Carrying the torch
Hip-hop stays vital in central Illinois
Every Tuesday night Bar None (corner of Fifth Street and Monroe) plays host to Torch Tuesday, the area’s most reliable showcase for hip-hop music and culture. Presided over by Howard “Torch” Tomas, Torch Tuesday has been going strong for years. January was particularly exciting for the little Springfield rap show that could, with the 2013 Torch Tuesday Awards ceremony honoring regional hip-hop artists as well as a concert by renowned international acts Ras Kass and Copywrite (onstage at Bar None with Torch Tuesday house DJ Yatti DNY) who included Torch Tuesday as part of their coast-to-coast Writers Block tour.
The 2013 Torch Tuesday awards were notable for fostering a sense of community and uplift rather than bitter competition. A few of the honorees and other Tuesday regulars recently gathered in front of the Old State Capitol, left to right, squatting: Live Performers of the Year winners (tie) City Boi and Scoobie Da Lyricist; left to right, standing: Push; Producer of the Year winner Skiddlz; Mr. Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award winner DJ Classy B; Torch himself; Habilis Riccardo, winner of the Grind Award; Hip-hop Supporter of the Year Angel P; Torch Tuesday in-house DJ DNY; and Meezy Killafield.
Flipping through the vinyl stacks recently, the Phantom of Recycled Records (Howard “Torch” Tomas) uncovered this rare, old school jam by Springfield’s favorite son, Ol’ Dirty Lincoln, a/k/a MC Emancipator.
Heavy hitter: Artist of the Year and Fans Choice Award winner Pytch Wyte on the mic at the Torch Tuesday awards ceremony, accompanied by fellow local hip-hop artist Push.
Scoobie Da Lyricist (left) and Blacksteel show off their trophies, for Live Performer of the Year and Single of the Year respectively, at the Torch Tuesday Awards. “Scoobie stands out for his showmanship,” says Torch. “He’s fearless when it comes to his art.” Blacksteel’s winning song, “Community,” name-checks practically every hip-hop artist on the Springfield scene, underscoring the pervasive sense of mutual support. “A lot of people, when they say they’re from Illinois, they want to say they’re from Chicago,” says Torch. “We’re proud to be in the 217.
West coast rapper Ras Kass has toured all over the world and recorded with artists such as Coolio, Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill. However, when he stopped in to do a blazing set at Bar None last month in a show set up by Torch Tuesday in conjunction with Wize Guyz Productions, Ras Kass and tour-mate Copywrite were surprisingly accessible. “They stepped over the VIP rope and socialized and hung out for the duration,” says Torch. In fact Ras is perhaps only the second most influential rapper to have graced the Torch Tuesday stage; Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan played here in May of 2011.
Several local acts were given the opportunity to open for Ras Kass and Copywrite during last month’s Writers Block show. Here Scoobie Da Lyricist (left) and Xtortion spit some verses.
Big Treez, half of Chasin’ Treez from Decatur and Champaign,
accepts the New Group of the Year award. “They seem to have a lot of fun spittin’,” says Torch. “They have a healthy balance between the two guys and they’re fun to watch perform.”
Springfield’s Co Pilots (Money Green, left, and Ren Da Pilot) share a moment as they receive their Video of the Year award for their song “Hefner.” Torch describes Co-Pilot as one of the most seasoned local acts. “They have a lot of individuality, charisma – their bars are real truthful, real edgy, you know?”