A positive MC waits for his moment

by Jordan Green

A positive MC waits for his moment

The First Friday crowds clog the sidewalks, and the scene at the Green Bean is jumping off even more than usual. Dotmatrix Project honcho Sean Coon is looking like a proud poppa with framed photographs of various musical guests adorning the walls — creative toilers who have taking on the sheen of legends here: Bruce Piephoff, Matt Hill and Filthybird, among others. Appalachian balladeer Laurelyn Dosset and members of the hipster rock unit Eating the Invaders are setting up their gear, when comedic-political hip-hop champ Mr. Rozzi rolls in with his posse. “I’m here to show all these people that I’m numero uno when it comes to rockin’ live,” Mr. Rozzi says while seated in the courtyard behind the Green Bean. “Positive hip hop, baby,” Mr. Rozzi’s fifth project, Finally… a Hip Poet , dropped earlier this year. He says he’s got another 50 tracks ready to go. This MC, who grew up in Browns Summit, is prolific and relentless, burning up the highway between and around Greensboro, Fayetteville, Asheville, Atlanta and New York, wherever there’s a mic ready to light or fellow MCs, beatboxers, poets, DJs, producers R&B singers and other fellow travelers ready to lay down tracks in a studio. But the brother’s working the underground circuit, for sure. An enduring mystery is why his name isn’t lighting up the marquees and club calendars around the Triad on a monthly basis. Mr. Rozzi seems to enjoy some of the mystique, refusing to divulge his age. “Blackbeard the voyager,” he adds. “I got the longest beard in the universe.” He’s got the longest beard, and smart-guy glasses, a slew of beads around his neck. His vocal style is a disarming comedic patter that smuggles in lyrical messages of deadly serious intent. He says his style draws from both Chuck D and Redd Foxx. He spins his myth out a little further. “Music, that’s my release therapy,” he says. “I live in a cave. I drive a funky Nova. That’s another part of me, is drag racing. I’ll throw some money down on a race at the track.” As for appeal to the masses, a Google search for “Mr. Rozzi” quickly yields a YouTube video for his song “Long Ride,” which shows the MC hamming it up as a driver in cardboard cutout car straight from the story boards of “South Park,” punching buttons as a scientist in a white lab coat and patting a parrot on his shoulder as, who else, Blackbeard. The song’s lyrics nicely sum up Mr. Rozzi’s attitude toward his art, the competition and the industry. They savage MCs who are “downgrading women, disrespectin’ North Carolina but doing shows up in it/ Remember when it didn’t matter what the girls was like/ All that mattered was if we had some skills up on th f***in’ mic/ Excuse my French, but I’m madder than the Grinch.” The back section of the Green Bean is abuzz when Mr. Rozzi takes the floor. The MC is buoyant and kinetic on the mic and in his physicality, condensing fury and energy like no one’s business. He brings on several guests, including Vanessa Ferguson, a singer of uncommon talent who is also becoming a guitarist to be reckoned with, and DC, an apocalyptic beatboxer. The biggest coup is an unrehearsed collaboration, with Matty Sheets and Barry Staples from Eating the Invaders joining Mr. Rozzi on bass and drums respectively, and Laurelyn Dosset lending her sweet vocal harmonies. “I’m all about collabos,” Mr. Rozzi says. “I already know what I can do. I want to see what you got. The stage is like a house: Mi casa es su casa.”

Mr. Rozzi, right, demonstrates the funk while DJ L in Japanesemakes with the sounds at the Green Bean. (photo by Jordan Green)