Josh Roupe (born 1982) is an American, Midwest-based illustrator, artist and entertainer.
Josh Roupe was born in Bay City, Michigan but raised in the rural small town of Pinconning, Michigan. He has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Central Michigan University and an Associates of Art + Design from Delta College. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a self-proclaimed “Creative-Juggernaut”.
On July, 29th, 2001, Roupe enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a rifleman, only about a month prior to 9/11. After basic training at MCRD in San Diego, CA, he graduated from the School of Infantry located in Camp Pendleton, CA. Roupe then spent the rest of his military career attached to 1st Marine Division, 1st Battalion. He was deployed on two West Pac tours where he conducted ground operations as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit participated in advanced survival training programs in varies climates. He endured a cold weather survival school in Bridgeport, CA and trained in the jungles of Kenya with the Kenyan Army. Roupe’s deployments also brought him to places like Djibouti where he aided in humanitarian missions, restored orphanages and met Robin Williams, who signed his underpants. Along his world tour, he also visited Singapore, Bahrain, Australia, Guam, and numerous other places. He was honorably discharged in 2006.
In 2005 shortly before exiting his military service, Josh formed the acid-rap duo Killaz Local 989 with childhood friend, Sam Harper [a.k.a. Oddball], under the pseudonym ‘Tripp 7’-a name which was a pun on his lucky close calls in life. The group began production on their own label Violently Ill Entertainment which the two established in 2004.
Killaz Local 989 was a concept band which combined horrorcore lyrics with funky instrumentals. The group’s name was in reference to a labor union created for serial killers but was very tongue-in-cheek in its context. In 2005 the duo met DJ Scrubb [Gordon Mantay] who became the group’s primary producer and mixer. In 2006 KL989 was signed to Maniacal Enterprises under their manager William Phillips to produce their debut album ‘The Serial Killaz Union’. The project included numerous collaboration tracks with other rappers such as Prozak, King Gordy, KIlla C, Mr. Maniacal and many more. The group also produced and starred in several music videos which were distributed through the underground scene on hand-pressed DVDs.
KL989 performed varies events in numerous venues including Detroit’s legendary St. Andrew’s Hall. They shared the stage with larger artists such as Tech N9ne and opened for D-12’s Proof, only weeks before he was shot in a Detroit night club in 2006.
Prior to the completion of the Serial Killaz Union, Killaz Local 989 got signed to Long Range Distribution out of Detroit, Michigan in 2006. However just months before the album was to release, Oddball, the group’s front man, tragically passed away from an intentional, self-inflicted overdose. He was laid to rest on April, 18th which would had been his 23rd birthday.
Following the untimely death of Sam, the group was dropped from their label and the Serial Killaz Union was never officially released. Killaz Local soon dismantled altogether and the conjoining members all went their separate ways.
In the aftermath of losing his childhood friend, Josh went into a deep depression and also discovered that he was soon to be a father. In the following spring in 2007, he released a solo-album under the alternative moniker ‘Above Noize’ to cope with the new changes in his like.
Above Noize: Rhymes Against Tomorrow took an entirely different format than KL989, which included a more personal and political agenda. Tracks such as ‘Give it Some Time’ were addressed to Oddball as well as himself, to express his thoughts on suicide. The song ‘W.A.R.’ [We Are Responsible] was an insider’s perspective of the war in Iraq. Josh also composed a mix entitled ‘Benjamin’s Anthem, which was a welcoming song for his pending son. Aside from writing and fully-producing the project, Josh also solely composed the instrumentals. His new found interest in mixing beats led to a follow up album in the next year in 2008 entitled ‘Robotic Destiny’.
Robotic Destiny was primarily constructed out of midi beats and was more experimental than structured but was distributed in the underground scene nonetheless with little praise.
Later in 2008, Roupe released another hip-hop album, returning to his original stage name of Tripp 7 entitled, ‘Laidback to tha Basics’. Unlike before however, the new release was less horrorcore orientated and took on a loud, punk-rock inspired sound. DJ Scubb returned as a vocalist for a collaborative track called ‘Proud What We Do’. The underground release was followed by a couple of shows before Josh graciously hung up his microphone to focus on his new responsibilities as a parent.
