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what up from our editor

issue five: creative hustle & heart

culture shift: will taylor

featured doodler: bigshot-robot

the bloom of lotus fankh

busting out the brim w/ the brass rooster hat co.

a n u n o r t h o d ox interview w/ klassik

s p r i n g? ? ? f a s h i o n

respect to our contributors

E D I TO R - I N - C H I E F / L E X I S . B R U N S O N A R T D I R E C TO R / C A R S Y N TAY LO R FA S H I O N E D I TO R / VATO V E R G A R A


CopyWrite Magazine Media & Design, LLC is currently a non-profit organization. All images are not licensed or owned by CopyWrite. For any questions regarding photos, future advertisements, future employment or any information about any featured artists, producers or creators please contact




DON’T KNOCK THE HUSTLE. If Complex called you up & scheduled an interview with you, what would you do? Would you set the date, wait 15 minutes before your meet up & cancel? Would you reschedule for the next day & then not show up for that meeting too? Or maybe you would just avoid their offer... until you realize, Complex is actually pretty dope, free publicity is crucial and there support system is massive? No! You would break your ass for that moment! You would thank your lucky stars, butt kiss and all...just saying. So why is it that when CopyWrite calls you up, works with your schedule and makes reservations to interview you, you act Hollywood? You forget you calendar meetings and act like we have nothing better to do then wait on you. Excuse me??? This ain’t that. I repeat this ain’t that. This misuse of each other & unprofessional conduct must stop. If you’re still dwelling around these parts, you’re apart of the issue, if you’re not addressing the problem. And no shade at all, I know there are a few locals who probably think this is all about them (Guilty Conscious) but sorry loves there are multiples of you that need a reality check. Listen up MKE, we are here striving to be communal, to open up doors for those bold enough to walk through them, to hold a platform made for the people by people who are really invested in OUR Urban Culture. So don’t act like we are not worthy. The war is against the norm. The war is against the naysayers. The Revolution is MKE. Choose up. Or be left behind. We don’t need you. We need US. I just had to gew t that off my chest. /Dirty


we can’t fake genuine hustle and a huge heart. in issue five, we’re proud to say all of our featured artists have both and some. Whether their donating their time to organizations or running them; their work ethic is untouched and their passion is matched by none. respect the creative. respect the hustle. respect the heart. respect the Urban. /CW


all things urban live here/ F O L LO W U S & K E E P U P DAT E D



Meet Will Taylor. A fashion stylist by trade and a conscious man by choice, Will Taylor is the owner and co-founder of Below Means, an online fashion boutique that in our own words gives new life to vintage and modern clothing. CopyWrite’s fashion editor, Vato Vergara got to sit down and chat with him about his beliefs, legacy and style.

We met at the Starbucks on 6th and Wisconsin, cafe entrance facing towards Wisconsin. As Will entered the building he gave me such a relaxed and peaceful vibe which made the interview more of a conversation between two good friends (which is a preference of CopyWrite.)

Style One word can really explain Will’s style: uninhibited. He says “just the willingness to try different things and collaborate on different things, ... always being open minded to evolve in style, just enough to stay ahead of the latest trends.

“I will because I am”

Will enjoys thrifting; it’s one of his main focuses when it comes to purchasing clothing. He also appreciates rare vintage clothing that others may never come across. Being immersed in the Hip-Hop culture and style, has definitely impacted his style. Focusing on a more Urban and 90’s vintage style, he gravitates more towards jackets and bold, game-changing pieces in his everyday attire. Not to mention, he adapts to the professional attire very well.

Will’s meaning behind it all, is that he will do it because it’s already predestined for him. Will took an African Philosophy course in college, while in the course his classmates and instructor would go over quotes from other philosophers; “I will because I am” was the line that grabbed his attention and with a partial connection to his name William - “I will because I am” became the mantra. Culture Shift His vision is to generate change specifically in the Urban community with awareness on the issues that affect us and as he likes to call it, “Elevation of the mind.” Instead of coming from a victim blaming perspective, he wants to externalize positive self-affirmations to help each other grow. (We dig that...peep game.) Will’s Meaning of Culture: His exact words, “modernizes perspective, belief, customs, traditions, how you identify and perceive yourself, personality traits, style, and other lifestyle characteristics that defines who you are will sum it up.”

