Indie studio Yo’ Hood Entertainment looks to boost Aurora community connections

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AURORA | Names like Blakk Skellington, Juju Salaam and The Hood Father probably don’t mean very much to most Aurora residents.

But beneath the shell of a former bank at 9975 E. Colfax Ave., those puzzling terms are everyday monikers used to refer to a familial team quietly running one of the most-prominent strongholds in the metro area’s underground hip hop scene.

“We’re still the best-kept secret in the neighborhood,” said Ron Cosby, founder and owner of the subterranean maze of recording booths known as Yo’ Hood Entertainment. “Nobody knows we’re here.”

Known around his recording studio exclusively as “The Hood Father,” Cosby started Yo’Hood nearly a decade ago as a way for he and a select group of fellow performers to create and record their own songs. Since then, the business has steadily ballooned, and now encompasses the entire basement of 9975 East Colfax, with several different studios, photography green screens, and soon, a small T-shirt store inside of the one-time bank’s vault on the building’s top floor.

“It started as a place for us to record our own music, and it’s just grown and evolved organically from there,” Cosby said. “Well over a third of the hip-hop community in Denver has been through here, and though we’re pretty unknown to the majority, you go and talk to the right circles and you’ll hear, ‘Oh yeah, those guys.’”

On top of local acts, the company records and often helps promote musicians from across the country, most of whom are tethered to the genres of hip-hop and R&B — something that Cosby said comes with its share of hackneyed perceptions.

“We’re still the best-kept secret in the neighborhood,” said Ron Cosby, founder and owner of the subterranean maze of recording booths known as Yo’ Hood Entertainment. “Nobody knows we’re here.”

“It’s mostly been a hip-hop and R&B movement, which kind of scares some people away because hip-hop itself has been stigmatized by so-called gangsters and the gangster hip-hop rap guys,” he said. “A lot of people don’t take the time to take these artists seriously, but you have a lot of great, talented kids that have been coming through here, and some of them are remarkable.”

Cosby said that some of the out-of-town artists are coming specifically to record with Myles Lumpkin, the studio’s chief audio engineer and Cosby’s son. Known to many Soundcloud listeners as Blakk Skellington, Lumpkin grew up in the studio completing homework assignments in exchange for time to shadow other producers while they worked the sound board. He’s produced full-time at the Colfax recording station since graduating from George Washington High School in East Denver in 2011.

“It was kind of a fall-into-it kind of deal,” Lumpkin said of how he came to be Yo’ Hood’s head beat-maker. “At first I wanted to be a rapper, but the rap thing wasn’t really working for me, so I put the mic down and learned engineering. Since that day life has been awesome.”

Cosby’s younger son, Julius, also known as Juju Salaam and a 2015 graduate of Hinkley High School, handles the company’s graphic design.

Later this summer, the elder Cosby said he plans on opening a new avenue that will allow him to continue to invest in Aurora kids. In August, he’s preparing to slowly roll out a free youth program that centers on teaching Aurora youngsters the basics of audio engineering and recording in exchange for time spent learning basic life skills such as writing a résumé, opening a bank account or balancing a check book.

The catalyst for the program was the reoccurring trend of public schools shuttering music programs across the country, according to Cosby.

“This was just an idea and we really didn’t know how many people were so upset about schools losing music programs, but now we’re realizing there a lot of people really fighting hard for that,” Cosby said. “We’re hoping that we can build a community around that cause.”

He added that he wants the program to be one grounded in inclusivity.

“There are so many programs that say you have to be in this or that tax bracket, but we don’t want to limit things to that — it’s just all about creativity,” Cosby said.

Going forward, Cosby said he aims to further ingrain Yo’ Hood into the surrounding community of the burgeoning Aurora Cultural Arts District.

“It started as a place for us to record our own music, and it’s just grown and evolved organically from there,” Cosby said. “Well over a third of the hip-hop community in Denver has been through here, and though we’re pretty unknown to the majority, you go and talk to the right circles and you’ll hear, ‘Oh yeah, those guys.’”

“We want to attach everybody together,” he said of the different ACAD entities. “We have a brand new brewery, art galleries, and two theaters right (across the street). It’s long overdue that we start working with each other. This is the Aurora arts district, and music is art.”

Despite the myriad artistic bastions bundled within three blocks, Cosby said changing the area’s collective attitude toward the arts is the first obstacle to overcome.

“The median income here is so low, so most of the area doesn’t feel the need or have the means to promote what’s going on in the community, and I can understand why,” Cosby said. “But if we don’t change it, it never will (be changed).

The median income of Yo’ Hood’s 80010 ZIP code was $32,527 in 2013, which is nearly half the state average, according to the website City-Data.com.

“We’re hoping to give the community something they can be proud of — they deserve it,” Cosby said.