Meet Maulskull, the highly prolific Johnny Appleseed of underground hip-hop

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Maulskull (born Jonathan Messinger) is in the midst of one of the more impressive undertakings we've seen in local hip-hop. His Death by Thr33s series is a massive collaborative effort between himself and more than twenty other artists. Every week for the last eighteen weeks has included the release of an EP; volume one in the series dropped in December, and the final installment hits the web this week.

"Sometimes people take forever to put stuff out, and sometimes they don't ever put stuff out," notes Maulskull. "So a lot of times people will be holding my beats for years." This latest project, he says, started out of that frustration -- giving people beats, but never hearing a final product. "I felt like the best way to get everyone to start making stuff was to give them a deadline to finish tracks."

And so that's what he did. Last fall, he sent out more than sixty beats to two dozen artists -- friends from the scene or people he'd met while touring. He gave each artist three beats and a six-week deadline to write and record whatever they wanted. The results are compelling. His production is on point -- serving up blends of tastefully chopped samples and original synth work with equal skill. His beat work provides a lush backdrop for lyrical work from MCs hailing from the Front Range, Montana and Minneapolis.

Rather than marinate on the accomplishment of releasing 54 original tunes over the last four and a half months, Maulskull is hitting the road for most of April and May on two separate tours -- the first with Louis Logic and Sadistik, and the second with Moka Only (Swollen Members) and LMNO (Visionaries). He's also wrapping up production for a handful other MCs' projects, and promoting a new album of his own via his amorphous group BlackMask. "It's just a whole mess of grinding," he says humbly.

Once the touring is over, the plan is drop a full-length compilation of the best material from the Death by Thr33s series, including an album release event locally featuring the ten Front Range MCs who make appearances, plus all the original artwork painted for the album artwork (each cover is only a portion of eighteen original paintings on canvas, done by his girlfriend, Chelsea Christie, while listening to him sequence, mix and master each EP).

Maulskull might be the Johnny Appleseed of underground hip hop: "We're just trying to hit the road and spread all sorts of free music for everyone to introduce people to a bunch of artists who are usually lower on the flier."

Maulskull, with Input and Credit, 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, Moe's Original BBQ & Bowl, 3295 S. Broadway, $5, 303-781-0414.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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