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Rhymer/Educator Shares Stage with Contest Winner and Vanilla Ice

Jennifer Weingart
WVPE Public Radio


Back in May WVPE introduced you to a local artist who had entered NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. Rhymer/Educator did not win, but he did pay it forward into a contest of his own.

Rhymer/Educator, AKA Joe Ruiz, is a hip hop artist whose day job is teaching at LaPorte High School. 

He didn't win NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, but Ruiz and his group did get a slot opening for Vanilla Ice at the LaPorte County Fair on Sunday night. 

“I just met him backstage," Ruiz said at the show "It’s just a funny thing, like, to go from the little boy who was fooling around with his aunt’s CD collection when she was in the Columbia House monthly CD program, Vanilla Ice’s CD was there, she always had all the good music, all the new music and now here I am years later, playing on a stage with him, same night, that’s pretty neat.”

Ruiz and his band were the first on the stage. “LaPorte County Fairgrounds, are you ready? It’s gonna be a long night of awesome entertainment," Ruiz told the crowd. "But at the end of it all Rhymer/Educator is glad that we can be right here with you, right here at home.”

To go with this opportunity Ruiz also ran a competition inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.  “Me and the promoter, Shaun [Kelly], were talking about how can we elevate this even one step further and he’s like ‘you’re a teacher, the Rhymer/Educator thing would work really well if you had some kind of contest for a young songwriter.”

They got a sponsor, American Licorice, and put out the call for submissions from young singer/songwriters high school and early college age and they picked McKenzie Jacobs as their winner.

Credit Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio
WVPE Public Radio
McKenzie Jacobs performs her original song 'Tell Me a Lie' at the LaPorte County Fair on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

Jacobs is a graduate of LaPorte High School and a sophomore at Ball State University. And she actually didn’t send in her submission, her mom did.

“I was gonna look at my other songs and see if anything was good enough to enter," Jacobs recalled, "but then I forgot that I had the YouTube video and when I told my mom about it apparently she sent it in.”

Her mom, Angela Jacobs, said sometimes she just has to encourage. “She’s a procrastinator," Jacobs laughed, "So I know she wouldn’t have entered. She would have just said ‘oh, I couldn’t enter.’ So Mom has to push sometimes. To get her to do things she doesn’t want to do.”

And when Ruiz called, McKenzie was a bit surprised. “He called me and he was making sure I was still free for it and I was like ‘yeah, but I didn’t send anything’ and he was like ‘but you sent me a video’ and I was like ‘yeah, right!’”

But she was excited and glad for the opportunity. “The performance was good. I thought I was gonna mess up but it was cool hearing yourself in a monitor because I don’t have that in my amp where I go.”

For Ruiz and the band, Jacobs was a hands-down winner.

“The guys in my band were like, ‘you gotta pick McKenzie’ and I was like ‘well, are we even going to discuss this?’ American Licorice was like ‘these are all great, I’m gonna sign off on any one of these’ and my three band mates at the time, we didn’t have our guitar player yet, were like ‘McKenzie’s the one, get her on stage’ and I was like “McKenzie it is!’”

Jacobs played her original song, Tell Me a Lie.

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