As the owner of Below Means, Will Taylor wants to expand his passion, knowledge, and experience to help others become aware of HipHop and Style, Urban community and Black culture. Practicing event planning to cultivate groups of people and educating them about HipHop is another passion he wants to expand on in this coming year. Currently in LA, Will plans to come back to Milwaukee focused on bringing his California connections to what he sees to be a very talented and promising future Milwaukee. We respect that. /Vato




Let’s talk ILL-istration! Get it? Ill-ustration? Corny, we know. But it’s the perfect word to describe the stylistic brand of creations by MKE artist, David Zimmerman, known as BigShot-Robot. The 27-year-old professional Ill-istrator sat down with CopyWrite to discuss the perks, “twerks” & persona behind the art. CW: “BigShot-Robot...where did that come from?” BSR: “Honestly it started as a suggestion for a band name in high school, of a band I was in. It didn’t get picked so I just kept it in my back pocket because I liked it. It was something kind of weird about it and it rhymed which is kind of a big deal to me.” CW: “That it rhymes?” BSR: “Lol yeah...ill-istration & rhyming are some of my favorite literary devices.” That’s a first! For a second there we thought maybe BigShotRobot might just have rapper traits ( possible interview for a new EP?) Lol jp. BigShot, though ill with the “rhymes” & with the visuals, was not trained as an illustrator. His first year of college he attended UWM as an Architecture major, switched to photography for a year, and then switched to graphic design & printmaking. It wasn’t until his last year in college that he began to draw again. More than he had ever before. BSR: “I’ve always drawn since I was a little kid (He grew up just outside of MKE, in the Franklin/Hell’s Corner area) but I really started gaining interest in illustration then because that’s when I started doing BigShot-Robot. I was making my own graphics and logos. I kind of re-realized how much I liked drawing and how important it was to me. BigShot-Robot notes that it’s hard to find the difference between just drawing & illustrating. The closest thing to a defining structure he could give is as follows: • Drawing = doodling: letting it out • Illustrating: creating a specific image for a purpose CW: “Stylistically how would you describe yourself?” BSR: “I draw like a six year’s almost like an abstraction but intentional… that’s tough actually I never really thought about it.” CW: “ See that’s what we are here for to ask the tough questions lol.” BSR: “I guess a lot of the people I look up to are like Picasso so I’m sure you can see a little bit of the inspiration in my

work but editorial illustration is like a really big inspiration, just because you use such little amount of space to create a big idea… So yeah I guess I draw like a six year old, let’s just leave it at that.” He laughed. BigShot takes a pop art approach to classic methods. And with other inspirations from Van Gogh’s impressionism and stories/illustrations of Dr. Seuss, we can see his style in everything he makes. (One of the earliest memories of art he made that gave him pride, was a t-shirt he designed for his mom in third grade of his young interpretation of a Van Gogh painting. His mom still has the shirt till this day.) Being an artist BigShot is often commissioned to do work, his six year old style is a big hit with flyer promotions for night life at Milwaukee bar, Bad Genie. In his repertoire of designs includes several images of butts twerking. CW: “I was on your website today and I saw these twerking posters for Bad Genie, ( I mean images of illustrated booty everywhere.) With something like that, do you have something you won’t do? You know because your drawing booties, some people say that’s risky.” BSR: “That’s a good question because when I first started doing it, I was like ‘cool I got flyers to do’, but then I was like ‘I’m drawing one butt at least a month. People are going to start to think I only draw butts’...But there is a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it out the sketch books...Even weirder stuff. Probably stuff I wouldn’t show my mom, and sometimes I wish I could push that boundary a little more.” He goes on to admit how he finds sexuality interesting to dissect while drawing and how people get uncomfortable with just the portrayal of simulated sex. His assertion is that it elicits so many different emotions and can be tantalizing to its viewers as well. Though butts are on the menu, BigShot’s favorite thing to illustrate is food. Especially pizza! (His pizza images are iconic they even fly into space! Check them out at


BSR: “But portraits even more so than food. I really like trying to put my spin on someone’s face.” Even with his success as a freelance illustrator David still holds “normal” employment working for an advertising agency doing design work. We asked him how his personal life as an artist differ from his design work at the office: BSR: “It’s definitely always been a struggle because I knew from an early time that I was going to eventually work for myself. Having the taste of already doing that for a couple months here and there, and doing freelance all the time. It takes precedence over my 9 to 5. It’s a hard balance to strike...even back when I was playing in bands I would be thinking at work, ‘What beat can I write or where is our next show going to be?’ I think because it’s so intrinsically me whether it’s a drawing or music, it just oozes out of you, even when you’re at work.” One major difference he notes working in an office from working freelance are the levels of collaboration. Where in the office there are more tiers and controlled aspects; while freelance designs offers opportunity for “equal collaboration”, where one’s opinion doesn’t over weigh the others. But while working in the industry and working with people who have been in the field for decades, David has been given much insight to the different approaches of design. CW: “In an ideal world, what would you be doing? Like would you just work for yourself? Would you live on a boat somewhere or be drawing in Italy somewhere? What’s ideal?” BSR: “I have definitely thought of situations like that. Like I went to Jamaica about a year ago & there is so much positivity there, and I’m not saying that Jamaica would be my first choice to move & live but it’s relatively cheap, it’s close and it’s summer all year round.” So Maybe? BSR: “One day I was there walking down the beach and the quintessential beach every tourist who’s probably bought a painting, probably bought it from this guy.” (You know what guy we are talking about. You have seen him in the movies.) “I was talking to him and he invited me to paint with him right there on the beach. That was one of the coolest experiences.” That experience, he says is the first time he considered the idea of moving out to a beach and making it work. But he adds he still has more of the world to travel before he makes that decisions. CW: “So why do you do what you do?” BSR: “UHHH” *For the first time in the interview he paused and worded his answer in a way that was deeper than he knew* “Because when I sit on the couch and watch too much TV, I get antsy...I think it’s just intrinsic. Whether if it’s (art) or music, I’m either drawing or tapping a drum beat or doodling on the side of a page, I just have ideas that I need to get out & that’s really what it is.”



