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What does Indy sound like? Let Chreece performers tell you

31 rappers, DJs and producers on Indy's sonic landscape



  • Design by Braden Nicholson and Will McCarty

Could an all-day, multi-venue hip-hop festival in Fountain Square, comprised almost exclusively of local talent, succeed?

Chreece answered that question last year with a resounding yes. But now the question is this: Can organizers pull it off again?

That's right, Chreece is returning with a second edition this Saturday in Fountain Square.

Conceived by Oreo Jones with organizational support from Musical Family Tree, the inaugural edition of Chreece surpassed all expectations for a local hip-hop festival and lifted the profile of Indy's homegrown hip-hop scene to new heights. The fest sold out almost as soon as the festival kicked off; nearly every venue was packed and the streets of Fountain Square were flooded with good vibes from the hordes of happy hip-hop heads in attendance.

But the festival's success did not come easy. Though the art of hip-hop has thrived for 40-plus years in the United States, long-held stereotypes regarding the genre and its fans still remain. Chreece organizers had to successfully navigate these problematic social and institutional biases before turning their attention to any musical concerns.

Jones says a major hurdle for Chreece, or any promoter attempting to organize hip-hop events, is the difficulty of securing liability event insurance. Many agencies offering these services flatly refuse to insure rap concerts, and the rates from those that do are often prohibitively expensive.

Click to expand this massive Chreece walking map and schedule - DESIGNED BY LISA BERLIN JACKSON
  • Designed by Lisa Berlin Jackson
  • Click to expand this massive Chreece walking map and schedule
And then there are the social stigmas projected onto hip-hop. Some held fears Chreece would bring an unruly and disrespectful crowd to the neighborhood. Their concerns were absolutely unfounded — Chreece was one of the chillest music festivals I've ever attended and the festival passed without a single unseemly incident reported. In fact, Chreece brought a crowd of unprecedented diversity to Fountain Square, a neighborhood that hasn't historically been open to embracing cultural pluralism.

Beyond the social triumphs of Chreece, the festival was also a musical home run. I can't remember another occasion when the Indianapolis hip-hop scene looked so strong. Chreece united a broad spectrum of Indy rappers, from the jazz-based golden era sounds of Native Sun to the wavy trap-rap of Drayco McCoy. This brings us to the question at hand: What does Indy sound like?

In terms of hip-hop, Indianapolis is home to the full spectrum of possible hip-hop expression. The '90s were crucial for the development of Indy hip-hop. The Mudkids imported the sound of NYC's Native Tongues movement, while N.A.P.'s "Straight Out The Nappy City" gave us a Midwest take on the West Coast G-funk sound. Today, the Indianapolis scene has been blown wide open. Artists like Sedcairn Archives are exploring the outer limits of the hip-hip universe, while crews from Haughville to Post Road keep Indy rap tied to its urban roots in the neighborhoods of Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Chreece provides a perfect opportunity to sample the wealth of styles that populate Indy's hip-hop scene. Before Saturday's fest, NUVO reached out to several of the local rappers, producers and DJs booked at the fest to define Indy's hip-hop sound.

— Kyle Long

Chreece Founder Oreo Jones - PAINTING BY JONATHAN MCAFEE
  • Painting by Jonathan McAfee
  • Chreece Founder Oreo Jones

"To me Indianapolis hip-hop has this sense of wavvy urgency. It's emotional and demanding, yearning for our voices to be heard, but then there's this calm, cool and collectedness. It's almost like we are finally coming to terms with our independence without really claiming a popular national sound. "Tribe Quest" is a prime example of that Indiana hip-hop flavor."

- Chreece founder Oreo Jones

"Indianapolis hip-hop is Midwestern melodies, Southern percussion, the ferocity of the East Coast and drugs from the West."

- Grxzz

"To me, in so many words, Indy is a mirror of what's hot right now, from the obvious club wave to the lyrical cadences on the West and East Coasts. Me, personally, I mix substance with groove, painting a vivid picture of what I see in my city and experiences in other cities."

- Robb Skee

"Indy has no specific sound. I think it's nothing like the past or nothing like anything anywhere else in America. We simply are, and our sound lives through us. We sound like the future. Our sound is determined; it is hungry, it is poetic, it has a message and not only does it stay true to the artist but it stays true to Indy."

