Tree City

Tree City

 Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
BandHip Hop

Tree City is a four-man Hip-Hop group, consisting of 3 MC's and 1 DJ. Our style pays homage to the boom bap era of the past, yet still hints towards the future. We are known for witty lyrics, catchy hooks, energetic stage performances and tag-team chemistry, drawing inspiration from our hometown

Band Press

Fresh Fish: Tree City – Definement – Balafonic

One of the biggest current Hip Hop crews in Ann Arbor, Tree City just dropped their new track, “Definement” last weekend: A chilled cocktail of organic, atmospheric beats served up by Melbourne, Australia’s own ARKiV, with some very smart, contemplative lyrics from the Tree City crew about the hustle of life and how they see it. Their first release of 2011 and their first song recorded in Clavius Crates’s new studio, “Definement” is a great start to a new year for this up-and-coming group, a strong display of musical creativity and intellectual cunning.

Tree City: Hip hop group founded at the Neutral Zone comes of age –


By: James Dickson Staff
Tree City: Hip hop group founded at the Neutral Zone comes of age
Topics: Downtown Ann Arbor, Entertainment, News, Passions & Pursuits, The Deuce
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Posted: Jun 17, 2010 at 6:00 AM [Jun 17, 2010]

Tree City will return to its roots when it debuts "Thus Far" Friday night at the Neutral Zone. From right: Evan Haywood (Clavius Crates), Kyle Hunter (G.P.), Mike Hyter (Man In Charge), Charles Cheek (Cheeks) and Jacoby Simmons (DJ Cataclysmic) sit on the steps of the Neutral Zone

Angela Cesere |

The young men didn't know, couldn't have known, that their decision to drop in at the Neutral Zone would lead to anything more than a respite from boredom.

As the Ann Arbor teens found common ground in their mutual, yet varied, interest in hip hop, the loose confederation of Huron High students bonded into a five-man unit named Tree City in honor of their hometown.

On Friday night, Tree City will return to where it all began when the group debuts its first album, "Thus Far," before an all-ages crowd at the B-Side at the Neutral Zone.

Lessons from the road

"Never pay to play," Kyle Hunter said with a sigh as he prepared to appear on a recent episode of Lillian Dwyer's Local Music Show on WCBN Radio.

"Make them pay you," added Evan Haywood, aka "Clavius Crates," shaking his head between bites of his chicken pita.

Tree City had gone to Warren and plunked down money for a spot in a battle of the bands competition. Other groups used lip-synching and advanced through the competition. Tree City performed live and was bounced out in the second round.

Hunter, also known as "General Population," or G.P., is Tree City's front man. Hunter and bandmates Haywood, Mike "Man in Charge" Hyter and Jacoby "DJ Cataclysmic" Simmons met at the Neutral Zone in January 2006, when it was located on Main Street. Lyricist Charles "Cheeks" Cheek joined the group in 2008.

What did they learn from that night in Warren?

"The music business is about who you know, not just what you can do," Haywood said.

"And: never pay to play," he added.

Thus Far

"Thus Far" is Tree City's first full-length album and its third release.

Tree City came on the scene in June 2007 with "The TreE.P.," which reviewed well among hip hop fans and built some buzz in the local music community. One writer on gave "The TreE.P." 9 out of 10 mics.

In 2008, the group followed up with the "Black Trees" mixtape, laying its raps to beats by Detroit-based producer Black Milk. Black Milk didn't collaborate directly with Tree City, but the band considers it an honor he trusted them with his beats.

The group is banking that "Thus Far" will be its turning point from an opening act to the main stage. Locally, anyway.

Beyond Ann Arbor, the hope is "Thus Far" will put Tree City on the radars of concert bookers around the state and the region.

Tree City is too young and too homegrown to talk about the cars and the girls and the money they don't have. So the group takes the honest approach in its music, as in "Transit," when they discuss life on the bus line. They're not "already home," they're coming into their own.

And Friday night at the Neutral Zone, they'll come full circle.

"It's been a long time coming," Hunter said of the album. "You'll see what we've been working on all these years."

