Dec. 01--A person's character is defined as the qualities or features that distinguish themselves from everyone else. Some of the quali- ties are instilled at birth, while others are learned from the sit- uations a person encounters in life.
For Robert Scifo, he has transformed his hardships into a budding music career with a vision to entertain and provide support to the community he calls home.
Scifo, who performs under the stage name Casper, has been making hip-hop music since his teens. A native of New Jersey, he has been living in Pottsville for about 12 years after moving to be closer to his family. He has set up shop in the city, establishing his own record label, Max Out Entertainment, with a studio on East Norwegian Street. Through this label, he released his debut album, "The Untold Story," earlier this year.
"I feel music can change the world. Music is a powerful tool," Scifo, 30, said.
He speaks from personal experience. In 2001, Scifo ran into trouble with the law and was sentenced to prison. It was during this time that he rekindled his love of music. It began a journey of self discovery for the promising artist.
His music reflects on the struggles of that time and working his way back into life's good graces. He sees his music as a way to send a message that life is what you make it and you can make it anything you want.
"I use my music to uplift people," he said.
Today, Scifo is looking to help the people in his community. It's something he feels he needs and wants to do.
"That's the main thing. The main reason to do this is to give back to the community," Scifo said.
Scifo is a family man. He lives in Pottsville with his wife, Jennifer, and three children. His philanthropic endeavors reflect his life as a father.
He struck a deal with Burlington Coat Factory to provide 500 coats to underprivileged youth in the area. He said they are still finalizing the details but the drive should be held in December or January in Pottsville.
On Feb. 14, his entertainment group is hosting a concert at Penn State Schuylkill, in which 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to THON. The largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON is a two-day dance marathon at Penn State's main campus to raise money to combat pediatric cancer.
"It's about giving back no matter where you are in your career," Scifo said.
Recently, Scifo and his wife began organizing a charity collection for the Philippines. The island nation was struck by a powerful typhoon in November, killing 5,500 and leaving many in need of aid.
The drive is scheduled for today and Monday at Giant Food Store in Pottsville. Fanelli Trucking, Pottsville, is donating a truck and will deliver the goods to a United Nations dropoff.
While performing his duty to the community, Scifo is hoping to break the public's view of the hip-hop genre. It is one of the more scruntized genres for its views on life, money, sex and violence. However, Scifo said not all hip-hop is created to send those messages.
"I want people to realize that hip-hop is not always about the streets," he said.
He believes his work in the community can help shape a more positive image for his genre; however, that's not the only thing he hopes to change in Pottsville and Schuylkill County.
Like most cities in the U.S., Pottsville has a music scene but it lacks prevalence. He is looking to establish a more vibrant scene in the city with his music and label.
"We want to let people know that Pottsville does have talent. We are a city and cities have music scenes," Scifo said.
He said that at one time, the city did have a good scene, but it took a hit with the lack of resources, especially venues.
"Music is never going to die. It's the scene that dies," Scifo said.
To help establish a new scene, Scifo and Max Out Entertainment will be kicking off its Rep Your University tour Saturday with the 570 Bash at JT's Pub in Port Carbon.
"It's going to be a pretty good party," Scifo said, adding that JT's is looking to be a destination in the county for music acts.
The tour is scheduled to run until March, with stops at Penn State Schuylkill in February and in Bethlehem on March 1. Scifo said the tour's end date is not finalized and could extend into May. A portion of the proceeds from the tour will be donated to THON.
On the homefront, Scifo continues to expand Max Out Entertainment, recently signing a rock band from his home state of New Jersey. He is also always scouting local talent to add to his brand.
"We have two which we are working with from Schuylkill County. It's just a waiting process," he said.
As an artist, Casper is set to launch his second album, "Redemption," in 2014. He signed a deal with Dynasty Records to distribute in retail stores around the U.S. and the world. He said his music will be available in outlets such as Wal-Mart and Kmart, and a pre-order was opened in 12 states.
Also, Casper has his own page on MTV's website. In June, he shot a video for the music station on West Market Street in Pottsville. The video was released in July.
As he continues his climb in the music world, Scifo plans to continue giving back to his community. He said he wants to remember where he is from and help out as much as possible.
"I'm for the people. I am them," he said.
(c)2013 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)
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