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Hip-Hop for a Cause

KLOBR doesn't want you to know his real name, and he doesn't care if you like what he does. But he does want you to know that being a graffiti artist is what keeps him alive.

"Some people say I'm crazy for doing graffiti, but I like to tell them I'd be crazy if I didn't do it," he says, adding that it's important for him to protect his identity so authorities don't know the face and name that goes with his tag.

On Saturday, May 31, at 8 p.m., KLOBR and four other Tucson graffiti artists--Zackey Funk Force, Worf, Sike and Ingen--will showcase their work at El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity. The hip-hop evening, dubbed Skillz to Pay the Billz, also includes performances from The Deros, the Swivel Point Crew, DJ Grapla and the Effin' Sumbodies. The $8 admission benefits the Tucson Musicians Museum.

KLOBR says he's happy to be involved with a good cause, but he's also happy about the opportunity to bring elements of hip-hop culture to a part of the community that may have never experienced it before.

"I don't know if that gallery has ever had graffiti art before, or if they've had rappers there, or have ventured into hip-hop that much, but it seems like a good way to break it out into the community," KLOBR says. "If it's an art gallery, it's legitimate, so that means you don't have to hide your kids from it. Anytime the art can get more exposure is good, as long as it's not commercial and driven into the ground."

Exposure to local hip-hop is exactly what organizer Anna Schindler had in mind. Schindler says that when it comes to Tucson, local folks and clubs remain behind the curb in embracing hip-hop. Clubs like Vaudeville Cabaret and Sharks occasionally host hip-hop performers, but that's about it.

"I've talked to local clubs about doing something regularly, but I've heard them say that it causes trouble," Schindler says. "But in Phoenix, clubs regularly have hip-hop. I've been to those clubs, and I've never seen any problems. It's just not true."

When Schindler brought the idea for the event to the Tucson Musicians Museum's Susan French, a co-founder and vice president of its board of directors, French says she immediately saw a great way to connect the museum to local kids.

"We want to reach out to a younger audience with hip-hop to connect them to the museum and our programs," French says.

The museum, which began last year, works to recognize musicians working in Tucson for 25 years or longer, and the contributions they've made to local music and beyond. One way to extend that contribution is through a mentorship program. French says the money raised at Skillz to Pay Billz will help pay the musicians who will be paired with high school-age musicians.

"This benefits so many people on so many levels," French says. "What we are going to do is pair kids in the community who have shown a high interest in music with professional musicians, who will give them lessons, but also show them the business side, like how to put a band together, how to promote yourself, how to do a record and enter into a contract."

French says that as support for the museum grows, the group will find a physical location. Beyond a space, museum organizers have other programming in mind, such as raising additional money for an emergency fund to help underinsured musicians through the Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance, and helping musicians with the cost of replacing stolen instruments.

"We're all volunteering, so there are no admin costs. We're young; we're small, but one thing is certain: We love Tucson and our local musicians, and we want to do more for Tucson music," French says.

KLOBR says he likes the idea of the show bringing more kids in contact with local hip-hop musicians and culture. He hopes the show may make it easier for someone inspired by the work to develop an interest in the genre and remain supported by friends and family.

"I've lost friends; my family doesn't support it at all and have turned their back on me, and I've lost girlfriends and have gotten kicked out of school, been to jail and have had to pay fines--all kinds of not-so-fun stuff. I guess looking at your artwork when you're done and seeing it finished is worth all that," he says.

Skillz to Pay the Billz takes place at the El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity, 340 N. Fourth Ave, at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 31. Live hip-hop, break dancing and graffiti art will take place; admission is an $8 minimum donation to benefit the Tucson Musicians Museum. To learn more about the museum, go to Web site. For more information about the event, call 624-4800.

More by Mari Herreras

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