The muscle of the Hu$tle: iFFy’s crew provides musical, humorous brawn for his brainchild
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
DJ Tom Ato
REAL NAME: Tom Thibus
HOMETOWN: Franklin, Tenn.
fan of electronic dance music since high school, Thibus moved to East Tennessee in 2004, initially
playing guitar before getting back into the deejay business in 2007. A mutual friend introduced him
to Wil “LiL iFFy” Wright, and the two hit it off.
As the duo Family Psychic, they released “Lil’ Waits,” a mash-up of Tom Waits and Lil’ Wayne; and a remix of “Inklings,” an album by Wright’s rock band Senryu. When Wright came up with the concept for LiL iFFy’s wizard-rap, Thibus was the first artist he approached.
“Initially it was just me and Wil on stage doing our thing, but then other people started getting in on it, and it kept getting bigger and better,” Thibus said. “It’s definitely turned into a lot more than I ever expected.”
ALSO KNOWN AS: Labia Tricks
REAL NAME: Alex Bayless
HOMETOWN: Knoxville (Farragut High School, class of 2003)
BACKGROUND: As a member of the rock band Bellfield, Bayless was familiar with the music scene when he met Wright almost a decade ago. They talked about collaborating musically but never found the time until Wright started putting together a crew for his iFFy project. Bayless became a founding member of Dude Source, which would morph into Magic Hu$tle.
“My job is to get up there and get people pumped and to back iFFy up,” Bayless said. “He writes and performs everything, but when you’re up there screaming and yelling, you can’t do it all. Getting on stage, I really just imbibe the alcohol and loosen up. Now, me and (Playboy) Manbaby just get up there and go crazy, and that’s pretty much me being me.”
A K A: Katie and the Bass Drums, Buffalo Shrimp, Blown of Arc, Babycakes, 11dictorian, Count Zacula, Destinos, Jesus Sandals, PBMB, Grizzly Bear Ankle Sprain, Temptation Island, Gettin’ Lucky
REAL NAME: Zac Fallon
HOMETOWN: Roane County (Harriman High School, class of 2006)
BACKGROUND: As the one-man band Katie and the Bass Drums, Fallon trades out his awkward stage persona in that project for its total opposite: A giant, imposing hype man of gargantuan appetites.
“Katie and the Bass Drums has always been awkward and insecure; Playboy Manbaby doesn’t (care),” Fallon said. “I get up there and do anything and everything that you could ever want to. It’s a party, and if Playboy Manbaby isn’t the king of the party, he’s at least royalty. It’s a chance to turn off all the inhibitions, and I really like that. There’s definitely a very different energy that’s happening. Playboy Manbaby at iFFy shows has become synonymous with over-the-top energy and shouting and craziness. I definitely take hype seriously.”
Mr. 9 & ¾
A K A: 9.75, The Beast Master, Don Magic Wand, Jizzle McClizzle
REAL NAME: Jeff McClain
HOMETOWN: Knoxville (Bearden High School, class of 1998)
BACKGROUND: McClain and Wright met as members of the University of Tennessee Marching Band, and when Wright started Senryu, McClain was there from the beginning, taping the shows, running video, helping his friend get the project off the ground. He’s stayed in Wright’s circle of friends and collaborators ever since, establishing Cargo Cult Records for Senryu’s releases and more.
“I’m Wil’s sounding board; that’s what I do, and this is an opportunity for me to support Wil in a more visible way,” he said. McClain was added to the Magic Hu$tle hype crew late last year and is often seen with his ever-present staff. On the new LiL iFFy album “Wand Ambition,” he has his own song, a warrior poem call-to-arms for the Hu$tle collective.
A K A: L, Lord F., Knights of the Round, Sub-Creature
REAL NAME: Unrevealed
HOMETOWN: Louisville, in Blount County
BACKGROUND: As half of the hip-hop duo Dopplegangsta, the act responsible for the radio sensation “Myrtle Beach Ya’ll” during the summer of 2011, Faulteroy and his partner, Reginald Birch, brought Dopplegangsta into the Magic Hu$tle fold in late 2011.
