Mr. ILL (Official)
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Mr. ILL (Official)

Knoxville, TN | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | INDIE

Knoxville, TN | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Hip Hop Funk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Asheville's Groove is Deeper Than You Think"

'Hip Hop gets a bad rap. A lot of people are close-minded about it. But that's ok, because we are still pushing to get our art out there, and we will continue to do so.... This is not commercial rap. This conscious, indigenous, hip hop. We don't tote guns or sell crack. We don't make the same old crap over the same candy-shop beats. This innovative, positive, and revolutionary music, built from the ground up by some of the most talented MC's, producers, and singers in the country. This is music!! So when you see names like I.T., Campaign, Chach, Illeye, Rareform, Plan-Z, Verse, Agent 23, TruDru, GFE, Fist Fam, Baby G, Gaia Resurrect, Observe, or Lady Laine- look twice!!' - Mountain Express

"Secret City Cyphers"

“It’s not just about me; it’s about everybody,” says local MC Jason Hart of his new flash mob style get-together of musicians called Secret City Cyphers.

Since the group’s formation, a total of seven performances have been hosted in various outside locations around Knoxville and have featured countless local musicians, MC’s, and poets.

After performing at the open mic competitions at Preservation Pub and attending a number of other local shows, Hart (AKA Mr. ILL) had built up a quite a circle of friends within these musicians, which made him come to realize the amount of talent flowing through the heart of Knoxville.

The ultimate realization that would come to foster these artistic meet-ups came after performing on Market Square one spring afternoon to great reception. What came next further sealed the deal.

When he parked on the top tier of the Market Square parking garage for their second performance, he found his band already warming up for the show. With a mini-drum set and beat machine hooked up to a car stereo, Hart saw his future. “As soon as I saw them, a light bulb went off,” he said. Then came the idea of not only playing in Market Square, but compiling a group of musicians to play in random spots across the entire city. By doing this he would be able to shed a new light on local MC’s, poets, and musicians as well as the city as a whole.

Their sets generally always take on the same format. First comes 30 minutes of hip-hop, then 30 minutes of spoken word and a capella singers, followed by 30 minutes of open jamming. “I get so excited about these event because I’m such a fan myself,” says Hart, who is working on his own band and solo projects along with this newest endeavor.

The International Music Festival on Market Square on Aug. 23 marked their most successful session yet. They performed three sets featuring a range of artists on each song. The first set included hip-hop that led into poetry, the second was compiled of spoken word artists, and the final set was a combination of hip-hop, spoken word, and acoustic music.

Secret City Cyphers cyphers2

Although Secret City Cyphers is based off of a few core musicians, the list of artists featured during each performance is constantly evolving. “When we were at Round 7, I had 16 MC’s and poets lined up. When I wrote down and checked off all 16 of the artists, that was my wish list. It was like Christmas, with music,” he said.

Ultimately, this project is about community and bringing people together. Secret City Cyphers have found a way to make hip-hop accessible to all ages of listeners again. Although Hart says there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the genre now, he wants to bring back hip-hop as a true art form again. He explains, “All the real hip hop is always pushed to the side when it comes to the media. We live in this day and age where radio hip-hop is all about the same saturation of disrespecting girls, clothes, money, and drugs. In the 80s and early 90s hip-hop was where it needed to be. It wasn’t about disrespect and all this negative that our society is infatuated with.” Hart says he aims to make all of his shows something people of every age and race can go to and enjoy.

The group has more to offer than merely live performances, though. Hart says a compilation album is the next step for the group and is in its beginning stages at the moment. After writing “Teach Me How To Love” only minutes before playing it live, they are now beginning to record the track in studio. If all goes as planned, Hart hopes to have an album released by Christmas.

You never know exactly what you’ll get when you sit in on a Secret City Cyphers performance, but what you can always guarantee is that you’ll be blown away by the talent of this range of artists. Round 8 will go down at 7:30 P.M. on Sept. 24 at Sequoyah Park, and Hart hopes to see one of the largest crowds yet for the performance. - Blank News

"Secret City Cyphers Celebrate a Year of Music and Dance in Unexpected Public Spaces"

Jason Hart can’t contain his excitement until he gets out of the car. “Oh my god! I’m already having nostalgia,” he yells out the window of a dark gray Mazda6 as it turns into a parking space on the top level of the Market Square Parking Garage.

