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August 8, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
“We got a lot more than insects and incest,” St. Louis hip-hop artist Adam Estep, better known as Scrub, raps about the Midwest in his song “Country Thang”: “Half of my neighbors couldn’t even pass fourth grade/But everyone’s a scientist with a pork steak.”
He references the staples of rural Missouri, beer and trucks, and warns those unaccustomed to this way of life to keep a keen eye out for the dude rockin’ the biggest belt buckle.
His experience growing up in Schluersburg, Mo., population 19, inspired lyrics that’ll have small-town Missourians kickin’ it. In 2000, Scrub moved to Columbia, where he still performs today, to attend Mizzou and hone his song-writing skills, and then he settled in St. Louis.
He’s performed at The Blue Note and Sideshow. Keep an eye out for an upcoming show at Roxy’s this fall. Midwestern redneck intellectuals and hillbilly hipsters rejoice — someone made it without a tour on the professional bull-riding circuit.
“My sound is really intended to be fun,” Scrub says. His next release will be a mixtape titled Cornfed, which he plans to release online Thursday. In the decades-old mixtape tradition, this one will be free. The tape is a collection of all original music he has created — an effusion of the old-school Scrub.
“I needed to purge myself,” he says, adding that there will be no real promotion for the mixtape. He just wants to free up his vision for the future.
The room he’s clearing for new material will soon be filled if everything goes according to plan. He is currently signed to the record label FarFetched, and his newest album, No More Food, is in the works to be released during the winter. Right now, it’s about 70 percent complete. The title is a commentary on the U.S. food industry, he says, but the tracks stray from that theme. “It’s really in a direction that I haven’t done before.” The album is funk-based and focuses on serious topics with his own lighthearted spin. The content falls somewhere between food and the meaning of life.
“It’s a juxtaposition between life and death,” he says. “But it’s fairly positive music.”
Scrub plans to put each track on the Internet individually beginning at the end of the summer. The songs will be available free of charge for a few days and then be rotated out for the next track. Fans will have the chance to snatch up each track if they keep an eye out, but anyone without an ear down for that new Missouri sound will have to purchase No More Food once it’s fully released later this year.
Scrub’s music has influenced other musicians to see his genre in a new light. Rob Young, a classically trained pianist, had nothing to do with hip-hop until he met Scrub. His melodies can be found on the upcoming album. Tracks such as “Tiger Woods” and “Grind” showcase Young rocking the ivories in full effect. “He’s got so much vision for the direction he wants to go,” Young says. “He’s elevating pretty compartmentalized musical energy and trying to put a live show together with all of that action.”
Justin Donahue, an emcee in Columbia who goes by the name silly j-skills, also admires Scrub’s dense, introspective lyricism that’s infused with humor. Donahue is the first person Scrub started writing and recording with around 2000, and he’s preparing to release an album on Scrub’s self-started label, 9-Ball ENT.
“He inspires me on a level of emcee-to-emcee,” Donahue says. “He’s one of my favorite emcees of all time.” In fact, Donahue places Scrub’s emceeing skills among the brightest stars of hip-hop’s New York night sky. In Donahue’s eyes, Scrub’s talents are as rich as those of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. “He’s incredible,” Donahue says. “I believe one day he’ll be famous for his talents.”
A mountain of pork steaks twinkle in the distance.