"Thus Far" offers 18 tracks, five of which were produced by either Hyter or Haywood. The group has formed cozy relationships with Southeast Michigan based artists like Nickie P and Regiment.

"Say It Again" is the album's signature hit - the encore song, the song Tree City will be performing at every concert until the next album drops.

"Soon to be a legend in my city, like Shakey Jake," Hunter says confidently on the track.

But Tree City can't stop to appreciate simply completing an album. For a time, the focus will shift to the sales job ahead as the group tries to move albums and book shows.

The next step

Haywood, who raps and produces beats for Tree City, mostly sticks to the artistic side of the operation.

"When we started, it was just about making music," Haywood said. "You'd think it's just laying a beat to the music. It's a lot more complicated than that."

"Now it's everything - going on radio, planning tours, marketing, getting albums mastered, managing a Web presence," Hunter said.

The group represents itself. If they don't hustle, they won't eat. Their music will remain a hobby and not a vocation. That wouldn't be acceptable, Cheek said.

"It's cool to have your friends and fans out showing support," Cheek said. "But when you've got people you don't even know feeling you - that's what you work for."

The only way that will happen is to grow beyond Ann Arbor. After Friday's release party and a show Sunday at The Strutt in Kalamazoo, the b

Hip-hop group Tree City brings it home – Michigan Daily

The members of Tree City are about as Ann Arbor local as possible — the mere name of their hip-hop group is proof enough.

“We were never really like, ‘Go Blue’,” confessed Jacoby Simmons, a.k.a. DJ Cataclysmic, in a recent group interview with the Daily. “But, you know, we’re from here, (so) we like to let people know, represent where we’re from.”

As Tree City prepares for a release party at the Blind Pig on June 12th celebrating its new album, Thus Far, its members recalled the group’s rise to prominence in the local scene.

“Macpodz really helped us out, they got us our first big gig at the Blind Pig,” said Kyle Hunter, nicknamed GP in the group. “My Dear Disco has let us rock with them a few times … (there were) a number of local artists who were big and established and allowed us to kind of get our feet wet at larger venues.”

The genre-meshing that occurred in these early collaborations is one thing that distinguishes the A2 scene, according to Hunter.

“I don’t know how unique it is to really have a teen hip-hop group working with a jazz-funk-fusion jam band. (But) I think that’s what makes Ann Arbor’s scene unique … just the flow of different ideas, constantly.”

As teenagers, the future Tree City members first started collaborating at the Neutral Zone, a youth-run Ann Arbor hangout.

“It was a really, really dope spot (in its original location) on Main St.,” Hunter said. “Not to say it’s not on Washington, but just like, my nostalgia makes it a lot more"

“So homey! Really lived in,” Simmons added.

And while both its lineup and its music have gone through many changes since 2006 (the year Tree City got its formal start and the majority of its members graduated from Huron High), the group retains a distinctive balance between the different schools of hip hop.

“(Our music is) a mix of the classic boom-bop mid-’90s sound, but at the same time we incorporate elements of current electronic trends,” said Charles “Cheeks” Cheek, “even certain beat-chopping techniques that have only really come into play in the last couple of years.”

Simmons agreed about the wide-ranging quality of the group’s work.

“I’ve met some people who don’t even listen to hip hop who are like, ‘Yeah, you guys are pretty good, I like your stuff.’ It’s kind of crazy to know how many different types of people like our stuff, not even hip-hop heads all the time. It’s wild,” he said.

Following tomorrow’s Blind Pig show, Thus Far will be released for local audiences only. Eventually, though, Tree City has plans to break into iTunes, Amazon and other national music retailer chains.

But the group’s roots will always remain an integral part of its identity. Unlike Detroit, which is a big enough city to have self-contained musical communities, Tree City members see Ann Arbor as a place where every artist is distinctive.

“I don’t think people in Ann Arbor have two artists that really sound the same,” Hunter said. So those going to the Blind Pig tomorrow are in for an inimitable treat.