“iFFy and I came up with the idea to start a label/collective, and Birch and I brainstormed and came up with the name,” he said. “If you go out and watch other hip-hop acts, if it’s just a dude on stage rapping to a track, it feels awkward, like a poetry reading or an open mic night. But if you get somebody behind the decks playing music and a whole crew up there, it’s a completely different vibe, and that translates to the audience, too.
“I personally don’t think I would enjoy performing as much if we didn’t pack the stage out. Even if the crowd sucks, we’re on stage having a good time.”
Faulteroy also runs “The Proton Palace,” his home studio where the collective gathers to record. With the rest Magic Hu$tle, Dopplegangsta is working on a mixtape scheduled for a fall release, and the duo is focusing its creative energies on “Murder Gamez,” a full-length “hip-hopera,” Faulteroy said, based on the board game Clue.
“There’s a lot of interrogation going on, and we’re actually playing the game Clue to determine how it ends,” he said.
REAL NAME: Unrevealed
HOMETOWN: Corbin, Ky., with time spent in Maryville
BACKGROUND: Half of Dopplegangsta who’s found a way to take his over-the-top attitude and personality to another level of chaos.
“Faulteroy has to watch out for me; he dispenses my medication and alcohol intake, and while he was in Japan a couple of weeks ago, the rest of the guys didn’t know how to handle it,” he said.
A new Dopplegangsta track, he adds, was recently inspired by a visit to a New Age store in Knoxville Center Mall. “Crystal Vision” the song was inspired by the store of the same name.
“We went in there one day and totally got inspired about that,” he said. “L got mad at me because I was calling out to spirits and wanted to buy some Wiccan books. I think he saw a couple of ghosts in there. Hopefully if this song explodes, the store’s owners will drop us a big check as a thank-you.”
A K A: BTW
REAL NAME: Andy Vinson
HOMETOWN: Knoxville (South-Doyle High, class of 2010)
BACKGROUND: As one of the staff members of WUTK-FM, 90.3 “The Rock,” Vinson — the youngest member of Magic Hu$tle — became acquainted with Wright and fell in love with the iFFy phenomenon. He approached Wright about mashing up one of the tracks off of iFFy’s debut album with the syrupy ’80s pop hit “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and Wright gave Vinson his blessing to do just that.
Since then, he’s done a remix of “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates, and his skills impressed Faulteroy and Wright so much that they asked him to join the crew. He’s working on a debut EP — “Black Thunder Wunder (BTW)” — that will hopefully be released soon.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said of his time in the Hu$tle. “All the guys are amazing. I definitely struggle sometimes to get in clubs we’re playing because I’m only 20, but it’s been awesome.”
A K A: Ya Boy Hills
REAL NAME: Tyler McClure
BACKGROUND: A long-time hip-hop fan (and so named because he literally has loss of hearing in one ear), McClure didn’t begin writing his own raps and putting them down over beats until January of this year. But once the floodgates opened, they couldn’t be closed: Over the course of several months, he put up roughly 25 EPs for free on his Bandcamp site, many of which earned him some attention from the guys in Dopplegangsta. The two guest-rapped on two Halfdeaf songs, “Zombie Problems” and “Shotgun Surgeon,” and when Wright heard the collaboration, he asked Halfdeaf to rap a verse on “Wand Ambition.”
“He asked me in late June to be a part of Magic Hu$tle officially, and I was excited to do it,” he said. “Since then, I’ve almost completed a Slytherin EP, which is cool, because there’s something about being an anti-hero in this group. There’s a need for that, and I’ve always identified as the bad guy anyway.”
A full-length Halfdeaf album — “Zombie Problems” — will hopefully be released by January, he added.