Tropidelic heads Trop the Block

Tropidelic is taking a page from the do-it-yourself handbook and writing a new chapter.

With no major label to push them, Tropidelic sustains their blossoming career with what founding member Matthew Roads describes as “being smarter and working smarter.”

He offered an example of this approach to touring. “We renovated an airport shuttle ourselves. Paid it off real quick. We shower at Planet Fitness. We have memberships and there are locations all over the country, and we sleep in the bus. Bands will break the bank on hotels every night or scrounging for places to sleep. We found a good formula that works.”

Roads, who received a business degree from Kent State University, understands that talent can only get the band so far.

“If you want to grow and tour and build markets around you, you can’t play your hometown eight times a year. You’ve got to start markets. You’ve got to come up with a strategy and routine, and stick to it. Then, you’ve got to know what you’re worth because it’s a cut-throat business and people take advantage of you. All of that has been a long learning process.”

He credits having a label, manager, tour manager and especially a national booking agent for gaining a wider fanbase.

“Our numbers almost doubled overnight. You have to have someone represent you, someone with connections built in, which anybody legitimate would already have. It makes things grow exponentially very quickly.”

The first lineup of Tropidelic got together at Kent State University. Instantly, the band’s reggae, rap, rock and funk hybrid stood out among the dozens of northeast Ohio artists.

“Since day one, it’s always been what comes naturally to us,” Roads said, “and we got lumped in this reggae scene, which has been good to us but we’re definitely an outlier.

“It’s been a blessing and a curse. It sets us apart but then there’s other times when you’re in a genre, they want people that match the genre. For the most part it’s been a blessing, especially in our region. I haven’t come across anybody doing quite what we’re doing. It’s definitely helped us in the Midwest.”

Moving its post-graduation operations to Cleveland, the group’s presence has spread nationwide with five releases and 150 shows a year. Previous high-profile appearances included the 311 Caribbean Cruise, Electric Forest and Warped Tour, while 2019 finds the band at Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati, KayaFest in Pittsburgh and hosting the group’s annual Freakstomp Music Festival in Butler, Ohio.

“We’ve been touring the country the past five years pretty hard. We’re far along enough now that we know who our audience is. We’re not trying to convince non-reggae listeners to give us a shot. It’s more about these reggae listeners who are used to that sort of thing having their eyes opened.

“We get warm receptions wherever we go. We have a full marching band in our live show, synchronized dance moves. We pull out all the stops.”

Roads recalls Tropidelic’s earliest show in the area taking place at Cedars’ original downtown location. Since then, the band grew a passionate Mahoning Valley fanbase.

That appeal has led to Tropidelic headlining this Saturday’s all-day Trop the Block event, which showcases 13 bands, including northeast Ohio reggae legends Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band, Oogee Wawa, Cosmic Lemons and Larry Elefante. The acts will play on a stage located on Phelps Street in downtown Youngstown as well as in Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts. There will also be art and other local vendors, and food provided by Suzie’s and Rhine Haus Bier Hall.

“The idea for Trop the Block came after their last show here,” said Brian McCale, talent buyer and owner at Steel Standing Entertainment, who is putting on the event. “It was at Suzie’s on a Sunday and sold out pre-sale.

“Tropidelic has always shown love to Youngstown and have been willing to give us a date every year but we needed to find a better way to accommodate them,” McCale said. “So, with the help of Suzie’s, Rhine Haus Bier Hall, the city of Youngstown and myself, we’re going to be able to do that on Phelps Street.

“I’ve always enjoyed throwing and attending events downtown. There is a lot of good energy and momentum happening downtown and I’d like to add to it when I can,” he said.

While the sextet maintains a party atmosphere on stage, the band’s music developed a musical maturity that seamlessly meshes different genres.

That’s demonstrated by the singles off the band’s sixth release “Here in the Heights,” which comes out June 7 and has guest appearances by Fishbone, Zach Deputy and Bumpin Uglies.

“Bad One” combines an island groove with ska punk, while “Icarus,” featuring Wookiefoot, has laid-back sunny vibes as it uses the classic Greek mythological tale to encourage others to follow their dreams before they meet their fateful end.

“On this new record we’ve tried to be more concise as opposed to the past,” Roads said.

“Let’s be honest. It’s about making music that people want to buy and share and play. So we want to keep it in a more targeted vein. From start to finish, there’s less crossover and zigzagging. There’s a little less hip-hop than usual but there’s still all the elements that make us what we are.”