- Fre$co

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  • DJ Indiana Jones

"Being that we are in the middle of the USA, the Indy sound is not influenced by any one geographical area. Some Indy acts sound Southern, some sound West Coast, some sound big city and some acts even sound like all three at once, with some Chicago thrown in. Indy is still finding its sound, looking for its break, and, most importantly, still developing its base. Over the last 25 years, I have seen and heard so many great things from Indy. Indy's sound is still looking in the mirror, trying to figure out if its cowlick is a blessing or a curse. It's not sure if the shirt should be untucked or tucked in. In other words, Indy's music scene has not fully formed its identity or infrastructure.

RELATED: Peep Musical Family Tree's Chreece playlist 

"As acts have taken to the road (Ghost Gun Summer comes to mind), Indy's sound has been taken into the wild and returned triumphant, As acts have aged gracefully (See Rusty of the Mudkids), they have brought new talent into the fold and laid the blueprint out for aspiring Indy artists. When I think of Indy hip-hop now, I think of blog favorites and artistic icons coming together to push the message into the mainstream. I would tell them all that the cowlick is indeed a blessing and to leave that shirt untucked and put on some sunglasses because the future is bright for Indy artists willing to work hard!"

- DJ Indiana Jones

Mathaius Young - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Mathaius Young

"Indy sounds like a mixture of each person's lifestyle and experiences."

- Mathaius Young

"The Indy sound is that of its own. I've never met any other group of musicians as worldly and inventive as the ones I work with Indy."


"Indy music is the love child of the digital music sharing age, where the same people grew up listening to the banging rap drums of Three 6 Mafia, UGK, etc. and the minimalistic vibes of acts like The XX, Explosions in the Sky & Bon Iver."

- Trilli

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  • Scotty Apex

"It would be hard to classify Indy to one sound, and that's due to the amazing amount of talent that this city holds. You never know what you'll here from the artists that are from here. Some artists might release something dark and heavy, but then artists from the other side of the city might have you listening to something light and mellow. But that's the beauty of Indy's sound: it has a variety, it's unique in every angle and you never know what you'll get when you tune into an artist's newest record.

"From me, a listener can usually expect a darker vibe or a more emotionally in-depth song, and that's just who I am as a creator in this stage as an artist, but some days I might create something that is more light or fun. It really depends on my mood or my life situation at the moment I create."

- Scotty Apex

"To give Indy a sound would be difficult, because it's so diverse it really can't be imitated. The best words I can use to describe it would be 'sensational' or 'mind-blowing.'"

- Ares

Pope Adrian Bless - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Pope Adrian Bless

"Indy sounds like the greatest untold story, ever. That's what it sounds like, in my spirit. It's similar to watching a caged beast in action. You don't understand how much damage we can do when we're, officially, on. There is no greater way to describe our sound than — for lack of a better term — original. Everywhere you turn, there is something for you. And you'll always feel included because, it's our sound. It's our stories. We have everything you're looking for. And it is for YOU. You can feel yourself within the music we're developing. It's cult-worthy and magnificent. Our sound is inspiration."

- Pope Adrian Bless

"What does Indy sound like? Indy's music scene in my opinion is pretty much the 'Crossroads of America,' that meaning all sorts of genres, cultures, and musicians have come to one place, giving Indy its diverse culture. Many people feel that either it's a folk style or Chicago's drill has influenced much of Indy's music, but I feel that all the different aspects of music is what makes Indy music scene so cool to me."

- Luke Hazel

"The most notable uniquely Naptown style I recall, probably because I'm so close to it, is in the techniques and mixing styles of the DJ culture. The heads in Indy's DJ community have taken the turntable tricks made popular on the West Coast with the mixing finesse of the East Coast, and put it all together with our own style of blending music with sounds from the South. The outcome is a combination of party-rocking performance and sonic manipulation and creation on the fly, typified by local legends Topspeed, MetroGnome, Action Jackson and many others.