Tree City :The TreE.P –

Tree City :: The TreE.P. :: Tree City Music
as reviewed by Justin 'Tha Shiznute' Chandler
For the purpose of full disclosure: I am from Columbus, OH, born and raised. The five members of Tree City, on the other hand, hail from Ann Arbor, Michigan, so there might be some inherent head-clashing. Though, as a critic, I ought to be purely objective, in order for a group from the Wolverines' stomping grounds to get on my good side they have to be very good--luckily for Tree City, they are.

Only a couple of months ago our head honcho at Rap Reviews, Steve 'Flash' Juon, wrote a review that was full of praise for these guys, for a mixtape that was comprised sonically of nothing but previously released beats by fellow Michigan-native and underground hero, Black Milk. Now, we are revisiting Tree City's debut E.P., originally released in June of 2007, cleverly entitled Tre.E.P., to determine whether the assistance of one of the finest producers in the game may have been the reason for the high quality of the "Black Trees" mixtape.

From the early moments of "Revolution," it will be painstakingly clear that Tree City is the real deal, with or without recruited production. In fact, the vast majority of the tracks are handled by in-house by member Verseatyle; whereas one other ("Have Mercy") is the creation of another emcee of the group, Man In Charge, and finally one more ("Worst Case Scenario") by a non-member in Silas Green.

"Revolution" starts off with a rousing speech before driving into the brooding beat that echoes with dark strings and is further complimented by a slickly implemented Jay-Z vocal sample. Three members attack the beat venomously. Each brings his own character to the table, but there is no real reason to dissect and differentiate them too much, because they are all highly skilled and none of them truly stand out, unlike another well-known Michigan multiple-member group in D-12. With little doubt, they could all drop nice solos, if they so choose.

The following cut, "Discover the Need" truly helps mold the vision of Tree City; "original, honest, dynamic Michigan hip-hop," as stated on their Myspace page. That is, this track has a very pure hip-hop sound that has one thinking they sound like the theoretical love child of Wu-Tang and Jurassic 5. The chorus opens the song and gets the head nodding along with the distinct keys:

"Tree City here to plant the seed
To show these other rap cats we ahead of the league
Knowledge by the pound never ever deceive
We going to satisfy the urge and discover the need"

It all works wondrously together, right down to the sharp scratches of DJ Cataclysmic as the song fades out.

What is so endearing about this group--I know I'm gushing now--is that they embrace the truly classic material that paved their paths, rather than overstepping their boundaries by trying to redo it. Aside from the previously mentioned Jay-Z sample on "Revolution," this notion is epitomized by other wisely utilized samples on "Dark Days" and "Have Mercy," respectively.

The only thing that would be a welcome addition to Tree City would be more concept-driven songs to vary the subject matter a little more. A lot of this seven-track EP relies on purely attacking the mic with lyrics that focus mostly on the pureness of their music. Still, this is not a major concern, especially given that this music is intended more for the backpacker, rather than the club-goer.

There were five great emcees that comprise Tree City at the time of "The Tre.E.P.": DJ Cataclysmic, Verseatyle, Man In Charge, G.P., and Real Eyez. Apparently, a new member, named Cheeks, has been brought on board for future releases. They all drop knowledge over proper beats. An example of the type of verses they spit can be found on Flash's review of the "Black Trees" mixtape. My feeling is that it is sufficient to just explain that you will want to check them out if you are into pure, raw, hip-hop music (assumedly you are, given the nature of our website). Surprisingly, on the strength of in-house production, this disc is very much comparable to the Black Milk-infused release, making the listener crave a full-length even more. If the landscape of hip-hop was a playing field, these Ann Arbor-based musicians would be champions. Or, at least, Big Ten Champs.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10

Tree City: Black Trees –

Tree City :: Black Trees :: Tree City Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
Michigan hip-hop may not get the acknowledgment that better known scenes in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles do but it still tends to be one of the most vibrant and diverse on the rap scene year after year. It's the state that's produced everyone from well known names like MC Breed (R.I.P.) and Eminem to crazy psycopathic flows like Esham and ICP to underground superstars like Black Milk and One Be Lo. In Detroit alone you can find every rap style from Southern swagger to hardcore gangster to punchline battle rhymes on deck. Even though local radio doesn't always support very well (one station that always claimed to be "where hip-hop lives" even though they only played slow jams comes to mind) the scene has continued to grow and evolve over the years strictly on the dedication to and love for hip-hop music and culture.

