Cruel Winter Festival showcases the best in local hip-hop

Ohio Hip-Hop Award winner Kris Hilton is the host of this year's Cruel Winter Festival at the Grog Shop on Dec 9. [photo: Emanuel Wallace (Cruel Winter Festival 2015)]  

Greater Cleveland’s original live music scene has been on fire in recent years, exemplified by the growth and success of high-profile events such as Brite Winter Festival, Larchmere PorchFest, and the Heights Music Hop. While those three festivals have received plenty of attention, another festival with close ties to them has been flying low on the radar. Cruel Winter Festival, highlighting Cleveland’s burgeoning hip-hop scene, is poised to return for its third season.

This year’s Cruel Winter Festival is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 9, at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights. More than 15 musical acts will take the stage between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Wallace Settles (aka Dirty Jones), is the founder of Cruel Winter Festival. A local music promoter, Settles has been involved with each of the three aforementioned festivals. He focused on adding hip-hop components to those events, increasing the diversity of genres and performers offered by each, to a very enthusiastic response.

Settles created Cruel Winter Festival with the purpose of bringing together some of the best acts of the year, but he has a bigger goal in mind as well. "Part of it is the unity but another part of it is that we need to make our rap events in the city bigger,” said Settles. "Brite Winter Fest is a giant event. Heights Music Hop is a giant event. Hip-hop really hadn’t been involved in those events a lot. I think that one of the reasons is because people don't know that the scene is vibrant here. They just don't know. So we have to show them that the scene is evolving. And I think Cruel Winter Fest is one of the things that's going to help people realize that Cleveland hip-hop is doing well."

Settles believes that over time, and with hard work, Cruel Winter Festival can be just as big as Brite Winter or the Heights Music Hop—if not bigger. "I know it can be bigger,” said Settles. “It's hard to get sponsors for a hip-hop show. They just don't want to do it. And I get it. But that's definitely the goal: I want to make this thing gigantic. I could even have it in the summertime downtown with 10,000 people there going nuts and a national headliner. That's the ultimate goal.”

Cruel Winter Festival is presented by Dirty Jones Productions, Big Coffee Consulting, and the Grog Shop, and is a partner festival of the Heights Music Hop. It is the only annual independent hip-hop festival in Greater Cleveland, showcasing the top up-and-coming artists from Northeast Ohio and beyond. The hosts for this year’s event will be Ohio Hip-Hop Award winner Kris Hilton and hip-hop artist Walker OG, with DJ Corey Grand and DJ Chuck Supreme.

Tickets ($10 in advance; $15 day of show) are available online at or by phone at 216-321-5588.

Michael Kinsella

Michael Kinsella is a co-founder and organizer of the Heights Music Hop and performs locally with oldboy. As a consultant and booking agent with Big Coffee Consulting, he represents the Heights Music Hop, Cruel Winter Festival, and other local organizations and businesses.

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 11:48 AM, 11.30.2016