UPDATE — 12:42 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, 2016 (EDT) According to WZZM 13, a controversial country rapper and his “Dirt Road Street Team” is back in Michigan, and some say they are up to no good.
MARQUETTE — According to several residents in the Upper Peninsula, a van wrapped in promotional marketing material for the country rap artist Mikel Knight has them concerned.
The artist is controversial. Unlike other hard working independent artists, he doesn’t play shows and there is tour. Instead, the artist, whose real name is Jason Cross, deploys a street team known as the ‘Maverick Dirt Road Street Team’ to aggressively peddle albums of his music at gas stations all over America, without a license.
The street team has been tied to many misdemeanors including theft and assault across the country. In two isolated incidents, members of the street team were tied to kidnapping and a deadly auto accident attributed to members being overworked and ill-slept. There are also reports of members seeking solicitation of sex on Craigslist prior to their arrival to town.
When the vans pull into town local police authorities are usually on high alert.
“The allegations and stories about the practices of Mikel Knight and the Maverick Dirt Road Street Team go beyond being overworked and circumventing local ordinances. Stories of physical abuse, mental anguish, individuals being abandoned in small towns, and even the death of street team members in auto accidents after being overworked have been circulating for the last year.”
Reports of encounters with the street team are a mix between being accosted and approached nicely. Some think the unconventional independent sales strategy is genius, others don’t appreciate the aggressiveness of the team. The street team approaches customers in parking lots of convenience stores and gas stations. One woman says they tried to open her car door, and when she wouldn’t buy the albums, the street team member became visibly upset. Gas station owners refer to them as a nuisance.
The team usually leaves town before authorities can catch up to them to see if they’re obeying local sales laws. The vans have been pulled over multiple times by authorities in the Upper Peninsula. There is no word on arrests or violations at this point.
The group traveled into the area last week after a stint in West Michigan that concerned authorities there. The van, thus far, has been spotted in Marquette, Little Lake, Gwinn, Iron Mountain, and downstate in Houghton Lake.
Jason Cross, known as the ‘Maverick’ of country rap, aka Mikel Knight, has an extensive criminal background, including several assault charges dating as far back as 1996. Some commend his strategy of employing homeless former felons as admirable, giving them second chances at life.
According to one local music enthusiast, who wishes to remain unnamed, the CDs the team peddles are “mediocre, at best.”
Residents are advised to avoid confrontations with members of the street team. Authorities are aware of the situation.