Musician Ben Bowman, also known as Ben, the Maker, wanted to get past both the negative stereotypes some may have of hip hop music, and some people’s negative views toward the city of Augusta, with a music video shot in the city that in less than two weeks has already had nearly 30,000 views.

Augusta isn’t just the location of the video, “A to the U,” it’s also the subject.

“I make the art I think needs to exist in the world and I think that Augusta, outside of Augusta, has a reputation that wasn’t very positive,” said Bowman, who records as Ben, the Maker, and is a founding member of the local hip hop band The Shizzle. “I wanted to alter that notion a bit, because I feel like Augusta is a great place to live, it fits what I want in a city very well. It’s easy, when you don’t live here, to focus on the bad stuff of the past. I think we’re doing well now and wanted to show that off to the world.”

It’s perhaps just a bonus that the video was shot as Bowman and his bandmates and friends rolled through Augusta on his favorite way to get around, on motor scooters. A conveyance that doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical tough-guy, big-spender image some rappers may seek to portray. Bowman said he hopes the video will help show others, especially the teenagers he mentors as a music educator, that it’s OK to express yourself for who you are in your art, even if that doesn’t fit others’ stereotypes.

“The hip hop image is the tough guy image, that’s clearly not my schtick,” the 35-year-old Augusta resident said of the decision to rap as the group rode around on scooters. “I want to be as much as myself as I can. I think scooters are super fun, especially around town here. The juxtapositions, where things aren’t as they are supposed to be, are interesting to me. What music has given me is the opportunity to be the most me I can be, and be comfortable in my own skin, and show that to other people so hopefully they’ll be more confident in their own skin, too.”

His riding and singing partners include three fellow members of The Shizzle, a hip hop group formed about six years ago. Kevin Wyman, also known as K-Money, and Andrew Whitney both join Bowman in rapping on the track, and Angela Figoli sings on the chorus.

The video starts on the downtown waterfront, off Front Street underneath the former Maine State Housing Authority building, with Bowman and five others on motor scooters, some of them bouncing the front ends of their rides up and down.

They then ride around the city, mostly in the downtown area but also hitting other areas including Sand Hill. They also ride along Western Avenue, an activity known to many locals as cruising the Avenue.

Lyrics include an exchange about the conversion of Water Street in downtown Augusta from its former longtime, one-way-only direction of traffic to the current two-way traffic flow.

“Moving south on Water Street, a sight I never thought I’d see, hey yo, K-Money, am I going the right way?” Bowman, wearing a sweatsuit and white glasses, raps, drawing a response from Wyman of, “I don’t know it’s getting hard to say. But does it really matter anyway?” followed by the chorus of “A to the U to the G to the U to the S to the T to the A. You can dis us, but no matter what, we’re from the best damn state that’s Maine.”

The “dis us” is a play on the negative term of “Disgusta,” used by some for Augusta, in hopes that using the term in a different way will help take away any negative power it night have.

Local subjects in the music video include the Colonial Theater, Olde Federal Building, Eight Rod Road, Statewide Towing, Fort Western, Camp Keyes, and the former Cony flatiron building, but it also focuses on the city’s downtown area — Front, Water and Commercial streets, an important area of revitalization efforts.

Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said the video, which has drawn nearly 30,000 views on various social media since its release, is well done and paints Augusta and its downtown in a positive light.

“They did a great job including many parts of the city from downtown to Western Avenue to Sand Hill, and in a sense, you’re able to get a mini-tour of the area,” Hall said of the video. “I definitely think it’s flattering that they included so many shots of downtown in the video. The song is basically a love letter to the city and to have downtown play such a prominent role in it is a testament to this area once again becoming the heart and soul of the community.”

It features aerial drone footage of the group riding around the city on their scooters and mopeds, including around Memorial Circle.

“People keep fighting, find it kind of frightening, driving while they’re typing,” Bowman raps. “Oh, you’ve got out of state plates, you’re probably running late, don’t want to tempt fate. Rotaries exciting. But we don’t get mad, we just cruise the Ave., got to enjoy the summer that we have.”

Comments about the video on Ben, the Maker’s, Facebook page include “Finding this on my feed ABSOLUTELY made my day! Love it!” “Dude this is wicked AWESOME!! I love my great state of Maine!!” “From Augusta originally. You’ll be happy to know that my sister from Florida posted your video. I’m now in Indiana and shared it with friends n family from Augusta who now live in other states. A to the U is definitely nationwide!” and “Yep… My summer nights were spent cruising the Ave. for sure!”

Bowman said it has been interesting to see the statistics of the song’s spread, with 85% of viewers in Maine, and a large, especially for hip hop, number of women 55 and older sharing the video, joining younger views and people in their 30s and 40s, many of whom are fans of 1990s hip hop.

“It brought a bunch of age groups together, and a goal of what I’m trying to do here is to bring people together, so it’s cool to see all ages engaging with it,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Ben, the Maker, describes himself as an entertainer; a producer; rapper; multi-instrumentalist; a maker of music, videos and physical objects; and as a musical educator.

He plays all the instruments on A to the U, which is on his recently-released album, “Integrity”, other than violin, which is played by Figoli’s 14-year-old son, Eben Buck. Bowman has been playing music since he was in the fifth grade, starting on drums but adding more.

Bowman teaches music at Montessori Stepping Stones school in Chelsea as well as, through a Snow Pond Center for the Arts program, at the South End Teen Center in Waterville, and also does private music lessons.

He’s originally from Rockland but has been an Augusta resident since moving there in 2004 to study music at the University of Maine at Augusta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree.

While it’s clear from his music videos Bowman has a sense of humor and doesn’t take himself too seriously, that doesn’t mean he’s not serious about his music. He hopes to have a career in making original music, and currently has a site on Patreon which allows fans to support his efforts financially. He and other musicians have been hampered by not being able to play live music in night spots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The video was shot over four days, resulting in about 15 hours of footage that was cut to about three and a half minutes for the final video that released Aug. 27. While Bowman usually directs his own videos, “A to the U” was directed by Jenna Peck.

John Sturtevant of Sturdy Production shot the video, using five cameras including one mounted on a drone for the aerial shots, a Go Pro stuck on the side of Bowman’s 1989 Honda Helix scooter, and from Figoli’s convertible VW.

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