"As far as our hip-hop sound, it's been a long time coming under a lot of different names but I think our newest wave is also our best. Being the Crossroads of America, I think we're a city of collage, by which we use small ideas from different things we like and blend them all together to create our style, à la Paul's Boutique. I've had the pleasure of touring twice with Ghost Gun Summer, a five-rapper team that has taken the sounds and preferences of Indy and formed an all new aesthetic under the tag 'Sacred Game.' Slick, gooey waves of synths and bass mix with staccato drums and jacked samples to form the beats these rappers ride, adding lyrics about partying, traveling the astral plane, philosophy, psychedelics and the feels. Lots of feels."

- Cool Hand Lex / Bangs Nicely

"The city of Indianapolis sounds hungry. Hungry for more. Aside from a few, you can hear the eagerness in a lot of the projects released from Indianapolis (Sirius Blvck's Light In The Attic, FLACO's GunsforGirls, Clint Breeze's Maisha, etc.) . The common goal is to showcase the city's talent so the 'big dogs' of the city — Old National Centre, Hot 96.3, 93.9, etc. — pay attention to the undiscovered market that is Indianapolis hip-hop."

- Brooks The Prophet

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  • Mula Kkhan

"Indy's sound could give you the 'feels' to be honest. When I say the feels, I mean the music or energy from the song can make you feel a certain way. Indy's artist can put you in your feelings basically . There's so many different circles that touch on different aspects of the sound . Each show is so trill and live and emotional . Depending on what side of town you're on or what circle you are running with, you always get a different vibe. I love it."

- Mula Kkhan

  • Submitted Photo
  • D&G

"I found I was welcomed into the Indy scene quite well when originally moving from Seattle in 07. Before I even touched the ground, I was already building with Rusty Redenbacher, which was a breath of fresh air from my experiences in other local scenes. When I arrived, I went to see a Mudkids show and randomly was standing next to Ace in the crowd. You could almost say that the genesis of D&G actually started that night and if it wasn't for the Indy scene and it being as welcoming as it was when I first came, I wouldn't be having this conversation with you. I wouldn't have made the 'Battle Anybody' beat for Skribble Jam, I wouldn't have met Ace, we wouldn't have made that song, DJ Premier wouldn't have gotten his hands on it and this project would have never happened.

"I built quite a few friendships in Indy and obviously still work heavily with Indy artists. I felt more inclined to debut D&G here because Indy basically built D&G. Events like Chreece are a platform to showcase the diversity and caliber of styles/artists that are from Naptown. I wasn't able to come out last year, but when Ace and I were talking about debuting D&G, the plan was always to come out here. When we found out that they were going to do it again this year, I immediately contacted Ace, hit up Oreo and booked my tickets to come out. "

- Dawhud, D&G

"The sound of Indy can't really be described with one popular genre. There are quite a few scenes in Indy but what seems to be thriving the most right now is the hip-hop scene. With this being one of the most hardworking and outspoken scenes, it has helped create new connections and influence other scenes in Indy. When it comes to local music, we are all in support of each other because we live and work here. We all may not be in the same groups but we all coexist with each other. Together, we represent what our state is to the rest of the world. We sometimes get thrown into the Chicago scene but I believe at the rate at which good music is being made here, we can make our own state a hotspot for new ideas and creativity."

- Shxps

  • Submitted Photo via Soundcloud
  • Grey Granite

"The word the stands out when I'm asked the question "what does Indy sound like" is HONEST. Indy has a long history of hip-hop artists and, in the past, honesty would pop up from time to time but it was kind of rare. Today, it's the focal point of most of the successful Indy hip-hop artist. Before the explosion of the Internet ('90s and early 2000s), interest in hip-hop music was extremely location-based. If you weren't from one of the four major cities, people really didn't care what you had to say. Now it's totally different. People here understand that they have a unique experience and an interesting hip-hop scene so that's allowing them to be honest about who they are and where they come from and it's paying off."

- Grey Granite

Richard "Sleepy" Floyd - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Richard "Sleepy" Floyd

"Indy, from a hip-hop perspective, sounds like the truest elements of the artform mixed with a nod to the rich jazz history of our city. This is made up by thoughtful lyricism and even the eclectic creativity of some of the artists here in town. We've seen firsthand the versatility with the emergence of several alternative-style emcees and also those who have incorporated live instrumentation into their music, similar to what we've been doing all these years. It all makes for a beautiful hip-hop scene here in Naptown."

