott Walker in a way you can’t even understand unless you’ve seen the video collaboration you did vocals for. I think it’s high time that video resurface by the way.

As of right now, my work as a rapper is on an indefinite hiatus. I was working on a project with DJ Pain 1 out of Madison and my brain just stopped giving me lyrics. I was also working on an EP with Madden Miles (formerly Mark V.) but the situation is the same there; my brain just isn’t giving me any words to put down rhythmically. I feel that releasing one EP and three albums is really good enough to capture myself as an artist and I won’t force words onto a page. So if I’m suddenly inspired again, I’ll record. I am still managing The Hollowz, as well as Logic & Raze and AUTOMatic. They have a fantastic talent as a producer in Ed Cayce.

Ears will probably still be ready when you are JC.

I’m glad that you haven’t forgotten about that video. Zeti (formerly Pezzettino) worked her ass off on that video and was also behind the collaboration of the musicians on the track. The song was initially written to a beat by a Milwaukee producer that at the last minute pulled the track back because s/he didn’t want to enter their name into the political arena in such a way as Maggie and I were willing to do. One of the most fun and insane things about the track itself is that the percussion was provided by Allen Cote playing one of his sinks.

An actual sink?

Yes, he was playing a sink.

Good old artist ingenuity…

via Pezzintino Official Music Videos, YouTube

I’m not typically one to be crass in my music, but the anger I felt over Walker’s tyrannical approach to our State was real so I allowed myself to exhibit that through some off colour humor. Are you looking forward to this coming Tuesday?

Christopher Hitchens (more on Hitchens)would definitely be proud. One of my guilty pleasures is politics, which has largely been lost in the music, so that made my day from the standpoint of someone taking the time to blend the creativity with commentary locally. Yeah, definitely looking forward to election day, part of me wishes Dave Obey was running instead of Barrett, we really cannot afford a vacuum in Milwaukee right now. At this point I suppose getting some leadership in the capitol is most important.

Speaking of Madden Miles he was one of the producers that I got pretty hyped on last year for Miltown BeatDown, which I had a lot of fun covering last year if you couldn’t tell. He’s coming off the recent release of the Candace Bailey Beat Tape which was getting heavy download action last week. He was beating out Kanye for number one download on AudioMack. Any tweaks to the this year’s MTBD format we can get excited about, guest appearances?

Jordan has a lot of stuff in the works for this year’s MTBD and I’d love to blab the 411 about what I know, but I only speak on it when Jordan tells me to. Being a husband, father, carrying a 12-18 credit course load, and managing several artists is really all that I feel I will be able to handle in the near future. This is a sobering thought to me because I spent so much time getting to know people and elbowing my way onto my own square inch of Milwaukee music real estate, and now I’ve pretty much relinquished every molecule I fought to get, back to jungle. At one time I wanted to be THEE guy, and not as a rapper, but as a resource and advocate and now I’m perfectly happy with being forgotten. I just have a new focus now.

This past year for me with Local Trolley has been a honeymoon of sorts the whole meeting new people, finding little niches things like that. I can imagine the pressure builds as you become more recognizable as a media outlet and an artist. Hip-hop kind of welcomes that in a way other genres don’t, my cynical side says its almost become the point of the music itself. It’s an interesting bit of contrary-ness that you achieve a level of visibility before deciding to step-out of the lime light. Interesting choice of words too, disappear is a pretty strong verb.

Disappear is a very strong word, I agree, and I used it for a reason. I crave no attention for anything that I may have contributed during the time that I was active. I’m proud that I did take the bait and took the time to cover the Milwaukee hip-hop scene, but that was yesterday and tomorrow will be a continuation on the new path that I’m on. I anticipate that sometime in the near future, be it later this year or sometime next year, that I’ll become a complete stranger to the Milwaukee music scene and I know that it will continue to rock-on and get better and that my absence will have zero affect on anybody or anything. It was a moment in time. It was a great moment in time.

JC’s official last Milwaukee UP posted on OnMilwaukee March 23, like most reluctant greats brief stints of un-retirement will let JC sneak in a few periodic music gems (more gems) to the readers.

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