Recently returned from Southern California, with the sunburned forehead to prove it, the 21-year-old rhymed his way through and belted out his original song "Break Me Down."

The Tidings Café on Thursday welcomed its first hip hop performer, local rapper Momo Smitt.

Recently returned from Southern California, with the sunburned forehead to prove it, the 21-year-old rhymed his way through and belted out his original song "Break Me Down."

Smitt, who describes his music as socially conscious hip hop based in recovery, personal growth, politics, equality and the environment, also performed a special treat — a duet with local folk singer Michelle Bellamy, "A Day Away."

The duet, in addition to an original song by Bellamy — who was accompanied by Clayton Di Chiro — will air the next few weeks on Tidings Café.

"Break Me Down" emphasizes being who you are as an individual person overcoming obstacles, while "A Day Away" evokes introspective consideration about the lifestyle choices we all make.

Throughout both songs, Smitt's facial expressions and intense body movements kept the audience mesmerized as they followed his gestures with their eyes and digested the lyrics he rapidly tossed out.

"His presence is amazing. He looks people in the eye," Bellamy said.

"I really admired his sincerity," Tidings staffer Nick Morgan said. "He wasn't faking, and that has to count for something."

Smiles and laughter filled the Tidings newsroom between songs, along with the back-and-forth banter between Smitt and Bellamy. Employees couldn't help but sneak in for the joy calling from the studio. Or maybe it was the cookies they sought.

"It's a bump to the self-confidence," Smitt said of the attention from the Tidings staff, which included two videographers, a photographer and a writer.

"It's cool to be involved in any sort of press," he said, adding, "I have the opportunity to reach a group of people I might not have otherwise had the chance to reach."

OnTrack and Choices are two local youth recovery programs Smitt actively supports through his uniquely positive hip-hop style. An encouraging and inspirational message isn't easy to find in mainstream hip-hop. For more information on Smitt, see myspace.com/momosmitt.

Tidings Café is an ongoing series of mini concerts in the Daily Tidings newsroom. See videos and pictures at dailytidings.com and on the Tidings Café group page at connectashland.com.