He sat back then asked, “Is that lame?” We informed him that the reality of essence as a creative is his truth and that being fake about his answer would be the only way his response could be lame. We at CopyWrite totally understand that being a creative is just a force you can’t control. You just do what you do because it is who you are. BSR: “But portraits even more so than food. I really like trying to put my spin on someone’s face.” Even with his success as a freelance illustrator David still holds “normal” employment working for an advertising agency doing design work. We asked him how his personal life as an artist differ from his design work at the office: Confirming his creative nature, David spoke on his creative process filled with layered executions, morphing nature and surprising finales. BSR: “...a lot of it lies in the process. A final piece of mine might not look like it is as abstracted because it turns out to be a hamburger or a pig smoking a cigarette...for example the painting I did of a pig smoking a cigarette, actually started that painting live. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started with a shape and then it turned into a bird. But it was becoming too cute so I was like ‘wahhh’, then it became a pig smoking a cigarette. So often my process is making shapes then turning it into something. (But his process usually starts with pencil & paper.)”

He calls it the intentional vs. abstraction. Fine Arts vs. Design. BigShot cleverly does both. Not only have you probably seen one his posters/flyers but you may have seen his artwork mounted on a gallery wall, or even mounted on the wall at Rogue’s Gallery, a bar where gallery meets nightlife. One of his recent shows at Rogue’s presented his Astronaut Collection further bringing to life his six-year old doodler. Thematically appropriate, in kindergarten when they asked young David what he wanted to be when he grew up, he remembers saying an Artist or an Astronaut. CW: “If you could put your work on anything, big or small, absolutely anything, what would it be?” BSR: “The Moon! Haha but actually I want to do more murals or walls. I actually plan on spending the winter coming up with some designs and when the spring comes just get out here and start bombing.” So this spring look out for Big-Shot Robot with the take over. (If you’re an art head you know what that means) & check out his website to get your hands on some pretty cool merch. BSR: “I’m just a workaholic that see’s the world as cartoons.” And that’s one heck of a refreshing way to look at it! /CW


To uncover beauty and truth, you must dig from within and first find the Funk… The name Lotus Fankh comes from the tattooed markings Dana Smith has inscribed on her wrist; a Lotus flower that she got when she was 18 and an Egyptian Ankh on the opposite wrist at 20. LF: “I was looking for a name, and I just looked down & it hit me, plus I love funk music so I was like ‘Yes! Lotus Fankh!’” (Funk & Ankh together makes Fankh, and that sounds like Funk. You Follow? OK. Good!) “That’s a crazy story in itself.” She told us with a smirk and a glitter in her eyes. The same expression she kept throughout her conversation with CopyWrite. A smooth and effortless calm. CW: “We have seen you perform before and it’s definitely not orthodox, we like that. How did you come up with that style and that kind of concept?” LF: “I played with a few bands after college. (She attended UW Stevens Point.) I graduated, me & some folks from Point started a band called West. We played for a summer and it really didn’t work out. Then I played for a couple other bands, we played a few gigs and that wore out. [Then] I said it would be nice if I could sustain that sound and if it goes out it’s because I let it. So I started the whole one woman soul show thing and it’s been growing, changing and evolving,” Let’s just be honest, Lotus Fankh really needs no band to back her. With her instrumental abilities, natural vocal talents and strategic use of a Loop Station. (Side note: A loop station is super dope. We think every musical artist should have one.) She captivates the audience with that same smooth and effortless calm. And of course to top it all off, she is a poet.