Hart, 34, is the founder of Secret City Cyphers, a series of pop-up events that falls somewhere between performances and workshops. He started the series as a way for musicians to create and network after performing his own music (he raps under the name Mr. Ill) on Market Square and at open mics and deciding to do something different. Wednesday, June 17, marked the Cyphers’ one-year anniversary and Hart celebrated it with a rare return to a familiar location.

“We change locations every time,” Hart says. “This is the first repeat of a location that we’ve had in a year.”

The Cyphers often occur in unconventional public places: World’s Fair Park, Krutch Park, a swimming pool in Fort Sanders, a skate park. Hart says interactions with police and security have been minimal and friendly. Equipment manager and bassist Daniel Worley says these spots promote spontaneity; Hart says they add to a community atmosphere he’s trying to cultivate.

Wearing a Puma baseball cap and a pair of Adidas sneakers, Hart darts around the garage roof. He unloads water bottles from a blue drum emblazoned with the Bud Light logo and lends a hand to Worley and drummer Terry Weaver as they set up equipment. He chats with first-timers like Tara Craw, who drove from Asheville for the event, and Eric Bowlin, a 43-year-old break-dancer who prefers the Cyphers to the club scene.

“There’s so much more to life than this Babylon B.S., everybody wasting all their money and time to be stressed out and still barely getting by,” Hart says. “So why not have something where everybody can forget about all that for a minute, even if it is once a month?”

After seeing a successful first year of Cyphers, Hart is turning his career interests toward music. He recently left his general manager position at Fuddruckers—the job that brought him from Asheville to Knoxville in the first place. His planned ventures include an entertainment company, a record label, and a recording studio, he says. The Cyphers, though, don’t need to be moneymakers.

“This is for the love,” he says. “We need this.”

By 7:45 p.m., the Cyphers kick into gear. Worley, Weaver, and guitarist Travis Lakin lock into a groove, and someone backs in a Mitsubishi Spyder convertible with a beat machine hooked up to it. Hart and a couple of other MCs exchange bars. Two women with long curly hair start hula-hooping in an empty space across the drive, and there’s a strip of cardboard set out for breakdancers.

Many of the people who have gathered just watch, clapping to the beat or cheering when the moment demands. They range in age from very young to middle age. As the sun sets, a toddler escapes her father’s grasp and runs toward the musicians, but he scoops her up immediately, and she laughs as he lifts her into the air.

Just after sundown, a singer/guitarist named Ms. Lu finishes her second song just as a trio of blue-shirted parking-enforcement officers break up the Cypher. “Should’ve gotten a permit,” one announces.

An abrupt location change doesn’t pose much difficulty for the Secret City Cyphers. As the crowd begins to disperse, Hart yells out for someone to make a post on the event’s Facebook page; they’re moving to the Market Square stage. Some of the organizers pack up equipment, while others converse with the parking enforcers. (It’s another friendly interaction with authority, as Hart is quick to point out).

Six stories down and a block over, the gathering only gets bigger. Musicians set up along the back edge of the stage while the hula-hoopers take up farther down the Square. There’s more space for dancers, and someone’s brought out more cardboard, too—taped together with hot-pink duct tape, it’s a more appropriate terrain for breakdancers who share the space with pop-and-lockers and a young woman with a light-up hula-hoop. More MCs join, and before long, scene veteran Black Atticus is trading the mic with redheaded, fast-rapping 16-year-old Austin Lynn, who performs under the name Psych. Near the end of the night, the crowd on and around the stage totals about 100 people.

Before they left the garage, one of the parking enforcers had a suggestion: Secret City Cyphers should try Scottish Pike Park in South Knoxville—it might be a good spot for them, he said. Hart turned around and flashed a broad smile.

“Hey, we got a new park!” - Knoxville Mercury

"Knoxville Area Hip-Hop Scene Has Secret City Support"

Once Mr. Ill (Jason Hart) moved to Knoxville from Asheville, NC, he immediately injected some passion and drive into Knoxville's budding hip-hop scene.

On the song posted above, "Starlight" Hart has enlisted some friends of his to diversify the track. The guy on the second verse is KJ, an up-and-comer from Orlando who is currently residing here in Knoxville. On the third verse is Sebastian Campaign, Hart's longtime friend and producer who is also a nearly 20-year veteran in Asheville's hip-hop scene.

You can catch Mr. Ill and likely a few of his hip-hop cohorts at a Secret City Cyphers show. We call it a show, although it's very different from a typical band-to-concert-goer experience. It's really more of a gathering and an opportunity for collaborating musicians, rappers, poets, and dancers to come together.

