Since his teens, people have called Leron McAdoo “Mr. Miscellaneous.” It’s the third of his AKAs (after Ron Mc, the name by which folks in the hip-hop community know him), but surely the most fitting.
At 6 p.m. Thursday at the Riverdale 10 movie theater, McAdoo will unveil the “Supa Tight” project, a combination feature film, comic book and soundtrack. Here’s what will be listed next to his name when the credits roll: lead actor, director, film producer, screenwriter, MC, music producer, beat maker, vocalist, illustrator and surely at least a half dozen other titles.
When asked to run down a checklist of his roles in “Supa Tight,” McAdoo breathes an audible sigh with each “yes.”
“If I ever do this again,” he says, “I’ll learn to delegate better.”
McAdoo’s ambitious project revolves around “Sly, the hip-hop superhero,” a character he created for a self-published comic book of the same name he first put out 15 years ago. The same year, he and his brother Charlie (better known as Lil Mack, AKA — because everyone needs three AKAs — the Arkansas Razormack) founded Backyard Enterprises, a local record label, publishing house and art studio.
Last year, McAdoo included a comic book with his hip-hop album “Backyardonline.com.” He says that inspired him to consider further packaging his art together with his music to present himself “more holistically.” Reviving “Sly,” which enjoyed a seven-issue run, was natural — McAdoo says he’s always felt most comfortable making art — and for the last 18 years, he’s released a CD every year, so recording the soundtrack came automatically. He decided to make a film, to add to the package for the anniversaries, simply because it was something he hadn’t done before.
Backyard has long held innovation up as its guiding principle. McAdoo says that starting in 1994, he and his brother were among the first local hip-hop artists to put on shows in places like Vino’s and Juanita’s. Over the years, they’ve created a local hip-hop awards program, organized spoken-word readings, published poetry and memoirs, filmed a documentary on the Ninth Street corridor, hosted a TV show on the public access channel and hosted a radio show, “Brothers in the Backyard,” on KABF community radio.
In the mid-’90s, McAdoo used his cachet in the community to win a contest to fill a DJ spot on Power 92, Arkansas’s largest hip-hop station. Since then, he’s hosted the “Wreck Shop” from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
All of the above projects come in service of McAdoo’s love and belief in hip-hop, which he’s quick to distinguish from rap. “Rap is a genre. Hip-hop is a culture; it’s much more.” McAdoo, who’ll only say that he “possibly could be” in his mid-30s, grew up with hip-hop as the “window into the world.” He says rapping introduced him to writing, graffiti to art, break-dancing to dance and DJing to music.
Since earning his art degree at UAPB, his day job has been as an art teacher, a position he says enables him to educate his “demographic” about hip-hop. At night, over most of the last year, he’s labored on “Supa Tight.”
The soundtrack, his 18th release, came first and easiest, McAdoo says. Related to the film only in spirit, the album finds the rapper channeling Public Enemy, in sound and content. Like Chuck D, Mc often raps in a deep, slightly muted holler, largely about pro-black consciousness and social and political issues. Even with songs like “Kill the President” — a song that Mc explains on a promo sheet with “the government ain’t got time for hood problems” — the album is almost as wholesome as it is provocative. “Ghetto dreams can flourish with open eyes,” a line from the opening track, “Bare Witness,” typifies the album’s message and tone.
The movie and comic book follow a decidedly more fanciful path. McAdoo, who’s rarely without a beret on his head, cites Caravaggio, Norman Rockwell and comic artist Travis Charest as artistic influences. That’s not immediately obvious in his work, but it’s clear that McAdoo’s a rare talent.
His Sly character has the unmistakable musculature of the typical comic book hero. He wears a skin-tight black shirt that runs flush into a black mask that’s offset with menacingly shaped white eyelets. Hip-hop superheroes apparently don’t do tight pants; Sly wears baggy cargo pants that cinch tight at the waist and look a little like Hammer pants. It’s a unique and compelling look for a superhero, especially since African Americans, while not shut out, certainly haven’t had equal representation in the comic world. The “Supa Tight” comic wasn’t available at press time, but McAdoo says it’ll be a compilation of old Sly material mixed with some new.
The film, which McAdoo shot, starred in and edited himself, won’t include any origin myth storyline, McAdoo says; it’ll be like the next installment of the comic book series. To allay potential confusion, McAdoo explains that Sly is a mutant whose latent powers revealed themselves when, in his teen-age years, a drug counselor helped him get off dope (which he’d fallen victim to after a jealous friend slipped him a mickey). McAdoo says he didn’t want to give his hero outlandish powers; instead, he imbued him with a heightened ability of sense, the capacity to read emotions (which makes him an empath in comic book lingo) and Olympic-caliber athleticism. By day, Sly is a hustler who organizes underground, no-holds-barred fights, and by night, he’s a reluctant good guy.
“He hasn’t come to grips with the fact that people depend on him to be a hero,” says McAdoo.
A nearly life-long artist and longtime MC, McAdoo’s abilities as a filmmaker and actor might not quite measure up. Then again, from all indications of a 10-minute preview of the film, it might be so bad it’s not just good — it’s genius. At least from the preview, the homemade aesthetic is on full display — the camera shakes, the night shots (and there have to be a lot of night shots to show off Sly’s glowing white eye-lets) all seem to be lit by headlights, and punches whiff by several feet while still sending their intended targets wheeling. The storyline seems to revolve around Sly’s investigation of murders in the hood. Here he interrogates Hellcat, a villainess, who the comic book, but not the movie, reveals is Sly’s sister.
Sly (steely, getting aggressive): You KNOW something.
Hellcat (alluring in her irritation): No, I don’t!
Sly (knowingly): Hellcat, I can tell that you know something.
Hellcat (eyes rolling): Oh Lord, there you go again with those extra powers.
Sly (check and mate!): That’s right, I’m reading your emotions.
Lily Murphy and Spencer Ellison, the actors who play Hellcat and fellow villain Mr. Pain, respectively, are inspired choices. Murphy, who works as a personal trainer and sports black spandex pants and a bikini top throughout the film, is muscular and voluptuous in a way that’s usually limited to the imaginations of dudely comic book artists, and Ellison looks like a former defensive end. Last year McAdoo got a personal trainer to help him get in superhero shape. It paid off. He mostly pulls off the role — he can kick impressively high — until you catch him from the side and see a little gut pouching through. But hey, he could possibly be in his mid-30s. When you reach possibly your mid-30s and you’re still making music and co