CW: “So [we] have seen you play the guitar, do you have any other secret talents, like do you have a cello in the back or a violin in the corner?” LF: “I do play violin! I will bring that out. That’s my baby Black Betty...I just bought an electric base, so y’all might see some of that at some shows. Blue that’s his name.” CW: “Do they all have names?” LF: “Yes, all of them. Even the broke ones...And I just got the loop station, and I play keyboards. If I buy one y’all might see that, but I don’t have one right now so…” CW: “Are you self trained? Or how did you even learn how to play those instruments?” LF: “I’m MPS taught.” Ayeeeee, shout-out to the Milwaukee Public School system. LF: “Yeah, and I also learned through people who were getting taught. I took piano lessons as a kid, my mom had me in that. And middle school I went to Lincoln Center of the Arts and I was in orchestra so I played violin. Then I went to Milwaukee High School of the Arts and their were a lot of different kind of people there so that just opened me up to the Arts community. I did studio classes at the conservatory and played with the youth chamber orchestra. With stuff like that you just pick up skills.” Fankh even tried to be a music major for one semester in college but she almost failed. So she went a different direction, “I was in a lot of head space,” majoring in psychology and philosophy as well as continuing to take Jazz classes; which she says really has trained her to do what she does now as a musical artist. LF: “I love the music and [to] improve, creating forms.” CW: “Does your background in psychology & philosophy help you analyze when you make music, or do you try to keep them separate?” LF: “I do get somewhat aloof with my ideologies, writing the lyrics and thinking about shit so I guess it does come into my art.” Lotus is actually working on a music video that stems from a psychological background. “I’m looking for people to express stories of self love and self care. Taking a second look at that phenomena. I have been reading articles on it and everything. That’s been fun.” We did get privy to the perceptual concept for the video/ analysis and it’s pretty cool. It is definitely not ol’ girl down the blocks video idea. Miss Lotus Fankh is deep. The song that reflects this concept is “It’s better than this”, which is the title track of the EP she will be dropping later this year. She even utilized local talent from HER (Higher Education Records) to record and master the tracks.

LF: “That song is absolutely about self love and self care. It actually came from a personal experience where I kind of had to recognize that I needed to make a change to better myself, because I was in a situation where I was putting myself around things that were doing nothing but weighing down on me. And as much as I appreciated the circumstances for whatever reason, I had to pull myself away from it.” A lesson we all have to learn sometime in life. Though she did not give details on the journey, her vagueness left ability for us to relate to her struggle. With a great education, skill and talent she has many options, so we had to ask her about where she is headed over future plans: CW: “In life is there one thing in particular that you want to do? Psychology or music professionally? Or both? Where is your mind at?” LF: “Ahhhh the five year plan scheme… I’m definitely looking to shift the balance in life from my professional career sustaining my career aspirations which is me either working in the nonprofit sector, which i have been doing for years. I am definitely here to connect people to the things they need whether that be a good song or resources. So I could see myself starting a foundation, funding some programs and giving guidance on some fundamental changes.”

S H O O T E R : N I C O L E A C O S TA

*Clap for her! CopyWrite is all about communal improvement and definitely think the creative forces that dwell in our city should drive it.* Born and raised in MKE, Lotus is no stranger to the realities in which can cultivate, nourish or setback a soul that wishes to bloom here. LF: “I grew up on 53rd and Villard right over there by McGov (McGovern Park). Kickin’ it by the willow trees!” CW: “With that being said a lot of people have a perspective, which is changing now, that we don’t cultivate enough with each other, or there’s not enough art here. Or that we’re just not as great as other places.” (i.e. the Chicago Shadow) LF: “Emehhhh, Essentially.” She said unphased.

“We are not as big as the city we compare ourselves to but there has definitely been a lot [moving] here… and there is definitely more to come.”

With that, Lotus is excited to work with many from the city and has been building those connections. There is even some talk of her hosting some open mics at the Public House. She also hinted that some cyphers might even be on the menu. Bust a freestyle Lotus! LF: “It’s not going to be like a performance, I’m not going to make people sit through that. I did bust a freestyle once before…” CW: “How did it go?” With all the confidence in the world and that same smirk, she replied, “It was doooope!” But rapping is really not Lotus Fankh’s thing, which makes her slightly unique in the MKE female music artist scene, where there is a booming emphasis on afro punk style rapping. While her inspiration derive from a more dated era, like the sounds of Earth Wind and Fire. CW: “How do you feel about your placement in the music scene and also being a woman within it?” LF: “Well...I think the best is yet to come for that one....”