A few years later in 2012, Roupe released another lyric-free mix album entitled, ‘Lobos in the Dark’. The 6-track project was themed around a pack of wolves on rein of destruction in a city and was a wild mix classic hip-hop samples and pop culture audio snippets.
After nearly a decade off, Josh returned to the microphone in 2015 as Tripp 7 to release the single ‘About to Notice’. His new flow was much more calculated and pieced together with a decade of maturity behind it and he followed it with another release in 2016 with ‘Step into the Ring’, which was a revision of the song from the 2007 Above Noize Project of the same title.
Aside from being heavily adorned in Ink, Josh also worked periodically as a tattoo artist from the years 2004-2013. He specialized in contemporary design and liked creating pieces with bold lines and rich colors. Roupe began his official apprentice at Super Fly Tattoo, located on the Gas Lamp District in downtown San Diego and completed it at Sterling Dragon INC, located in Midland, Michigan. As much as he enjoyed the art of tattooing, he soon got bored of the overwhelming amount of cliché commissions and left the trade in search of creating more expressive work.
Street Art Career
Early on in the development of KL989, Josh and Sam began an advertising campaign of sticker-bombing. The vinyl pressed stickers which displayed the group’s logo and MySpace page were tactfully placed on the street corners and stop signs of everywhere they traveled from 2005-2007. Aside from turning fans onto the band, the stickers themselves became very popular and their presence alone developed its own fan basis.
In 2010 Josh began to create artistic stickers on 228 Postage stickers and used them to adorn the urban landscape. It was during this time that he also developed his 6-eyed motif which became synonymous with his name. He also traded his graffiti stickers with a network of other artists through the internet. In 2013 he was part of the ‘Invasion of the Stickers’ Gallery Show at Jazzabelss Boutique in Brooklyn, New York.
Aside from stickers, Josh also begin to create basic one-layered stencils after being influenced by the varies pieces that he saw on his travels. His first stencil was a life-sized replica of the Honda robot named ‘Asimo’ which he began to paint on abandoned structures in 2011. Although he hadn’t officially declared a name, he earned the reputation as being “that Asimo guy”. Roupe adopted the name graciously but eventually evolved it into ‘YASIMO’. The ‘Asimo’ name Honda had named their robot was an appropriation of Isaac Asimov, the 1950’s science fiction writer who authored ‘I-Robot’. By adding a ‘Y’ to the name, Josh not only made it his own but was able to convert it into an acronym: You Are Safe In My Oppression.
In 2012, Josh's most famous icon of a 6-eyed Abraham Lincoln began to gain popularity and plagiarized versions of it even began popping up across parts of Australia.
Josh continued to evolve his stencil technique, taking on multiple layers and more complex designs. In 2014, he was eventually caught and arraigned in Midland, Michigan for a painting he did of a Native American wearing a track-suit near the city’s iconic Tridge and Chippewa nature trail. After a hefty fine, Josh laid low as a graffiti artist for some time, only putting his work in low risk locations. The event also impacted the application of his stencils which he use to paint directly onto the surface of structures. He learned about the technique of printing his works onto large sheets of paper and then wheat pasting them on the walls instead. The use of wheat paste was much more discrete and allowed a quick, clean removal if he was ever caught again applying them. The technique of preassembling the work also added additional benefits such as the ability to incorporate collage and mixed media. Josh also began to take his stencil graffiti skills and learned how to adapt them into the fine art scene.
Fine Arts Career/ Formal Education
Although he had always been a fine artist of sorts, Josh began to seek out the gallery scene after he graduated from Delta College in 2012 with an Associate’s degree in art + design. During the first half of his undergrad, Josh studied a wide array of mediums and excelled well in most of them—with the exception of pottery. His overall focus gravitated towards 2-dimentional work including: drawing, painting and digital design. It was at Delta College where he met one of his most influential mentors, Larry Butcher. Butcher’s versatile style was appealing to Roupe because he managed to manifest a coherent voice, no matter what media he was using.
