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Ball Star Rappers On Message With Latest Video

Four Case High School basketball players take their rapping from old school to new school after being on hiatus for several years.

Racine-area rap group Ball Star has come back for an encore with their song, “I’m On,” which is a sampling of the song "Return of the Mack" by Mark Morrison.

Tom Tuttle, Tim Conley, Justin Christensen (JY), and Jesse Booker started rapping together when they all played basketball for Case High School in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They started making CDs in 2003 as a hobby and since then, they’ve made four CDs as a group.

While producing their latest song, they realized that even though their lives had changed and the songs they were rapping had changed, their friendship hadn’t skipped a beat.

“If you had four pieces of rope with knots tied at the ends and you threw it the air, each rope is going to go it’s own way, but they all start back at that knot,” Conley said. “Sure, I made my own music with my brother, but I still didn’t pull away from these three guys. And this song is the knot. Right now, we’re back at the knot.”

When they first started as a four-man group, JY had just gotten into recording music. They made a few songs and put them up on MySpace, made a few connections and started getting gigs. They once performed with 3 Six Mafia and Dem Franchize Boys, and Lil Scrappy in North Dakota and Minneapolis, and at the MIMS Concert in 2007 and 2008.

Then, they all started to grow up. Tuttle left the group completely while the other three drifted occasionally back together. Eventually, Conley told JY and Booker that he didn’t want to make club songs anymore because he wanted to ride along with his three daughters and listen to his music with them.

“It was never like, ‘Hey I don’t want to work with you any more because I don’t like you,’” Booker said. “It was ‘Hey, I want to pay these bills and take care of my family.’”

Conley started rapping with his brother about his family, his daughters, and his town while JY and Booker continued to write club songs.

Now, Tuttle is a seventh grade English teacher at Starbuck Middle School; Conley works at an adult family home that his mother owns and coaches basketball at Case High School; Booker does technical support at Cree; and JY does graphic design and video production.

And they are back together musically – but only briefly.

Tuttle said his hiatus saved every aspect of their ability to work together as a musical group, but this time he wanted to rap about something different. He was done cursing and he wanted his songs to have a message, and the other three were already doing that.

Booker, JY, and Mike “B Dubb” Jefferson wrote a song called “I Love My Town,” which is about Racine, and when JY’s girlfriend Dana Mekhsian died in 2011, JY wrote a song over Beyonce’s “Halo.”

“Watching them, it made me envious,” Tuttle said. “I had wanted to do good messages in our music when I was doing it with them, but they were doing good messages now. You know, bad situations can sometimes bring up good opportunities and what JY did with the song, ‘Halo,’ it was musically one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

“After I heard that song, I thought, these are not the same two guys I had stopped rapping with years ago.”

Each of the verses on “I’m On,” tells about what they’ve been through together and accomplished individually from 2006 to now.

“I want people who are there just trying to look at what four guys did who decided to take it seriously to move and push our music,” Conley said. “We’ve had the plug pulled on us, we’ve had people doubt us. I’ve had people doubt me because I was rapping with three white guys, but at the time, I didn’t care. I told them, ‘They spit real life hip-hop. They keep it real in everything they say.’”

While there’s a chance they may do other songs together, it’s just not a priority right now. For Conley and JY, they will continue to make music together.

“These are the only three people I would ever let tell me, ‘No, that don’t sound good,’ and not get offended,” Conley said.

For Tuttle, every single year it’s a struggle to decide whether he’ll tell students that he was a rapper. So for the exiting eighth graders, when they are doing poetry in April, he pitches in and does a unit called, "The Poetry of Hiphop" for a day.

“I play a couple of our songs,” he said. “I go through the lyrics and the music, and explain how it is poetry. And then I drop the bomb on them, that I’m on these songs and these other people are people that live in Racine.”

Booker said their latest video is a ‘thank you’ to all of the people who bought t-shirts and music CDs, but he doesn’t want to rap anymore. He wants to help other rap groups get their start.

