Chiller In the Heat

forefathers of EC hip-hop looking to claim their spot in the national scene

Chris Henson |

Halfway through the summer heat, hip-hoppers Frozen Tundra are refusing to thaw. The longtime local heroes Knowdafame (Malcolm Sage), Wordsmith (Ryan Davey), Mr. Pizzy (Mason Hateli), M-Dubbs (Mike Marono), and Omega (Levi Hateli) are looking to utilize recent successes to take their music to the nation.

Frozen Tundra formed in 2003, when an Eau Claire hip-hop scene didn’t exist. “All egos aside, we are the godfathers of Eau Claire hip-hop,” Mr. Pizzy said. “When we started, there was no one else here.” Now five years in, the group is excited to be part a community growing like a California wildfire and have a lot of respect for the level of talent in all genres of music in the Chippewa Valley. Their particular style of hip-hop features four rotating MCs and one soulful vocalist, Knowdafame. All members make the catchy beats, the kindling for the rapid lyrics in the verses. Members say they get their inspiration from the personal struggles of each of their diverse lives

Over the years, Frozen T has released two discs as a full group and the individual members together have put out six solo discs all, on the local label Destine Records. The latest group disc, Kingpens, is the hottest commodity, benefitting from the professional studio production provided by McLooney Tunes Music and Multimedia Production in Winona, Minn. The studio time was a result of winning a battle of the bands competition in Winona.

Still burning bright from their battle success, they recently they got to the top 20 in the Lollapalooza Last Band Standing competition, which started with thousands. They made it through a round of fan voting and a round judged by a panel including Perry Ferrel (frontman of Jane’s Addiction and founder of Lollapalooza) before being eliminated by fan voting in the third round.

With a professional level disc, years of experience under their belt, and some national exposure, the gang is looking to take the act to the rest of United States – something they have hesitated to do.

“We don’t want to do it half-assed,” Knowdafame said. “To do a full tour you have to be prepared. A lot of groups want to hit the road right away and get out in front of a lot of people and think that will bring them success. But there are a lot of things on the business end to consider. You have to market yourself correctly and you want to leave the best possible impression on the audience.”

The group also cited family and job schedules as logistical challenges. Up to now, Frozen has forgone traveling tours, preferring to play around Wisconsin and Minnesota opening up for national acts such as Jurassic 5, Fat Joe, and an upcoming show with N.A.S. But within the next year they plan to hit the road, hopefully as an opening act for an already established performer.

Meanwhile in Eau Claire, they strive to improve the scene which they helped start with a new kind of show. The Black and White Affair on Aug. 9 at the Stones Throw is a concert intended to keep the audience there from start to finish. The attendees are require to wear black and/or white for admittance (appropriate attire will be available for a small fee at the door) and will be treated to full lineup featuring DJ BeZe, DJ Smiley, Max Power and the Feedback, Dirty Dozen, Rio, Fathom, Hyder Ali, and Blinded. Local business will also be showcased. The idea is to create a classy party in a smoke-free environment which allow people to dress up or down – a unique experience from other concerts or club scenes in the area.

Things seemed to be heating up for Frozen Tundra, but they won’t forget their fans or where they came from, promising: “Be ready and support, and we will represent where we are at.”

    Black and White Affair. Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Stones Throw. 9pm. $5, wear black and white. 552-5882.