Tree City is another crew following in this tradition, drawing their name from the city they hail from (Ann Arbor) and possibly a love of the herbal trees as well. Recognizing that they're having a hard time getting known outside of Eastern Michigan, the group reached out to me with a copy of "Black Trees" for a review. Their latest album is built on an interesting "quid pro quo" premise in that they got the beats for this album entirely free from a Black Milk project with BM's blessing, so they in turn are giving away "Black Trees" for free and not attempting to profit off it. They repeatedly acknowledge not creating the beats and encourage support of Black Milk first and foremost, but consider "Black Trees" a merger and reimagining of Milk's music and even created some milk carton artwork for the CD to illustrate the point. Going full out with the concept impressed me right from the jump, especially for a freebie.

Addressing this album has to come on two different levels. First and foremost I have to give up props and recognition to Black Milk, and even though fellow critic Guido Stern beat me to the punch it deserves to be said again that Milk is a genius with beats. While he may have had "Purple" inspiration from the frozen tundra of Minnesnowta putting together, you'd never know it until the last few seconds of each track when Milk pulls back the curtain on the beats. Thankfully Tree City left these segments intact, my favorite coming on "Computer Age" when you suddenly realize that a few chopped and screwed seconds of doves were crying at you all along. Even though I can't individually name the Tree City members spitting verses in the song, I love the Deltron 3030 style vibe that they're on. These are some deep and intricately woven thoughts about the not necessarily symbiotic relationship humans have with their technology:

"The 21st century, is a penitentiary
Internet, entities, cybernetic enemies
Information frenzy feeds, anithestic head of me
Friendly beckoning holographic disaster recipes
Intangible rival weaponries societal vasectomy
Monetary inequity when violence is meant to be
Sent to re-overload with a computer for brains
The ravages of destruction are a fluent exchange"

"See cause basically you're trained to be complacently latent
Stationed to green screen fantasies 'til sanity's vacant
Craving technology enough to drop a G on a shopping spree
But never stop to ponder on the hottest commodity
The latest toy to play was just a haven for surveillance
It's tracing your every move, nobody's privacy sacred
Cause a scheme like this is gradual, not out of the blue
So don't be surprised to find that the monitor monitors you!"

This (far too) short 12 track album is consistantly on that vibe, but one might be reluctant to given them credit given they had far more time to craft rhymes without any beats to edit. If we're going to be reasonable about it I'll have to say there's no score for the music on this project as it's "not applicable" to rate Black Milk's work again, even though they do deserve credit for using beats from a fellow Michigander who doesn't get nearly the props that he should (as they say themselves, go pick up "Tronic" already). What I will say is that even for free, Tree City impressed me enough that I'd pay for their next album even though the odds are will still get a comp. If you live in Michigan though you should be able to find their music in a mom & pop store or catch them locally on tour, but hopefully they'll take it to the next level and represent nationally while still keeping their advanced lyricism and not watering it down. There's an audience for Tree City's hip-hop and they need only to make people aware of their work for them to find it. Go to to smoke out with some of Ann Arbor's finest Trees.

Music Vibes: n/a of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Tree City: Thus Far –

Tree City is a five man crew consisting of Cheeks on vocals, Clavius Crates on vocals and production, DJ Cataclysmic on the mic and (obviously) the wheels of steel, G.P. on vocals and M.I.C. on vocals and production. If the group's name is not familiar to you, you can check out our previous coverage of their collabo' with Black Milk entitled "Black Trees" or their shorter but equally enjoyable "TreE.P.." There's just something in the water out there in Ace Deuce (Ann Arbor) because these Trees have grown strong in hip-hop. It's a town that at times seems ready to tear itself apart at the seems, balancing a huge Wolverines college community with life-long residents who do not necessarily share their mindset on anything other than Michigan football - and not always that. Still having lived there and been to the "The Big House" myself I can tell you the game of pigskin is given more respect than the rap game, even though the influx of youth every year means the town always has a thriving underground hip-hop sound. Despite that there are only a few small venues like The Blind Pig dedicated to exposing local talent, leading many frustrated artists to pack it up and head to L.A. or N.Y., and many mom & pop record stores to turn their nose up on the underground before going belly up themselves.