“I want to push others to the forefront and give them things we were never handed. Like Tim said, we weren’t given anything,” Booker said.

Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 12:33 AM
The negative stigma that comes with rap music and your ignorance you just displayed is what we've been fighting for a decade. It's comical at this point. Watch the video and open your mind and ears to something more than what you see on tv.and hear on the radio.
Denise Lockwood November 15, 2012 at 12:51 AM
@Rebel, they have an edited version and I picked up the wrong link, which I've fixed.
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Lmao.... I sent u the edited version
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 02:01 AM
So rebel.... You finally watched the video.... And after 4 verses the ONLY FEEDBACK YOU COULD OFFER was about swear words? I'm ashamed of YOU.
Denise Lockwood November 15, 2012 at 02:18 AM
@Jesse, I know I know... and I thought that's the one I used, but... *sigh* fail.
James R Hoffa November 15, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Interesting - has a nice beat and is actually quite lyrical and melodic for rap, more like R&B / Hip-Hop than pure Rap, in Hoffa's honest opinion. Reminds Hoffa of some of the more subdued material from Beanie Sigel, carrying a distinctly local flavor like some of the old Cabrini Heat / Gangsta City acts out of Chicago - only much more POSITIVE in message. Nicely done guys! Nice to see some fresh local talent in this genre, especially considering that the biggest names coming out of SE Wisconsin in R&B / Hip-Hop have been the now aged Milwaukee based Jersey Ave and Coco Cal.
James R Hoffa November 15, 2012 at 03:13 AM
@Rebel with a Cause - What do you dislike about the song or video, exactly?
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Thank u very much James. Had to be hard to overlook the swear words....
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Denise, lol, it's all good
Denise Lockwood November 15, 2012 at 04:24 AM
I think Hoffa did some musical stuff once...
James R Hoffa November 15, 2012 at 06:17 AM
@ Denise - You are slowly discovering that Hoffa is a man of many talents :-) 15 years ago, Hoffa was actually an on-air and mobile DJ that was pretty well known throughout SE Wisconsin and NE Illinois. Hoffa is also known for occasionally coming up with some original compositions on his synthesizer. It was always more of a hobby than it was a career/job. Every now and then, Hoffa finds himself missing those days!
James R Hoffa November 15, 2012 at 06:50 AM
@Jesse - It was probably one of the biggest struggles that Hoffa has ever encountered in his existence, but Hoffa made it through ;-)
Denise Lockwood November 15, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I always knew you were talented Hoffa.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 02:37 PM
@Jesse - I think what you guys put together is very cool! Way to go ...
Stormy Weather November 15, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I like it and I've never been a big fan of Rap. Nice job guys!
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Heather and stormy, thank u very much!!
Edward Willing November 15, 2012 at 04:09 PM
What is your problem man?! This is a good, local story. if you don't like rap, then ignore it. You're being a jerk for no reason. Enjoy the story, and evolution of these guys from dirty rap to "good messaging" The city needs guys like this. The city needs less attitudes like yours above.
Edward Willing November 15, 2012 at 04:10 PM
He just doesn't like rap. Apparently has an attitude about a feel-good story for some unknown factor. Maybe he has something against one of these men.
Edward Willing November 15, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The Halo cover by JY is amazing....
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 04:17 PM
What JY put together to "Halo" is beautiful and a wonderful tribute.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
A great message showcasing the city and how cool it is to be a grownup and a role model for your kids ... what's not to like?!
Jesse Booker November 15, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Thank you very much, everybody!
eric kulas November 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM
To be honest I was mentored by Jesse Booker taught me what a "16" was an how to drop a punchline, connecting lyrics, and bars, probably one of the best teachers Ive ever had, Ive had the experience of listening to every cd these guys have pushed out, each one being great, but this song took the cake, Tim, JY, Booker, and Tuts have been big role models for me in this rap game. Probably one of if not THE best rap groups in SE Wisconsin.
Jesse Booker November 16, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Eric, thank u VERY MUCH

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