By Drew Ailes
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The Buggles famously kicked off MTV with their prophetic synthpop classic "Video Killed the Radio Star." But with some serious attention, local rapper Ruka Puff might soon be singing, "Video made the rapper a star."
You see, Ruka whose perfectly sculpted mohawk makes him look distinctive anyway recently appeared in the video for Mack 10's "Like This." Support for the clip from music-video stations such as BET meant that when he recently spent two months in LA, he was already a recognizable figure.
"I went to [fast-food restaurant] El Pollo Loco and five or six high school dudes, they didn't know my name, but they're like, ‘That's the dude from the video!'" Puff recounts. "It was kind of weird, in different spots in LA people already know who I was. The mohawk's hard to forget, so anywhere we go in the world maybe not the whole city's going to know who I am, but somebody's gonna know, know what I'm saying?"
Luckily for Ruka Puff, the right people noticed him when he was in LA in particular, representatives from FOX Sports, who spotted him at an Interscope Records party.
"One of my employees recognized him and said, ‘This is somebody you need to meet,'" says Jerry Davis, a music supervisor for FOX Sports and foxsports.net. "We're interested in their production skills, are in discussions with them to see if they can deliver some music to us for some of our shows.
"That's in general. A little more specifically, we're talking about having the guys do something very soon with FOX Sports Midwest and the St. Louis Cardinals."
While nothing is set in stone, Puff mentions a song he recorded called "Tilt Your Brimmy," which he says the Cardinals will air on TV broadcasts. There's also talk of tailoring a remix for Albert Pujols, in audio and video, with the video being offered as a benefit for charity).
Through the FOX Sports contacts, Puff says, he met ex-Detroit Piston/Best Damn Sports Show Period host John Salley, who expressed interest in working with him. (A call to Salley was not returned by press time.)
Sporting silver kicks (his "Prada space shoes," he calls them), camo pants, canary- yellow socks and a purplish blazer for a recent Friday-afternoon interview a normal outfit Ruka Puff looks every bit the part of a budding superstar.
But his unique clothing style hammers home the fact that unlike many other artists, his sense of self is as solid as granite.
"The only way to stick out is to be yourself," Puff says. "When I was in, like, sixth grade all the way through tenth grade, I was a totally different person. I was in trouble a lot. I felt like my life was headed somewhere where I didn't want to be. All that because I was trying to be like somebody else.
"When I started to be my own thing, wearing pink, wearing bright colors when I started doing that, I stayed out of trouble.
"And I got more chicks that way."
That unique flavor emerges on "Like a Pro," the excellent first single from the soon-to-be-released mixtape recorded during the stint in LA, I'm a Starr.Puff growls phrases such as "Baby girl, shake that thing like a pro" atop thick production that screams earworm; picture a cross between an 8-bit Nintendo game and crunked-up club beats.
Mack 10's label, Hoo Bangin' Records, will debut Starr May 17. (An in-store at Vintage Vinyl, 6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-4096, is scheduled that evening at 7 p.m.) If the title sounds familiar, it ought to: Mack 10 bought Puff's "I'm a Star" for his own 2005 release, Hustla's Handbook. As of press time, a distribution deal for Ruka Puff's next album (tentatively titled Ruka Mania) was reportedly in the works between the rapper and Universal/ Hoo Bangin'.
Puff reports that LA's perception of the St. Louis rap scene still centers on Nelly although that will change, if he has anything to do with it.
"With our music, we try to make sure that it's melodic and it will appeal to everybody," he says. "You don't make music for one person, you make it for everybody.
"Big shout-outs to Nelly, 'cause of course he put us on the map," Puff is quick to add. "I always say, ‘Nelly built the house, Chingy opened the door, and I'm going to decorate it.' That's what needs to happen. They just need to see the decoration of St. Louis."
Bummed that Margot & the Nuclear So and So's canceled their April 29 Pageant gig at the eleventh hour? Take heart: The Indianapolis octet will be back in town as part of Vintage Vinyl's 25th anniversary extravaganza this Saturday, May 13. The all-day event which takes place at VV's Delmar Loop location features indoor and outdoor stages and national acts (The Bronx, Mellowdrone, Murder by Death, Alexi Murdoch, Shawn Mullins, Mason Jennings, Russian Circles, the Colour), as well as local faves (Johnny O & the Jerks, LaPush, Love Experts, Tobi Kai & the Strays, Casey Reid). And it's free!