Despite the difficulties inherent in their scene, Tree City keeps on growing, getting a little strong and more established every year that goes by. I'm not the man to come along with a chainsaw and chop it down - rather on "Thus Far" I'm here to celebrate their accomplishments right along with them. That doesn't make me a Tree hugging hippie, just a man who recognizes good music when I hear it who thinks that Tree City has been kept quiet for far too long and deserves a broader exposure outside the harsh winters and boiling hot summers (especially during the numerous blackouts) one can find in Eastern Michigan. Speaking of Eastern, their sound is definitely heavily influenced by the sounds of New York City and Philadelphia, yet these Trees still got Michigan smoke coming out of their pores. The dirty drums and piano breaks of "Ace in the Hole" illustrate that mixture nicely - raw as a Wu-Tang demo but undeniably Ace Deuce.

"Yo, I'm so raw it don't make no sense
The city of Ann Arbor where I make those hits
Hit Soto on the phone like I need that shit
He hit me back soon after like 'Here, take this'
Put me on that list, of dudes that spit wicked
Way before I picked it, I knew that I was gifted
But the way the pen whips, somethin like a misfit
Battlin these dimwits who never gave a shit IF
I rolled over and died, my whole goal is the sky
Your folks ask me why I do mu-sic
I give an honest reply, not cause I want to be fly
Just spit what I like and don't abuse it"

A lot of upcoming hip-hop artists sound like they're one producer and one hit from being internationally known, but with Tree City the sound quality suggests they should be household names already. Ashod melds electronic sound with a zoo-like backdrop of chirps that's not annoying in the least on "Crackdown," then flips to an obscure Beatnuts worthy break on "Braintouchers" before bringing it to reverberating funky funk soul soundscapes on "Whose World" featuring Ant the Champ. Clavius Crates shows off his love of quick rhythms and tom sound on the appropriately named "Rubble Drums," then gets straight sick on track one-six to bring down "Death From Above." Speaking of apropos you can't fault a producer for calling himself The Man In Charge when makes edgy and interesting beats like the ones heard on "Scattered Jazz" and "Doesn't Matter" featuring Dante Peaks. From Magistek Legend on "What I Gotta Do" to Blaze One on "Strange," a whole slew of different producers provide different sounds for Tree City with one common thread weaving them together - freshness.

The question remains after listening to 18 items and 1.1 hours of music repeatedly on "Thus Far" - it's all dope but it has been for a few years now, so what's next? Can Tree City have any hope of success if they stick with a city that doesn't show half the love they show it back? That's hard to say, and it's even harder to imagine anyone dope not seeing Eminem's hometown less than an hour's drive away and thinking that's the next step to making it big as opposed to staying in A Squared, the Double A, Ace Deuce, Ann Arbor or whatever you want to call it. It has been known as the "Tree City" itself for the longest time, and in general takes credit for spearheading environmental causes like Arbor Day, which means the dedication to making a change often seems more important than spending change on artists in your own town. I've got some advice that won't cost you a dime though - if you're going to U of M and you hear Tree City is playing somewhere downtown, take a night off from hitting the books to hear them live. If you can't do that then at least preview their album for free on Bandcamp and s

Best of 2009: Mixtapes – Midwest Broadcast

10. Tree City: Black Trees

Michigan gets a second crack at the best mixtapes of 2009, with Ann Arbor's Tree City collective making the cut. Rhyming exclusively over Black Milk’s Purple Tape, these guys put together one of the most enjoyable and overlooked mixtapes of the year.