LF: “I definitely see myself doing some more stuff with different people in the city. I’ve worked with the Women’s Resource Center so I know how you have to be ten times better, times two, because I’m [also] black. So it’s just like ‘I already know.’ ” She reply with the tone of boys that contrast her mellow vibes, but as a business owned and operated by women of color, CopyWrite Magazine understands the struggle and are unfazed by these societal barricades. CW: “When did you find your voice?” LF: “I used to sing all the time. Actually my sister, she is the singer of the family... She would sing in church and I would sing with her. I would also play sing a lot. Like I used to love to imitate the Isley Brothers. I would do that all the time. I kind of like to be annoying, I ain’t gon’ lie. I would get on the public bus and sing ‘Contagious’. ALL THE TIME, I would joke around and things like that. Then I got to college, & I actually started writing songs. For some reason I was a musician and a poet but it was unfathomable to put that together and song write, until then… my junior year I was working in a jazz group and we were given the task of writing a song. We actually end up writing one about Scott Walker.” (Because it was around that

time, you know that time! Let’s not get into politics lol). “I sang and people started coming up to me like ‘Dana! Why don’t you sing?’ So I was like ‘Ohhh ok’ and I gave it a try. I sang at some open mics and I got used to playing the guitar as I was singing. I came home to Milwaukee and did the show stuff, mainly because I did not have a job and I needed the money. So I was like let me do this band stuff because we were getting gigs. I started to feel when I was performing in front of people, connecting with people, it was dope... So I’m really still finding my voice. I’m taking lessons now, but I never really thought about what it is to sing.” She laughed and again gave that smirk, “besides trying to sound like The Isley Brothers.” If you ever get the opportunity to hear a Lotus Fankh set, take it! Grab a drink, find a good seat and enjoy her vibe. She continues to bloom and we are sure she will make some everlasting impressions. Now with the words of one of Lotus Fankh’s favorite songs: “Gon’ with yo creepy ass, gon’ get!” Lol rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it? /CW


Hat*: (noun) 1. A shaped covering for the head worn for warmth, as a fashion item, or as part of a uniform… (but mostly because they’re super dope) 1.1 Used to describe all the great head wear sold at The Brass Rooster Hat Co. Phrase: The Brass Rooster sales the best hats in town.

On the flourishing stop of Kinnickinnic Ave. in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood The Brass Rooster lives. The storefront windows are covered with hats and pizazz that is reminiscent of a boutique style not seen much around these parts anymore. Here, stories trail each brim and an authentic passion thrives. CopyWrite stopped in to speak with owners, John and Kate McLaughlin, about their hats, journey and Milwaukee legacy.

(*As defined in CopyWrite Dictionary)


Quite fitting, these two are a great pair. Their playful nature, sassy

product or where the hats had came from. This lack of knowledge

remarks and casual personas wrap around the store. Every laugh

revealed a void where John and Kate could be the fill.

and every anecdote uncensored. Their passion and excitement made us feel right at home. As we sat in back of the Hen House

They had skills, craft and the zeal, why not go for it. And so they

(the women’s section of the store), John worked on one of his

did. The business was opened on all their savings. There first

custom pieces and Kate sat close by while the history of

location opened on twelve grand with no bank loans.

The Brass Rooster came busting out the brim. John: “We also have no credit cards.” Almost 5 years ago, the hat shop idea bloomed in the mind of Kate. She revisited the events that urged her to ask her husband

Something many businesses can not say. John suggested that

if he would be down to open the new venture while driving on the

their willingness to give it their all was in the hope that nobody

highway. She frankly noted that it was definitely the best time

else would get the idea, and do it as well. We found one of the

to ask since there was nowhere for him to escape to.

unique traits that The Brass Rooster has is that it’s not only a contemporary hat shop (with some dress to impress, killer steezy

Kate: “I said ‘So Honey what do you think about opening up a hat

hats...OK we just had to get that out the way), but also a living

shop?’ within minutes he replied yes.”

and working museum. You can actually go in and see them make custom hats from quality materials, paying attention to every detail

Lucky for them both it was one of the best questions she could

and signing each piece; reassuring it’s authenticity which they

have ever asked. The signs had been there, they just had to act

assure will last 70 years from now. You can even find ribbons and

upon them.

trimming dated back to the 1900s.

Kate noticed that hats had been trending, not that they ever fully

But consider this, you can buy a hat anywhere but their are only

left the scene but their presence in fashion had resurgence. She

a few places and people who can actually make a hat to perfectly

had noticed them all over commercials, she was very aware of

fit you, or the you that you chose to be. As John said, “It’s the

them in the theater world (working for the Milwaukee Rep.) and

last thing you put on and the first thing people notice.” This high

John himself wore hats (not to mention he was skilled in making

regard to making sure their customers look their best and feel

and refurbishing them). But one of the most noteworthy moments

their best has fabricated a shop full of family. And as two out of

where their fate had showed itself was during a visit to a hat shop

the 15 Master Hatters left in the country, we understand why and

on the west coast, where the sales lady was clueless about the

we appreciate the exclusivity in Milwaukee.