Josh began to incorporate his outside stencil-work into the studio by painting onto canvas. However, the loose give of the canvas made it too difficult to get crisp lines so he experimented on wooden panels which proved to be very similar to the walls he was use to painting on.
Upon graduating Delta College, Josh was offered a large merit scholarship at the School Art Institute of Chicago but despite his best financial efforts, wasn’t able to move to the city.
In 2013, he begun to study at Central Michigan University where he completed his undergrad in 2016, he earned a Bachelor’s of fine Arts with a 2-D concentration and a minor in Art History. During his enrollment at CMU, Josh continued to develop his illustration skills as well as his stencil work and other forms of printmaking. He began to incorporate the use of collage more so with his stencils and became a hoarder of miscellaneous print materials such as wallpaper, comic books, time-cards, litter and whatever else he discovered of interest.
Aside from his 2-dimentional work, Josh began to apply his same use of material appropriation to create found object sculptures. He would frequently visit antique stores, military surpluses and thrift shops, looking for potential oddities that he could warp into his own creation.
His graduating show entitled, ‘Reclamation’, displayed a combination of stencil/collage paintings, drawings, installations and found object sculptures which were all distinctly linked in his style. He immediately followed by displaying similar works in galleries across the state and is continuing to expand his exposure today.
Comedy/ INDIE Film Career
A natural class clown, Roupe’s comedy career may have begun before anything else. At a young age he began making independent comic books and short films with friends. In 1997 he was the recipient of a Student Film Award for a short documentary about tree frogs.
In 2000, Josh created his first notable character role as part of a weekly program called ‘The Captain’ on east-central Michigan’s largest rock radio station Z-93. The radio personality known as The Pan-Man, would call the station every Saturday night and deliver a short monologue followed by a violent eruption of smashing frying pans together while he laughed and yelled psychotically. Although it began as a prank call, the station ended up getting a lot of feedback from it and the show’s DJ, Joe Volk, invited the Pan-Man to be a regular on the show--which he did until the show's cancellation in 2002.
Around 2004, while still in the military, Josh began production on a full 25-minute pilot episode of an animated show entitled ‘Craig Craig: the Mustache Man’. The show’s premise revolved around a middle aged office-worker and his colleges as they battled insane co-workers and an infiltrated clan of ninja assassins. The pilot which was also a Christmas special, titled ‘A Very Merry Craig Craig the Mustache Man Christmas Special’, but it was never finished when the computer he had been working on crashed. To commemorate the loss, Josh had the main character Craig Craig tattooed on his arm.
During the Killaz Local 989 days, Josh also directed all of the band’s music videos as well as some short films which never made it off the cutting room floor.
Much latter in 2010, Josh began another animation project entitled, ‘Nate’s Neighbors’. He created a short five-minute preview of the show as well as a teaser trailer but again the project never took off. The premise for Nate’s Neighbors involved a guy named Nate and his roommate Josh who lived in an insane low-income apartment complex full of wacky, shady neighbors. Unlike ‘Craig Craig’, Nate’s Neighbors was intended to be hyper-violent and really push the psychological boundaries of dark humor.
The age of YouTube created numerous opportunities for short films and Josh took full advantage. Perhaps his most famous short film was entitled, ‘A Cabbage for Mom’. It was shot reality-show style and tells the story of a man who purchased a cabbage for his mother. Two days after it’s YouTube launch, ‘A Cabbage for Mom’, was picked up and aired on a CBS video clip show called ‘Right This Minute’.
In 2013, Josh began his own alternative comedy variety show podcast entitled, ‘Weird Thoughts with Josh Roupe’. Weird Thoughts features an array of guests, some real, some fake, that engage in conversation in an informal setting. The show also includes prank-calls and scripted sketches. Every episode of Weird Thoughts also features all original songs which are written, produced and performed by Josh Roupe. The episode list is sparse since unlike regular podcasts, each episode of WTWJR is produced, written out and procrastinated upon before its eventual release. It is currently available here, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and SoundCloud.com.