- Richard "Sleepy" Floyd, Native Sun

"What does Indy sound like? Passion. You can tell anyone making hip-hop music in Indy wants it because it's not common around here. Hip-hop artists are not a dime a dozen around this area so if you are really sticking to it, you gotta be passionate about it."

- Eric Swanson, Grey Lamb

Jeremiah Stokes - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Jeremiah Stokes

"Indianapolis sounds like ... dream realm. That's all subjective to a good dream or a bad dream though. Some of our stuff sounds like nightmare incarnate. Some of it sounds like a blissful dream."

- Jeremiah Stokes

TJ Reynolds and Teresa Reynolds - PHOTO BY BEN ROSE
  • Photo by Ben Rose
  • TJ Reynolds and Teresa Reynolds

"Indy is a sound that has percolated in basements and back alleys for extra extra long. It sounds like 40 isolated crews figuring out how to build bridges, and all the construction noise that comes along with it.

"It sounds like the first parties I went to in high school, where Rory O'Hara and Mike Graves helped me discover my gift for gab and what the culture was all about.

"It sounds like the Mudkids breaking out and showing Indy venues that hip-hop shows had an audience and appeal that was worth taking a risk on, and creating the first Indiana hip-hop with enough mass appeal that Russ could not put out a new rap for 20 more years and still get nominated in NUVO's best-of poll.

"It smells like the dust blown off of Topspeed's legendary 45 collection as he flips through them, which you can somehow still smell when he cues up an MP3 rip of the deepest cut at a gig. It's all the DJs he's taught, and the ones they've taught, on down the line.

"It sounds like the Indiana bands of every genre who mix it up with a rapper, and every musician who ever sat in on a gig or studio session (and not overplayed).

"Naptown sounds like the old battle leagues at the Melody Inn and Birdy's, where anything could and did happen, and the best battles brought people closer together.

"I hear cars roar by as voices roar louder as some of the best moments have happened outside of venues where spontaneous cyphers erupt and spread like wildfire.

"I see early Old Soul flyers giving those classic hip-hop heads a place to congregate and jam again.

"I am surrounded by another generation of cultural enthusiasts, archeologists who build shrines that allow dead musicians' souls to be reincarnated through a kid's beat battle entry. Griots who weave the tale of two sides of the city over drum beats more ancient than they might realize, one side tearing down the old to recast as amazingly always new, the other side sounding a warning for years that is manifesting in record murders that artists are not safe from. There is no with without without.

"It's the sound of all the connectors connecting, like carabiners snapping, holding up and together all the individual parts that make a scene. It's Doug Morris, Nick Saligoe, Jeb Banner, David Queisser, Kyle Long, Stak Daniels ...

"I hear the handshakes of new alliances forming with crews that have figured out doing it together is the only way to grow, from Cut Camp to Strong Roots to Ghost Gun to Just Due to the people that support not because their friends are playing, but because the music is dope. I'm listening as a car drives by playing the album that, either despite or because of its local origins, is one of the driver's all time favorites.

"I see a packed Indianapolis hip-hop festival in 2005 at United States of Mind, and a packed hip-hop summit the year after that, having fun performing one of my first solo sets, and being followed by some young unknown from Warsaw taking the stage in Indy for the first time. I'm gonna have to keep an eye on this Oreo Jones kid.

"Which is why Chreece is so important. It is not some unprecedented idea. It's the next step in what has been building for decades. It does not need some big name national act to anchor it. We're already holding it down, and nobody else can make the soundtrack to this city but this city."

- TJ Reynolds

"Indy sounds like a creative house party, like a sweaty basement trying desperately to grab the attention of all of the neighbors living on the street. The city hosts so many talented acts, but a great deal of the art and culture blooming within Indianapolis stays within Indianapolis. This remains a blessing because it keeps the sound organic and local, but also a curse, as a large amount of these acts deserve nationwide attention."