J O H N & K AT E M C L A U G H L I N


Betty is their newest employee


Right in hand with the Spice House and Usingers, The Brass

They even expressed to us how they hear the stories behind the

Rooster too is now on the Visit Milwaukee Bucket List. Though

hats that they service, watching hats “go from gray back to navy

both owners still find it amazing that people have started

blue” bringing the nostalgia out of the customers as they say “it

to consider their shop a visitor destination.

looks just like the day my dad bought it.” The stories they have heard have left them knowing the men and women of Milwaukee

Kate: “We had a customer come in from Indiana who knew all

and drilling down the fact that hats can describe your personality

about us”.

as much as your roots.

How does the word about a Milwaukee hat shop get to Indiana?

These hatters were stitched together for this job. Both with creative

Simple, they are just that good!

backgrounds, the couple plans on continuing their success.

The couple is very modest but their quality hats have received attention from many, not just hat lovers but celebs. They have made customized pieces for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and more. Even some of our local loves like Klassik, own hats from the shop.

Kate: “Everyone wants to know about our celebs but our real rock stars are our locals.”

We asked if there was anything else they would want to do with professional lives and they both replied the same: they plan on keeping the business, building an empire and letting their son take over the family business (which he has already shown interest in at the age of six) and then jet off to Cuba or the Keys, where a large beach hat might suffice. In a world where mass appeal usually wins, it’s nice to know that some uniqueness, skill and mad passion can still survive. We must say kudos to The Brass Rooster, we respect your craft. Kate: “One of the best things a customer has ever said to us came

They consider the community to be the most vital part of their

from one of our regulars Mr. Winters, he said:

success. Even other local businesses support their cause. Café Lulu owners were the ones to suggest they move into their store

‘you know what I love about The Brass Rooster, this place is magic.

on Kinnickinnic, which not only moved this destination spot closer

I come in as Mr. Winter and leave as anyone I want.’ ”

to the hub of Bay View but also gave the shop more space to grow and expand their business hence The Hen House, their woman’s


hat boutique.



S H O OT E R : M R . X AV I E R R U F F I N

“Well it’s five o’clock somewhere,” he teased after ordering an Irish Coffee for our lunch meeting at Rochambo on Milwaukee’s east side. He picked a small table upstairs in front of the window for us to sit at. As we made ourselves comfortable and destructive (spilling Chai all over), CopyWrite’s Carsyn Taylor noticed a woman outside, “This lady is a pro…”. As we looked at her confused, “I don’t know if she is doing a selfie or what”. Thinking she meant like a Pro-Pro (Prostitute) we asserted, that it was too early in the day for that form of behavior. But once again Klassik questioned, “Is it? Is it though?” Slipping on his spiked drink. As the chain reaction from a random woman taking a selfie turned to the improbable act of prostitution on Brady street at 12 o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday, we opened up our interview with a very unorthodox question: “How do you feel about sex trafficking in Wisconsin?” Without flinching he replied, “It’s pretty fucked up! I actually did a workshop on it a few years back when I was doing some after school poetry classes. It was one of the first topics we touched on, so to see that it actually show up in the headlines this year; realizing how close to home that is, is kind of scary. But then again there’s a lot of scary things that are going on in the world, so you can either be scared or make your own positive energy.” CW: “Do you still teach classes?” K: “I don’t, but I would. It’s something I want to get back into.” With the guidance of Dasha Kelly, a very skilled poet in our city, Klassik taught at a different school each semester.

The contrast like night and day between each school, due to the cultural differences. Where one would want to use the time to battle rap, the other was more receptive to the thematic topics and would create performance poetry. K: “I did some stuff with True Skool, too. The past couple years yeah in like the long distance I see myself working with kids. It’s something that’s important to me.” Awww, Klassik loves the kids! Even though his creative expertise can be applied to expressive writing or poetry, he claims to be neither. (He doesn’t actually write down any of his lyrics.) K: “...I first and foremost consider myself, uhhh this is tricky actually”, He paused. “a musician, performer or no a Performing Artist I guess would be the succinct term. Those two terms cover for the most part what I do. And how I identify as a creative.” We would agree, Klassik is known to put on a great show, his energy as a Performing Artist and his creative execution has had his name buzzing through the scene for a while now. If you’re mentioning MKE music movement it’s hard to leave his name out. But his flame hasn’t just been kindled by an overnight spark. K: “I was just always around people who were artistically inclined.” He grew up around the arts and people who appreciated music. His father played the violin and some guitar before he was born. But his thing was mainly theater. He danced and sung, where his mother was a big lover of music.

