Jasper County is known for a lot of good things. It’s a place with deep roots in agriculture where people love to help each other out, where a strong educational system is valued and, most of all, for its love of veterans. But one thriving local product may have the most unique success story of all.
Izzy Dunfore, born Lucas Hewitt, is a Baxter native who has turned his youth obsession with hip-hop into an enterprise. He owns his own label, Dunfore Records, he acts as his own manager, he writes and records his own songs, he makes his own beats and he books his own shows. Friday will mark Izzy Dunfore’s return home to Jasper County where he will perform and showcase talents at the First Avenue Speakeasy, 106 First Ave. W. in downtown Newton.
“A good description of my style would be the prowess of Eazy-E, the lyrical ability of like a Method Man or maybe a Busta Rhymes, but a Midwest version,” Izzy Dunfore said describing his rapping technique. “A good mix of those three I’d say.”
The Iowa-born and bred lyricist has come a long way in his lifetime. He has done everything from selling drugs and getting in trouble with the law to marketing himself as part of a project in college to get to where he is as an artist and as a person today.
In fact, while attending college full-time, he also held down a full-time job in addition to his musical endeavors. These all prepared Izzy Dunfore to be his own manager and label boss.
“At that time, it was kind of easy, really,” he said. “I was around so many people all the time it was real easy to get the word out. It was kind of new at that time and all my friends were kind of finding out that I was doing these shows and getting up on the stage and being able to take over these venues. It was kind of the right place at the right time to have that going on while I was going to school for marketing.”
Being the forward thinker that he is, Izzy Dunfore used his classes to his advantage and helped build his fan base up nationally a few years ago with the help of MySpace.
“When we were doing sales classes we had to put together a portfolio,” he said. “I put together my personal portfolio, and it was like a press kit but a lot more elaborate. It was really advantageous for me, because once I got the grade on that I was able to use it in the real world. At the time, MySpace was huge. I ended up with like 32,000 friends on there. So many people learned who I was through MySpace. It was almost an easier time for a musician because your music was just right there.”
Even though MySpace has seen its popularity decline dramatically over the last few years, the website helped Izzy Dunfore build his brand. The success also prompted him to leave Iowa behind for a chance to bring his music to a bigger market. Shortly after Christmas in 2008, he relocated to Minneapolis.
But through his music he keeps his roots present. The name of his third album is “Fields of Opportunity,” and the cover art depicts the state welcome sign phrase, “The People of Iowa Welcome You,” along with his name at the bottom. The double disc album also features a song called “Home,” dedicated to Baxter.
“Baxter, Iowa, man,” he said with a tone of delight. “I grew up and lived there for 28 years of my life. It wasn’t really the opportunity for me to grow to the point I knew I was capable of doing. It’s really nice in the sense that it’s my home and that’s where I grew up, but that’s not what I had planned out for my life and where I wanted to stay. I started up here (Minneapolis) in 2009 and have really been grinding it out in the city.”
Izzy Dunfore knows that some think he’s talking negatively about his hometown, but it’s just the opposite. He is still a proud Iowan who boasts about his love of wrestling and still gets emotional when describing his song “Home.”
“The song ‘Home’ was definitely in relation to Baxter,” he said. “It’s basically describing how everybody knows me there. How you may have little arguments and tiffs, but your friends got your back. They are going to take your side and be there for you when times are though. Sometimes when things do get a little rough, you’ve got to go back to that place where you started it all and you got that comfort and rapport.”
This upcoming show won’t just be about Izzy Donfore’s return home. The other acts performing are all local hip-hop acts trying to make a mark on the scene.
“It should be real upbeat and real uptempo,” he said of the upcoming Friday show. “What I’m really trying to do with this show is give the artists in Jasper County a chance to show what they’re working on right now. The artists I talked to are good guys who are trying to get their name out there on a local level as much as they can. Mostly I’m just keeping it open to hip-hop artists. The show should be fun, it should be a real good party. I don’t get to come home often, and to come back to Newton is kind of a special time for me. I spent a lot of time here and had a lot of friends growing up here.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.