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tapped as Upstate's best hip-hop group

Born Jerrod Blackmon, his stage name is Mazaroddi, The Beat Grinda, and he's the leader of Crime Street, a Syracuse septet honored as best hip-hop group at the second annual Upper State Independent Awards on Nov. 8, at the Palace Theater.

Crime Street won the Indie from a field of eight nominees including Felony Set, Mashtown and Chrome Infantry.

Besides Mazaroddi, the award-winning group features Rasheem Blackmon a.k.a. Jig, Jahdal Williams a.k.a. J-Streetz, Julian Daniel a.k.a. Jay Read, Rick Johnson a.k.a. SOS The Rebel, Tim McViegh a.k.a. Viegh and Miss Shy Oliver a.k.a. Shy.

"She's the R&B side of the group," Mazaroddi said. "All hooks and melodies are sung by her."

For instance, the song Whenever I See You features Shy singing about the emotions that spill out whenever a certain someone sees this special girl.

Two other Crime Street songs also helped haul in the Indie Award, Ride Out a street clubby anthem, and Whippin,' a tale of a day-long adventure in a Cadillac.

"This is really just a few," Maz said, "but I think these were the ones that set things off."

Two decades of effort

Mazoroddi's rise in the city's hip-hop scene didn't occur overnight. He has been toying with beats since the late-1980s and later became a rapper with a small local crew called M.O.C. He also flipped records for DJ Rapp Skii of the Koolin' Out Crew.

The untimely deaths of two crew members, J-Fred and Cris Millhouse, caused Maz to backslide somewhat, but inspired by his son, Jig, he resurfaced in 2000 and attended the School of Hearts Ministries for production. His first attempt to create a full-length album imploded, but Maz bounced back by producing two R&B singles, Baby Boy and Afraid of Love featuring Shyeta Oliver.

"Afraid of Love was requested and played at local bars and clubs," Maz said. "Then in 2005, with high intentions, I tried to bring two rival gangs together through music with a disc called Hood 2 Hood."

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