K: “From her I got Prince and Michael Jackson and all the 80’s stuff and the early 90’s...SWV. That was very current for me, with my mom playing it. It wasn’t like, ‘Ow yeah, I love 90’s R&B’. No that’s like the stuff that was playing in the house. It was Marvin Gaye, then New Edition. Then it was Parliament and then Tchaikovsky.” By the time he was old enough to pick an instrument, Klassik had already been exposed to so much music it was hard to decide. In the 3rd grade he wanted to play the double base, but of course that was way too big for him. He also considered the piano (which he later taught himself to play) but instead tried the saxophone to start. K: “I picked up Sax in the 4th grade. I struggled for the first 3 weeks of it. Like I was way behind everyone else. But then it clicked. The next day I came back like ‘Hey I’m done with this book’ and then I had to take separate classes. By the next year I was being trained by local Jazz legend, Berkley Fudge.” Klassik had shown his gifts and skills so early in life, that people began to take notice and offered their guidance. But we wondered if anyone ever tried to steer him away from a more creative future. CW: “Any nay sayers?” (He paused for a minute as he looked contemplative about the question.) K: “You know now that I think of it, I really can’t honestly recall a moment when someone heard what I was doing or saw me and didn’t recognize the passion I have…Only time I can say there were naysayers, is when I dropped out of college. And that was more about me not doing the safe thing, not about the music.” Klassik left college because he wasn’t passionate about anything there. Music was his passion and his venture to college had side swept his dream. He suggested that you ultimately go to college to figure out a path to your purpose, or develop your skills to be useful in society. College in turn confronted him with the opposite. He had received a full ride to UW Madison, where he planned to declare a major in secondary English education. CW: “Klassik the English Teacher!?!”

K: “I’m still not against it. Just not right now.” We tossed up the idea of him teaching Shakespeare, where again Klassik renounced his ability and use of words. K: “It’s hard for me to just follow writing and language which is weird. But I’m such a Musician that I feel like I speak better through music, like if I’m in a messed up relationship, or something is going wrong, there have been times in the past, and I have gotten better at this, where there were things I could not say or couldn’t articulate.” CW: “So what do you do just break out in song?” K: “No no no, it would just be like awkward, okay this is done. There is nothing really left to be said. But then I’d go home and be like no, this is how I would say it if I could say it.” How beautifully tragic. CW: Give us an example of where something happened where you couldn’t find the words to say it and then it turned into a song. He hesitated, try to come up with an “eventually all my situations turn into a song”, line then eventually left the real answer. K: “I guess in the moment the song ‘Anything’ that I wrote. I said a lot more about this person then I would in the awkward breakup moments, even though we were not officially dating.” He mentioned how she was a photographer (Oooo... artsy), and she wanted to take pictures by the lake. She thought they were going to hang out but since he just got out of a major relationship, he had come to a point where he found himself not ready for that type of interaction. K: “She turned around and cried. It was like one of those things out of a movie. I went home and immediately wrote that song. Saying in a more articulate way what was going on instead of, ‘Oh I just can’t do this.” Ouch, well at least she made it to the playlist, and probably many more.


Klassik indeed has appeal. His music has outstretched beyond the confines of the city and those who have heard and like his tunes come from many walks of life. With his talent and great entertainment skills, Klassik could have long ago banished to a major city like Cali, New York or even the nearby metropolis of Chicago, to pursue his musical career. CW: “You know a lot of people run from this city (MKE), but you’re here... Why are you here?” K: “It’s definitely very deliberately…. I do see excitement and I think of it as people being excited about everything that is going on here. I can say I have a part in that... And I just like the fact that me and artists like Webster X, that we all share the same train of thought. That we all want to stay here and cultivate this.” He says just like the other artist from our city he had thought about leaving to Chicago where he has a network of associates and where his manager lives. He also had considered L.A. but the concept of leaving redirected Klassik in a way that should be symbolic for all that dwell in MKE.

K: “I guess the only thing that bothers me about that is not people identifying that type of music is here, it’s the lack of that balance. We want people to know about all the things that are going on here. Because granted we are separated but what that has breeded are different sub pockets, sub-genres. But there are a lot of us that are cross pollinating. You know there will be a public house show where there is SAFS Crew or Higher Education, and North Side hood dudes and it’s weird. But it’s becoming less weird because now names are becoming more familiar [from both sides].”

K: “I want that for here. I want other people to come here from Green Bay, or somewhere small-time Minnesota or somewhere from North Illinois to want to come here...After going down to Austin for SXSW the last couple of years... every year it intensifies and they [even] have a great art culture when it’s not SXSW… after seeing that going out (there) the first time that really planted the definitive seed for wanting to stay here. If they can do that…” So can we! Don’t get it twisted though, Klassik does note that there are some issues that need improvement on the scene confiding in us about “concert etiquette” and the mass of “passive listeners” who attend local shows. He hopes to use the “misplaced energy” to build a more in tune concert experience that will appeal to more national acts and hence support a movement and culture. The concept in itself is not far-fetched. Some seem to forget that Milwaukee is home to one of the largest music festivals in the world, Summerfest. We also had the opportunity to talk Milwaukee musical politics. In such a divided city there is no surprise that music taste as well can be divided. So we asked Klassik to speak on his perspective of the cultural stigma that Milwaukee is known for its “Jack it down” music and not its various forms of musical expression.

