Darkness falls by 6 these days, both a blessing and annoyance – less hours of daylight, but the evening fun begins a lot sooner. This Friday, December 9, your night belongs to the Cruel Winter Fest at the Grog Shop for a showcase of some of our best local hip-hop artists, beginning early at 6 p.m.

Cruel Winter Fest is hosted by show director Kris Hilton, himself a local award-winning designer, and co-host Walker OG. Local award-winning DJ Corey Grand and DJ Chucky Supreme will each be featured in between performances. The Grog Shop’s Wallace Settles is the festival’s founder.

Cleveland rap tends to feel just like the city: gritty and stark with confrontational lyrics and an often aggressive delivery that sounds somewhat contrary to our nasally CLE accents. The artists featured on Cruel Winter Fest bill carry the Cleveland sound each in their own way.

King Zell is a festival headliner, but says he is most looking forward to “seeing the other good artists on the line-up and what they got to bring to the table.” He released a mixtape titled “1997” in October. His raps tell stories, like the sense of comfort and safety we all find in our “Grandma’s Kitchen”. Zell says he wrote the song “Smooth Peewee”, about his grandfather and his party lifestyle and aimed for an “old-school funk and jazz sound in the style of music my grandad liked.”

Get to the Grog Shop by 6 so you can hear [email protected] Gotti open the festival. [email protected]’s signature song, “Black Lives Matter”, shows a young artist more mature than his 19 years would suggest. The opportunity to “reach more ears” and network with other artists and promoters excites Gotti: “Feeling the energy and performing my music is quite a blessing, a step closer to victory.”

Mondo Slade is from Cleveland, now living in his home-away-from-home, Atlanta. He rejects the trend of minimalist musical sound in Cleveland rap with full, colorful noise and background. Listen to “Goin’ Up” for a taste of Slade’s clever rhymes and punchy delivery.

Bre Vibez’ low-register, hard vocals may make you think of Missy Elliot, but with a Cleveland edge. When her voice softens, she sounds like she could easily anchor the evening news. Listen to “Vibe Ride” a steady groove that will put a summer feeling into your wintry night.

Shuicide Holla is the one artist on the bill you really would not want to get stuck in a freestyle battle with. Listen to “Ms. 808” and find out why.

Headliners Tribe Untitled will move this crowd through emotional lyrics, trippy loops and dark noise. Listen to “Mess”, it sounds like it belongs on Tricky’s “Pre-Millennium Tension”.

One thing all these artists share is a passion for what they do that is as scrappy and in-your-face as the Cleveland rap scene can serve. But the darkness is never completely without hope. Because Cleveland.

The 3rd Annual Cruel Winter Fest at the Grog Shop is Friday, December 9 at 6 p.m. $10 ADV, $15 DOS. Click here for tickets and more info.

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