It’s pronounced “Treese.” Here’s why. During one episode of local rapper Sean “Oreo” Jones’s music-meets-food YouTube show, Let’s Do Lunch, Jones accidentally mashed up the words “Cheers” and “Peace” while making a toast. Later that year, the Warsaw, Indiana, native decided to start a homegrown hip-hop festival, and the term he’d coined stuck. “It’s fitting,” Jones says. “The title breaks down stereotypes. It brings people together, not just through hip-hop culture, but community.”
Which is important, because hip-hop and Indianapolis have not always had the best relationship. Longtime Indianapolis producer Jay Brookinz is the first to admit that. “This whole hip-hop thing in this city has been a fight,” says Brookinz, who handles A&R for Chreece, meaning he’s always scouting new talent. He’s seen venues decline to play hip-hop or turn people away at their doors for looking too “urban.” Adds Brookinz: “We’re trying to bridge the gap between the city and the culture.” DJ Gabby Love heads up the festival’s charity-based work. “Obviously, hip-hop has a little bit of a stigma,” says Love, “so I think it’s really important that Chreece be a part of changing that narrative.”
Chreece is powered by local talent. While the event has drawn notable national names to town, people here in Indy have ultimately been the driving force. “The inclusion of the locals is central to the success of the festival,” says Ron “Indiana Jones” Miner, a local DJ legend who now serves as director of business development for Chreece. “It’s a team effort. They [as artists] buy in, we buy in as promoters, the city buys in, and we all do something good.” At this year’s fest, on August 24, local acts include Clint Breeze and the Groove, Drayco McCoy, FLACO, Mathaius Young, Parris LaDame, Trajik, and more.
They’ve snagged their biggest headliner yet. After attracting Chicago acts like Mick Jenkins and Valee to star in previous years, Chreece welcomes New York–based rapper Talib Kweli to Indianapolis in 2019. With a solo catalog dating back to the early 2000s, Kweli is also widely celebrated for his collaborations with Mos Def as half of the legendary hip-hop duo Black Star. Kweli most recently released a solo album in 2017 titled Radio Silence, featuring guest contributions from Anderson .Paak, Rick Ross, and more.
All ages welcome. Five of the eight stages will be open to everyone: the Fountain Square Theatre Building, Hoosier Dome, Square Cat Vinyl, the Fountain Square Plaza, and (until 10 p.m.) Pioneer. “There are more all-ages venues this year, which has always been the goal,” Jones says. On the first three Thursdays of August, Chreece will also curate family-friendly programming at Lugar Plaza to help get the word out. The strictly 21-and-up venues are Thunderbird, The White Rabbit Cabaret, and Hi-Fi.
First-timers, listen up. With more than 70 acts performing across eight stages, you must have a game plan ready. Start at chreece.com to scope out your schedule. For parking, your best bet is to find a spot on a nearby street or in a public lot, leaving your car there for the fest’s entirety.
Find a new summer soundtrack. With so many aspiring artists taking the stage at Chreece, it’s an excellent place to discover fresh sounds. From trappers to backpackers to art rappers, it offers up a bit of something for everybody. “If people come and don’t know about local music, they might find their new favorite artist,” Brookinz says. “[The term] ‘local artist’ is not a stigma anymore. We can rock with our locals the way people in New York rock with theirs.”
Getting hyped for Chreece? Check out our playlist of local musicians who will be at this year’s festival.