Hug of War's Hip Hop Will Make You Warm and Fuzzy and Thoughtful

Hug of War sounds a lot like it looks.
Hug of War sounds a lot like it looks.

When was the last time a rap record made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? When was the last time you bought a rap cassette? If the answer to these queries is "never" and also "never,'" you owe it to yourself to represent at Parliament in Tempe this Saturday as part of the Day 2 festivities of Rubber Brother records' Round Robin festival, where five bands set up in a circle and take turns playing song by song.

One of those bands happens to be Hug of War, the product of Jason Kron's fervent mind.

Kron is a glass-half-full kind of guy with an optimism that few people exhibit anymore, let alone try to put it in simple infectious rap songs that sound like what Mister Rogers might concoct if he felt he wasn't being well-understood. Saturday he premieres a new Rubber Brother Records cassette--really a six-song EP--entitled The Wrath of KRON in which the leader of Hug of War tackles tough subjects like getting custody of his child and the existence of God.

We caught up with Kron and talked about his musical alter-ego, Hug of War, which also features Quasimodo Dracula (Tristan Jemsek) and Ron de Vous (Tyler Broderick), who also participate in the Motown -inspired choreography. That's right, nobody does that anymore, either--not even One Direction, and it's part of a boy band's job description. There's got to be an easier way for a band like this to, as Kron puts it, "take back music," but that's the war part of the Hug of War equation at work.

A little back-history, when did Hug of War begin proper? I started performing under the name Hug of War regularly in late 2011--I started by doing Mister Rogers influenced folky tunes, but I switched to rap in early 2012 because it was a lot more fun for me. I'm the father of a six-year-old girl and a Whole Foods cashier.

Which explains a song like "I Like Health Food." It's never been seen as cool in any mainstream rock or hip hop culture to be healthy. Why is that? We have to take care of ourselves!

"They Won't Get Me"? The people in power, who may or may not be from outer space, take down those who resist their evil ways and speak too much truth. I'm obviously one of the people on their bad list, but I'll keep fighting until the bitter end. I also name drop New Times in this song.

Your title suggests this album might be a few shades darker. So far it sounds like this is a pretty life-affirming cassette. Well, my first two releases were very wholesome and life-affirming; the vibe of my new album is still playful, but it taps into some more serious material as well, such as mental illness, the darker side of relationships, and critiquing religion. I'm unintentionally an awkward and anxious grump in my day-to-day existence, and being Hug of War allows me to act out and express what I want to say a lot more easily than when I try to do so in real life.

Was Hug of War at all influenced by the show Glee? I like to think of the band as Glee if it weren't designed as a wet dream for baby boomers. I've never seen actually watched Glee. The shows I watch are Nickelodeon shows on Hulu with my daughter.

That's too bad. I can envision you guys whupping William McKinley High's ass if push came to shove. I've never fought, but I bet if I had to I could take Spencer from iCarly.   So how come the new album is darker in subject matter? It's important for any musical project to continue to evolve; I definitely don't want to be thought of as doing only one thing. Expressing negative emotions can be a very positive thing if done for constructive purposes. If we can't face down our own demons and change the way we treat ourselves and our loved ones, how could we ever change anything else?

What's about this one? "It's a Thrill Being Mentally Ill." This song is about the fine line between being eccentric and being harmfully crazy. Most everyone I've ever known who was worth a damn has had some screws loose. I'm sure it's helped them be more interesting and creative, but it's often been at the cost of their having to live a very uncomfortable existence.

You also name drop Michael Jackson. A while back, you posted something on Facebook about listening to Michael Jackson albums non-stop. Did that have any effect on the new material? Michael Jackson was a big influence on this album, particularly his Bad era. Prince is influential to me as well, as far as how they could both show how tough and cool they were in a way that was still very dandy and elegant and eccentric. It had nothing to do with whether either of them could ever win in a fight with anyone. Their toughness was a state of otherworldly being.

"Don't Make Whoopee After We Break Up" sounds like logical good advice. This is about the dark force that love can become when one's own selfishness is put above the well being of the other person.

"Me vs God"? God is for the most part portrayed as a very jealous and petty being. We need to stand up to our bullies! That's the only way they'll respect us!

Then you end off with the sweet "Dear Evey." A sappy, sentimental song for my kid. If Will Smith can do it, I can do it too!

I've spoken to Rubber Brother Records about the viability of the cassette format but i was wondering about your take on it. Cassette culture is still very important. And many tapes come with instructions on how to get the songs online in mp3 format; all most people do with CDs is rip those songs onto the computer, then let the CD itself collect dust.

So why not make a cassette? Rubber Brother are doing great things for tapes locally. Analog vs digital arguments aside, the cassette is a great embodiment of DIY culture. I still love making mix tapes too. Cassettes and vinyl also encourage the listener to listen to an album beginning to end.

I wouldn't say the internet is pure evil. But it has definitely overloaded our brains, made passive music listening WAY more common, and made tasks like sitting down and listening to a whole album beginning to end much more difficult. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can take music back!

Hug of War is playing The Rubber Brother Records Round Robin Festival Day 2 this Saturday at Parliament in Tempe.

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