Marty from the block

Chico’s Marty James is back with One Block Radius

BLOCK PARTY <br>The newly drawn super crew of One Block Radius comes to Off Limits. From left: Z-Man, Marty James and Mr. Dope America.

The newly drawn super crew of One Block Radius comes to Off Limits. From left: Z-Man, Marty James and Mr. Dope America.

Illustration by Tyrone Moreno

Preview: One Block Radius Fri., Jan 7 Off Limits Cost: $5

It seems every young Chico music fan has a story about Marty the Rapper … excuse me, Marty the Entertainer. The story told around the television set when his Scapegoat Wax video made it into rotation on MTV2. The story shouted across the bar overlooking another sold-out homecoming at the Brick Works. The story about former Chico Mall kiosk employee Marty James on the verge of being the next pop music superstar.

My story is about a cocky seventh-grader at Chico Jr. High School who seemed to think he could beat the entire eighth-grade basketball “b” team himself. Unconcerned by the difference in age or the fact that he wasn’t actually a very good basketball player, James constantly mocked us until the night our two teams met. Although we were rattled, we won and our fragile egos remained intact.

From that day forward it was obvious that James had the trait that many lack. He was a dreamer.

A decade and a half later his dream has manifested as the trio One Block Radius, a pop music group consisting of James, his DJ Mr. Dope America (Tyrone Moreno) and the up-and-coming Bay Area rapper Z-man (Zamon Christian). One Block Radius explores the melting pot of musical genres that have made their impression on James over the years. Showing pop musical influences from Terrence Trent D’arby, Prince and Queens of the Stone Age to the sociopolitical raps of groups like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, James’ beat-driven music seems predestined for the radio.

Marty James began his musical quest as a rapper at Chico High School. Determined at a young age, he would put aside all extra money to spend on recording his rap compositions. These recordings were met with enthusiasm by his future cohort and mentor, Johnny Z. Having produced a gold record with his Vallejo-based rap group N2Deep, Z recognized the talent in the young rhymer. Through the generous use of Z’s equipment and studio space, James quietly developed from rapper to entertainer as he began exploring the singsong pop melodies that make his music so infectious.

With his updated take on new jack swing, James named his project Scapegoat Wax. Soon signed to the Beastie Boys Grand Royal label, Scapegoat Wax became the band that made local fans believe “Chico matters.” Despite having relocated to L.A., Scapegoat Wax made its debut, Okeeblow, much more about hometown pride than big-city bravado. From the cover photo of James standing in front of Melody Records on the corner of Fourth and Main to the numerous references to the 530 area code, it was obvious that he still called Chico home.

Local radio responded with consistent play of the popular single, “Alison (aisle 10)”, as well as others, exposing a new generation of young fans whose support made Scapegoat Wax one of most popular live acts to come through town.

A busy schedule of touring, promotion and rehearsal quickly developed his talented five-piece backing band’s sound. Unfortunately, Grand Royal went out of business two and a half months after the album came out. By the next year James had signed and put out a subsequent album with Hollywood Records, but his break never came.

One Block Radius is now poised to make it happen. The live show has changed quite a bit, with James and Mr. Dope America taking over for the former band on growing racks of keyboards, samplers and turntables. Z-man’s charismatic stage presence and high-energy raps are a welcomed addition to the mix.

Recently having shot a video for the first single, One Block Radius is getting out on the road to play some select dates. It’s safe to assume that there are many more stories to be told about our hometown hero.