Klassik says that as a producer, (note, Klassik began producing, making beats long before he began to release his own solo music), he takes pride in working with as many different people, so these lines eventually become blurred. Playing Devil’s advocate, we also had to counter that question with the “hipster takeover perspective.” With their being a musical influx in Milwaukee Culture some people have noted that most acts that receive recognition on a larger and more promoted scale are shows in linkage with Caucasian or alternative artist. K: “It’s fucked up that we have to think of it as privilege to be cultured…” He marks ignorance (and not in a negative term), but simply the lack of knowledge to be the culprit of such opinions. K: “If what you see around you, you’re content with that and you want that to be your life, your representation, that’s fine speak your truth… that’s what I tell people. You can’t live your life worrying about someone else’s truth or someone else’s lies. You can only speak yours. So to those people, we just keep doing what we are doing…Because the music we are doing is meant to be all inclusive.”


“I want to make music for as many people as possible... And rap can do that but that’s not my whole truth. So why would I speak the half truth?”

Somewhere near here we ventured into the workings of mainstream music, lyrical artists not having lyrics, shout-outs to Future, Justin Bieber getting a “Black Pass” and the social uproar that might become of a star like Kelly Clarkson if she ever said she was sipping Lean in a song. Real cultural ponders. CW: So Klassik is this it for you? K: “Is what it?” CW: (Rephrase) “Are are you content with this shit? Whatever you are doing right now is this how you want to do it for the rest of your life?” K: “No, people become so content and comfortable with their surroundings that they allow that to dictate what they received and what they are able to intake. Either consciously or subconsciously they limit themselves and then me being a perfectionist to a fault, the word content to me just sends shivers, and makes me uneasy. I’m scared of that point. I don’t ever want to be at that point.” He notes that trying new things and being uncomfortable has gotten him to where he is today. Even mentioned as 1 of 11, “Milwaukee Rappers”, listed in Shepherds Express cover story “The New Face of Milwaukee Rap.” K: “They didn’t put in my full answers to this but it was a two part question. They ask what is your favorite thing about being a Milwaukee rapper and then what is your least favorite thing? For my favorite thing I said something about being a part of something new, on the up and up and very much alive. And my answer to what my least favorite thing about being a Milwaukee rapper was still being called a Milwaukee rapper. But they didn’t put that part in the paper.” Vocalizing how he is not just a rapper we noted how his true identity didn’t fit the needs of the article. The media censorship stamp not shocking. K: “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Milwaukee rapper... I know people who rap really well. When I think of Milwaukee rappers, I think of people who rap their ass off like Blizz (Blizz McFly). Blizz was one of the reasons I started

rapping in the first place or any of my homies in SAFS Crew. Like I don’t have it tatted but everyone knows that’s my people and that’s fam because they were there from the beginning. Or Adam from UW Madison, aka Def C, who was the first person I ever spit a rhyme for. Those are people I think of as really talented MCs. So I was fortunate enough to pick up from them and learn from them. So even though I’m confident they would say I can spit that’s not my end goal. I want to make music for as many people as possible... And rap can do that but that’s not my whole truth. So why would I speak the half truth?” Inquisitive about his perspective on most Milwaukee media with CopyWrite being one of the closest outlets to the movement, we ask about other medias contributions to documenting the “renaissance” of the city. CW: “How do you feel about them presenting this cultural information?” K: “No shade at the work that has been done. We appreciate any effort to shine the light, but even with the Shepherd Express thing that was nice, but it just seems to come from a very distant outsider place. And we don’t see these people at shows, like they write about us... But then when they see me, they don’t know who I am.” We want all of our readers to recognize perspective versus fact, as Klassik hits an unspoken truth right on the head. K: “I just want what’s happening now to not stop and I just feel like there has been moments in our cities artistic history where we had shining moments and opportunities to do so many great things, but we just do it to ourselves (stop), I’m just hoping that this is not one of those times. I don’t think it will be. It’s happening.” As he talked about breathing life into the community you can see tattooed across his hand the markings of the Milwaukee Home brand. The permanent etchings on his microphone hand is a constant reminder that no matter where he goes there is a purpose to his journey. Milwaukee is the place. Milwaukee is the now. Klassik believes. What about you? /CW




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Profile for CopyWrite Magazine

Issue Five: Creative Hustle & Heart  

CopyWrite Magazine Presents Music. Art. Fashion.

Issue Five: Creative Hustle & Heart  

CopyWrite Magazine Presents Music. Art. Fashion.