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Obscurity Knocks

CD Baby's weird and wacky Missouri musicians, "Yo! RFT Raps" talks to inBox magazine's svengali, and the Raconteurs star in this week's Download

Yo! RFT Raps

The latest issue of inBoxmagazine features reviews of the latest Killa Skillz and Lil Waynealbums, a Photoshopped image of Michael Jacksonwith a pair of double-Ds, an interview with former American Idolcrooner Taynka and a two-page spread of the magazine's models posing on a pool table at north-side G-string-and-pasties club The Bear's Den.

Published every six weeks, inBox has come a long way since its founding in 2001; it's now sold in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit and several local stores, including Vintage Vinyl and Culture Vibes in Union Station. Cost is three bucks — or ten if you want the bonus DVD, which features model Princessinterviewing people like D4L, Big Will, Ebony Eyez, Chingyand Nimmy Hendrix.

In fact, inBoxis now just a piece of editor Bobby Shelton's burgeoning hip-hop empire, which also includes a video production studio, modeling agency and Internet portal (inboxmag.com). His HQ is a cute blue-and-white house next to a charred pile of lumber on St. Louis Street in East St. Louis — Shelton lives in the back and runs a printing shop out of the front.

The shop, called inBox Printing and Tees, keeps the magazine afloat, says the affable, 43-year-old Shelton, who moved to East St. Louis from Compton, California, ten years ago because he had family in the area and liked the small-town feel. Gradually honing his connections and skills in graphic design and marketing, Shelton hopes inBox will become as big as The Sourcesomeday.

Shelton shamelessly blurs the line between editorial and advertising. In fact, his "62 50" spread (smack in the middle of the magazine) derives its name from the fact that it costs $62.50 to get an artist featured there. As for the cover — which this month features Lock 'em Down Records artists Dun Dealand Young Beano — that'll be $2,500. Conflict of interest? "Hey, we need a vehicle for our up-and-coming artists as well as entertainment for our readers," Shelton says. "I'll pay by putting it out as long as everybody else helps by pitching in."


DJ Kaos and Syllli Asz's The Janky Show was supposed to air on UPN (see the April 5 column "Kaos Theory") but can now be seen Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m. on Charter Cable's channel 21 — a.k.a. KDHX TV's community-access station. "I think it's actually pretty well done," says station manager Bev Hacker. "It's local hip-hop, rap music — I don't see it as being all gangsta rap. I haven't seen every single episode, but what I've seen, I haven't had an issue with." (The Janky Showcan be seen in the county and on the east side at 10:30 p.m. every Sunday on Channel 18.) — Ben Westhoff

Be My Baby... or Not
Before MySpace, there was CD Baby (cdbaby.com), an e-commerce retailer that's survived the dot-com bust because it's more than an online music distributor — it's an infinite, Borgesian library where one sonic obscurity leads to another and another, until you doubt the existence of bands like Dr. Chordate or The Senile 1, even as they stream to your desktop in 45-second snippets. And who needs genre categories when you can search by mood, occasion and personality type? "Upbeat" and "party music" dominate Missouri CD Baby artist moods, with "dreamy," "intellectual," "weird," "quirky" and "sex music" not far behind. Here are some recent Show-Me State CD babies only a mother could love.

Holy Frog (Columbia): This "surreal postmodern acoustic duo" claims they'll "penetrate your mojo and leave you with pockets of clover" — which makes perfect sense, if you can picture Simon and Garfunkel raised on Monty Python and the Meat Puppets.

Frankenhookers (St. Louis): Necrophilia is the last refuge of skater punks looking for shock value or yuks, but misogyny is still the first refuge of spoiled brats. Who has time for punk politics when there are so many corpses to rape?

Headz Up (Kansas City):The virtual clerks at CD Baby claim they listen to every CD stored in their Portland warehouse, but they don't claim to pay attention. The legal offices of .38 Special and Van Halen should. There's a reason classic rock is classic, and it isn't songs like "Party Dawgz" or "Road Rage."

Son of Roy (St. Louis): Randall Harr, a country singer-songwriter badly in need of a singer, documents getting kicked out of the snooty Bluebird Café in Nashville, scoots his boots over saw dusty puns and briefly sobers up to pray for world peace.

Lord Freak (St. Louis):As CD Baby search terms go, Gangsta Hippie, the debut from this hip-hop poseur, has the essentials covered — good thing, as homages to east-side titty bars and "runnin' shit," etc. need more help than a fake Nelly drawl and slide-guitar samples.

Fishwacker (Mercer):The northern Missouri town of Mercer, population 350, isn't ready for this combination of the Angry Samoans, smooth jazz, extreme bass solos and Ween-esque snot-rock. Nobody else is either.

Amy Camie (St. Louis): New-age singer and harpist whose CD single "I Will Always Be With You" ("a lullaby for the child in all of us after September 11, 2001") features a cover with two teddy bears holding a heart. Gift packages featuring your company's logo optional. — Roy Kasten

THE DOWNLOAD
A raconteur is defined as someone who is good at telling stories. We had to look it up, but Detroit Rock City's Jack White (the White Stripes) and Brendan Benson have a plan to boost the word's popularity. Their new supergroup, which also includes members from Cincinnati's the Greenhornes, won't release Broken Boy Soldiers until May 16, but you can have an early taste of the Raconteurs at AOL's online music show, The Interface. Along with an interview with the band, the site has posted acoustic versions of album tracks "Yellow Sun" and "Blue Veins" as well as the first single, "Steady As She Goes." Check out music.aol.com/artists/the-interface/raconteurs. — Andy Vihstadt

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