Super Indy: TJ Reynolds

TJ Reynolds performing with the Freehand Orchestra

The Super Bowl has provided local artists with amazing opportunities to perform for brand new audiences from all over the country. Three of these Indianapolis bands will have the opportunity to open for one of the biggest hip-hop artists of all time, D.M.C. Three Naptown groups (including TJ Reynolds and the Freehand Orchestra, Kool's Bazaar and Blackberry Jam) will compete in the Super Bold Battle of the Bands this Friday at the Madame Walker Theatre.

I spoke to one of those band's leaders, TJ Reynolds. Reynolds' rhymes contain many of the same socially conscious ideas as D.M.C.'s, including meditations on rights, healthy relationships and the importance of arts. He's also encouraged and taught arts education programs, helped found a cultural collective (United States of Mind) and a African drum performance group (Positive Repercussions) that frequently performed at schools and after-school programs.

With some Super Bowl events topping out at over $1,000 per ticket, this show may be the best value in town. Two Atlanta-based bands, Quita.Dream and Willie Hen and the Rose Parade, will also compete in the battle. Fan voting will determine which two acts will open for D.M.C. at a benefit show for nonprofit House of Restoration Africa one week later.

NUVO: Exciting about Run-D.M.C. Are you a fan? Is that even a question?

TJ Reynolds: Run-D.M.C. is one of the pillars of hip-hop. There's one of the groups that if you took them out, then hip-hop would just crumble. It's cool because older music can sound dated but you put them on and it's just as fresh as when it came out the first time.

NUVO: What does it mean to you as an artist to get this kind of exposure?

TR: As an artist, it's exciting because I think I can bring kind of the message of what I'm about in hip-hop to a little bit of a wider audience. That's exciting; just to be able to meet him and have a chance to rock on the same stage is just one of those things that you carry as one of your accomplishments.

NUVO: How did this process get started?

TR: I found out about it in late December, towards the end [of the month]. Somebody called me up and said, "Hey there's this contest, you guys should enter." I was on the road, driving across the country. I had to kind of scramble and get some band members together to apply for [the contest].

NUVO: So many events associated with the Super Bowl are so expensive, but this is such an accessible, cool show.

TR: We're hosting the Super Bowl, but [there's] not really events for the community of Indianapolis. We might benefit financially, but...(trails off). Listen, I'm in Northwest High School right now. And the kids love Drake. They listen to Drake all the time. And he is coming for the Super Bowl, but he's playing a private party. He's not reaching the people that are supporting him, his fans. So, that's why this is a cool opportunity, to be more street level.

NUVO: Do you have any other plans for the Super Bowl?

TR: My plans are busking. I'm going to try to look as official as I can and go in set up in the Convention Center and freestyle. [I'll] set up some fresh cyphers and show off the other side of the city. That's some of my favorite types of performances, just freestyling and being in the moment and communicating with people. [We'll] gather like 100 people and get the crowd going.

NUVO: Thoughts on the other bands?

TR: I'm really excited, because I think that the lineup is awesome. If this wasn't a battle, this would be a great show. It's almost too bad it's a battle, but it adds some excitement and a cool story to it. Kool's Bazaar and Blackberry Jam, they're family. We've never played with Kool's Bazaar, so that's cool [that we'll have the opportunity to do so]. And the groups from Atlanta are cool and definitely on a different kick you know? I think that it's a really complimentary show, a complimentary lineup.

NUVO: Super Bowl predictions?

TR: Man, as much as I don't want to publish my predictions, but if New England comes in here and wins the Super Bowl, man....(unhappy grumblings). It's cool. It's exciting, everyone's getting excited about putting on a good face and changing things up.

NUVO: Showing everyone what Indianapolis has to offer.

TR: Yes. This is probably the largest thing we've ever undertaken. It's great.

TJ Reynolds and the Freehand Orchestra release music online.