Article from the Daily Record by Ellen Wilkowe
June 1, 2008
Rebel with a heart
ELLEN S. WILKOWE DAILY RECORD
Brandyn Heppard of Morristown is all about the love. With long dreadlocks, a "no worries" attitude and spiritual pursuits, this Morristown native spreads his message of love as the MC of Universal Rebel, a reggae hip-hop band that plays regularly at an Irish bar.
"Reggae is in my heart," Heppard said.
Playing regularly at the Dublin Pub in Morristown illustrates the universal or the "accessibility" part of the band's name, he said. As for the rebel?
"I'm starting a revolution for love," he says in a video on his Web site.
Heppard's adopted stage name is "Adeo," but fans familiar with his former project RAINation (Real Artist Independent Nation) already know that.
It was during his reign with RAINation that he performed as an opening act for Grammy nominees Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the start of many high-profile opening act performances.
Add to the list: Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris, Cee-Lo and Julian Marley, to name a few. Heppard has opened for all of them.
The "why" in touring with music icons is obvious, but the "how" is something independent musicians aspire to in their hopes and dreams. The pursuit of those dreams is what landed Heppard jobs as the opening act for his idols.
"We made a dream list of people we wanted to work with, sent out press kits to management, but Robert Randolph was a local guy and we liked what he was doing, " Heppard said.
The local connection landed Heppard the opening act in 2004.
The credibility established from this show served as a launching pad for other opportunities, including opening for the Black Eyed Peas at Pace University, which he called "the most incredible natural high."
No, he didn't meet Fergie. But he did meet and open for Kanye West, a sold-out appearance at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"He is one of my heroes," Heppard said. "It was one of the most humbling experiences. ... He was really nice to us, took pictures with us and made jokes."
Back home in Morristown he fronts Universal Rebel, which garnered a local fan base and attention from independent labels.
"I won't just sign with anyone," he said. "The opportunity has to be right."
For Heppard, signing with a record label takes a back seat to his overall mission of universal accessibility and, of course, the love.
"We're not about color or age, we're about accessibility," he said. "This is the perfect mixture of spiritual vibe and rebel music."
This is evident in the band's recent single "Underdog (Overdog)."
The " reggae-dub-style ditty trumpets the plight of the 'little guy' in all of us, that must fight uphill, against all odds, to overcome adversity," band manager John Hodges said.
Inspired by Jamaican reggae musician Jimmy Cliff, who starred in the film "The Harder They Come," the song "Underdog (Overdog)" is also dedicated to the New York Giants fans who watched their team win this year's Super Bowl, Hodges wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Record.
I always root for the Underdog
I root for the Underdog...
I root for the Underdog...
Doggy Dog, Doggy Dog
I always root for the underdog, the one with his back to the wall
Given no chance at all by the oddsmakers taking down the Yankees or the Lakers
But just can't match up to the abundance of paper
Used to undertake, and take, and break you down
I'm talking about the richest and the highest
The battle rages on between the Davids and Goliaths
My mic is my slingshot, ride for the have-nots
I find strength in every kink of the dread lock...
This artist's medium is lyrical music, and he uses it to spread inspirational messages.
"Adeo is a wordsmith," said the band's drummer, Steve Honoshowsky of Peapack. "He is message-driven and a dynamic frontman."
The pair met on the job at the Somerset Hills YMCA, where Heppard works as teen director for the summer camp and Honoshowsky works as associate director of aquatic programming.
"It was right after he was done touring," Honoshowsky said.
Honoshowsky invited Heppard to play on a track for his trio, No Use for Humans, a project he described as "experimental, electronic, acid, math rock, or a movie for your ears."
The track, "Ms. Pac-Man meets Twiki," features Heppard rapping over a music sample from the Ms. Pac-Man video game.
(Insert Ms. Pac-Man Level 1 music here.)
...Get your body moving, other than that got no use for humans
Adeo from RAINation came through to get your body moving
Other than that got no use for humans.
With all-music-all-the-time mentalities in genres galaxies apart, the two just gelled.
Whereas Heppard toured on the hip-hop circuit, Honoshowsky played with Captured! by Robots, a robot band fronted by their human creator -- who are metal to their very core.
So how does an electronics-driven percussionist mesh with a hip-hop-dub band?
"I'm passionate about drums," Honoshowsky said. "I'm obsessed with any genre of rhythm. I love the transition."
With Honoshowsky on the drums and Heppard up front, the rest of Universal Rebels is Matt "Comack" McCormick of Morristown on keyboards and Rich "Chado" Collins of Morristown on bass.
For all his exposure, Heppard maintains a modest profile, a mission of Universal Rebel and the INI movement.
"It's not about the me or the we," he said. "It's about the I and the I."
The band promotes and supports organizations or movements such as The Campaign to Make Poverty History (www.one.org), Stop Global Warming (www.stopglobalwarming.com) and the Literacy Site (www.literacysite.com).
Stacy Grier of Mendham can attest to that.
A colleague of Heppard's at the Somerset Hills YMCA, Grier was unaware of his touring history.
Universal Rebel met the approval of her then 8-year-old daughter, Layla, at last year's Black River Music Festival in Chester. As a result, mom hired the band to perform last week at her combination birthday party and charity event that benefited The Whale Museum in Washington and the JUDY Center for Down's Syndrome at Hackensack Medical Center.
"I work with autistic kids at the Y and she helps," Grier said. "She wanted to do something for them."
This is the second birthday Layla has sacrificed presents from friends in the name of charity. Last year she raised money for a scholarship fund, her mom said.
With their own charitable interests close, Universal Rebel seemed the perfect birthday wrap for this 9-year-old rebel in the making.
A far cry from the club scene, the band held fast to their young audience mixing things up with musical chairs and freeze dance, while holding true to their universal message.
"Everyone's included," Grier said. "If one of the kids got out on musical chairs, they got a job doing something for the band."
Grier, who saw Universal Rebel perform in club capacity, described the band as interactive.
"This is what the band is about," she said. "They engage the audience and are very warm. No matter what you age, gender or socioeconomic situation."
In addition to spreading love and positive messages, Heppard is currently pursuing a degree in philosophy at The New School in New York City.
Philosophy and theology are at the root of his stage name. "Adeo" is derived from derived from Adeodatus, the illegitimate son of theologist and philosopher (Saint) Augustine, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church.
Universal Rebel performs every second Saturday at the Dublin Pub in Morristown and apparently plays private parties for all ages.
And they root for the underdog.
Ellen S. Wilkowe can be reached at (973) 428-6662 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[UTF8]95[/UTF8] Brandyn "Adeo" Heppard of Morristown -- MC [UTF8]95[/UTF8] Steve Honoshowsky of Peapack -- drums [UTF8]95[/UTF8] Matt "Comack" McCormick of Morristown -- keyboards [UTF8]95[/UTF8] Rich "Chado" Collins of Morristown -- bass www.urebelini.org www.myspace.com/universalrebel See them: [UTF8]95[/UTF8] June 14, 8 p.m. Dublin Pub 4 Pine St., Morristown [UTF8]95[/UTF8] June 20, 10 p.m. 54 Main Bar and Grille 54 Main St., Madison [UTF8]95[/UTF8] June 21, 4 p.m. Benefit concert, Somerset Hills YMCA 140 Mount Airy Road, Basking Ridge
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