Their facebook page describes it better than I ever could:

Flash Mob style Hip Hop Shows. Back to the Basics. MCs, Poets, Singers, Musicians and Dancers all come together to perform and preserve REAL Hip Hop.
Follow them on twitter to be updated on when to check out one of these shows.

Knoxville. Has. Hip. Hop. - Knoxville Music Warehouse

"New Band On The Block: Mr. ILL & The Medicine"

A big thanks to Jason Hart of Mr. Ill & The Medicine for taking the time to answer a few questions!

If you're on this website often and/or follow us on twitter, you've probably seen one of our many catchphrases, "Knoxville has hip-hop." We say that often because no matter how much good, diverse stuff gets put out by the likes of LiL iFFy, Theorizt, Sale$, and many others, that declaration still surprises folks.

We're happy to say that hip-hop in Knoxville is continuing to grow, and the advent of a brand new hip-hop band ("band" as in with instruments) is further evidence of that. Mr. Ill & The Medicine is on the scene, and it's good to see another hip-hop outfit that's built for doing shows.

Mr. Ill & The Medicine is fronted by Jason Hart, (no relation to Kevin... That we know of.) a formerly solo artist from Ashville, NC and Washington DC. The rest of the group is composed of some dudes from bands of familiar names that have been around town for a while:

Matt Cavagrotti - guitarist (formerly of Spades Cooley)
Jason Wells - Drummer (formerly of The Theorizt)
Clay DeFoor - Bass (formerly of Sever)
Connor Buchanan - Guitar / backup vocals (also makes electronic music under the performing name, "BuchNasty," which I pray is a reference to this Dave Chappelle sketch.)
Hart told us that we can expect some new music coming soon, possibly in the form of singles, an EP, an album, live recordings or all of the above. It certainly sounds like these guys are ready to go. So be on the look out for some funk-based hip-hop coming from the new band on the block.

There's usually a recording of some kind embedded to each post, but since any recordings from this band are forthcoming, click on the image above to see their facebook page. From there you can watch a few videos of some Preservation Pub performances. - Knoxville Music Warehouse

"Blankfest 2015 Blankets Market Square with Tons of Local Goodness"

Rusty Odom and Blank Newspaper have, for the second year in a row, put together an incredible celebration of local and regional musicians, comedians and burlesque performers. It’s a continuation of the many years of excellent support the newspaper has given local music and musicians. This past Saturday beginning at 5:00 PM and running to well past midnight in several venues, the festival took over Market Square.

"I also listened to most of Mr. Ill and the Medicine, laying down their fun, old-style hip hop. Wu Tang Clan and more was hurled off the stage. They inspired some of the most interesting dancing of the night." - Inside of Knoxville


Still working on that hot first release.



Jason Hart, a.k.a. Mr. ILL is driven by a cause:  to invigorate and uplift audiences across the globe.  He grew up on the western edge of the urban sprawl of Washington, D.C., skateboarding and listening to bands like Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, Gang Starr, Rage Against the Machine and the Deftones.  Truth-telling of all varieties appealed to him, and when he arrived in Asheville in 2005, surrounded by passionate musicians, he began to realize his calling to join their ranks.  

Fast forward and 2015 has already proven to be a great year. In the spring of this year, Secret City Cyphers was voted Best Non Profit Event in Knoxville, TN. SCC is an event that he created in the spring of 2014 that brings poets, mcs, singers, musicians, and dancers together. This all ages musical jamboree is known for changing locations, highlighting a lot of the beautiful parks and downtown scenery that Knoxville has to offer. SCC also recently found a home at Open Chord/All Things Music venue in addition to the monthly outside events. "It's not about me, it's about everybody" he said in an interview with Blank News. And when you see a Secret City Cypher event, you understand what he meant. There is sometimes hundreds of Knoxville citizens all coming together for the love of art, music, and community. 

He and a few partners are also starting Unseen Entertainment, a company that will also include a  Printing Press that will cater to providing merch for independent musicians. After meeting Earl Grae, of the infamous Sinister 6 DJ's at the Hip Hop for Hunger benefit show, the two instantly started collaborating on many different musical endeavors, including shows, house parties, special events, street performances, and cyphers. Soon, thereafter, Earl joined the new lineup of ILL's funk band, The Medicine. Their first show was at a local festival called Blankfest, their second was on a rooftop, and their third was a sold out event on a Riverboat for Halloween. 

With hard work, positive energy, and surrounding himself with the right people, everything seems to be headed in the right direction for Mr. ILL. It's no wonder that he feels that 2016 is going to be quite the year as well, and he couldn't be more ready for it. 

Band Members