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Shuffle: Funk/Hip-Hop Group Tropidelic Rides Momentum of Festival, Album into 2018

photo of Tropidelic
Tropidelic began at Kent State but is now based in Cleveland. Matt Roads started the band which now includes trombonist James Begin, Bobby Chronic on guitar, drummer Darrick Willis, Pags on bass and trumpeter Derek McBryde.

A Cleveland band that mixes funk, reggae and hip hop is hoping to grow its loyal following this coming year. In this week’s Shuffle, WKSU's Amanda Rabinowitz talked with Tropidelic lead singer Matt Roads about their sound, their fans and their big goals. 

Matt Roads started Tropidelic in 2008 while he was a student at Kent State University. He famously gave away 10,000 free copies of the six-piece band’s self-produced EP, Rebirth of the Dope.

Devoted fans
Tropidelic plays about 150 shows each year all over the Midwest and East Coast. It’s no wonder that they’ve earned a fervent and devoted fan base.

It's a race to the end to get this moving to the point where I can do what I want with my life, freely.

There’s one couple, according to Roads, who’s followed the band to more than 20 shows across 10 states just this year.

“They’ll drive far to see us all the time,” Roads said. “It’s really amazing. It keeps me going, to be honest.”

Their fan base is also remarkably diverse.

“We have people who come to our shows religiously who range in age from their 50s down to 18- and 19-year-olds,” Roads said.

Heavy is the Head album cover from Tropidelic
Tropidelic's 2017 release, Heavy is the Head, combines various influences and topped iTunes' reggae charts in the first week of its release.

The live show experience
In an age when new music drops via the internet and goes directly to consumers’ listening devices, Tropidelic’s performances give people an experience they can’t get from a simple download.

“Until you’ve seen us live, you can’t really get a full grasp of what it is,” Roads said. “We have dance moves, the horn players jump out into the crowd and run around the venue. No one is doing the stuff we’re doing.”

Tropidelic started its own music festival this past summer. The band headlined two nights of camping and music in Medina. The festival, called The Freakstomp, took its name from a song off the group’s 2015 album, The Police State.

The song’s message inspired the festival’s welcoming and diverse atmosphere. The song’s title inspired the festival’s freak show-esque theme, complete with carnival attractions like stilt walkers and jugglers.

Topping the reggae charts
The group also hit the top of iTunes’ reggae chart in November within a week of releasing their latest album, Heavy is the Head. Much like its fans, the album embraces a wide array of styles and aesthetics.

“Some of the stuff’s bluesy, some of it’s funk, some of it’s reggae, some of the songs are almost like jazz and hip hop,” Roads said.

The band’s eclecticism makes it difficult to wedge into Cleveland’s music scene. But Roads says that’s why the band recently got the attention of – and signed on with – LAW Records.

“It’s just so off-the-wall for this sort of area,” Roads said. “It stands out.”

Making it
Roads says he's ready for the band to really break through.

"I graduated from Kent; I went on to a career. I sat behind a desk. And I decided it wasn't for me. It's a race to the end now to get this moving tot he point where I can do what I want with my life, freely. I  think we're really turning that corner now."

Tropidelic is looking to reprise its summer music festival in 2018, though the theme may be different. In the meantime, they’ll be playing to a likely sellout crowd in Cleveland Heights at the Grog Shop’s New Year’s Eve show. They'll also be on tour through March with Flobots and Sublime tribute band, Badfish