- neonpajamas

"When I had a metal band in high school on the Southside of Indy, if we wanted to book a show, the bill would be us, one hardcore band, one punk band, and one goth band at Smedley's Dream in Fountain Square simply because there weren't enough bands of any genre to create a bill that made sense along genre lines. At first glance this would seem a limitation to what any scene could do, but after really beginning to write and perform as Andy D in the electroclash scene of NYC in the early aughts, and later in Bloomington and then touring across the country, I can really see the seeds of what we were doing in high school. Playing shows with no coherent genre identity, having germinated and now blossoming into this bright, raw sound that is refreshing precisely because it is so diverse.

"Folks here had to support each other even if they didn't play the same 'type' of music, otherwise there wouldn't have been a scene, so now we have hip-hop artists bringing in drummers from disco-punk bands and psych-garage bands throwing festivals with rappers, and everyone going to and supporting everyone else's shows. Indianapolis has really demonstrated what it looks and sounds like to be post-genre without really losing anything of the culture and art that informed and influenced what each individual artist is doing now. This is perfect for us because we're such weirdos and make such idiosyncratic electropop/hip-hop music that we really wouldn't fit anywhere that didn't have a scene like this."

- Andy D

Business Casual - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • Business Casual

"To us, Indy sounds like change. A new generation — our generation — of artists, entrepreneurs, nurses, doctors, teachers and dreamers all coming together to breathe new life into this city. Indianapolis sounds like the America we knew as children: diverse, creative and free-spirited."

- Justin Ryan and Brady Passon, Business Casual

  • Soundcloud
  • Flaco
"I have absolutely no idea what Indy sounds like ... and that's a good thing."

- Flaco

"Indy sounds like a well-balanced meal. Our music scene is growing and is as vibrant and healthy as ever, but with a variety of choices and flavors available for the picking. We just want the people of Indy to sit down at the table with us to experience the food(s)."

- DJ MetroGnome

  • Photo by Roberto Campos
  • Drayco McCoy
"I still feel fairly new to the music scene in Indy since a lot of my friends have been in it or a part of it for a long while now. The best thing about Indy's music scene is how diverse it is. The rap scene in particular doesn't stick to any certain formula or any specific trend and that's what makes it fun. Everyone that stands out is very unique and a lot of us are almost incomparable to anyone else. It's a growing culture here but it's getting bigger and bigger, and we're getting more and more attention from other places everyday."

- Drayco McCoy

"The Indy sound is a perfect mix of all the sounds we have adopted over the course of our musical development. I feel like we are a bubble about to burst onto the national scene. Why, you may ask? Because we finally began to value our music like artists from other regions like Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Detroit, etc.

RELATED: Read about J. Brookinz' beat battle league

The difference now is that we don't need major labels to assert ourselves onto other markets. We can move independently using the powers of social media and streaming. Once we make enough noise I think the attention will come, and we have more than enough talent to satisfy the appetite of the musical masses."

- J. Brookinz

"Indy's sound is unapologetically free. We have various music scenes fused into one. Our underground scene competes with others from LA, NYC and ATL. We recognize the competition locally and nationally, but continue to strive to develop our own sound."

- Joey French

"As you go around to different parts of the country, you will notice that a certain sound for that area is a dying thing. You could go to Atlanta and literally group artists into who they "sound like." I think the internet has set trends nationwide and artists are starting to just follow whatever formula is hot at the time. I proudly cannot say the same thing for Indy. There are a ton of artists here that truly have their own sound. If I had to put a word to what Indy's sound is, I would have to say 'oddball.'

"Our influences come from a lot of different places, most of which aren't rap/hip-hop related. Indianapolis is one of the only places you will see a cross-genre show and they're generally packed. This is something I think Ghost Gun represents. We try to stress the multi-genre approach while booking out of state. I think that's what really sets Indy apart."

- Freddie Bunz

I feel like it is hard to put this question into words but I love the variety of sounds coming out of Indy. The best way I can think to describe this is to reference the Tribe event that Sirius Blvck puts together. This is an event that pulls 4-5 different genre acts together and keeps a sold-out crowd in tune the entire time. the people in the crowd may be there for a specific act/genre but leave appreciating something new." 
- Knags

Artist interviews compiled by Katherine Coplen 


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