Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, 1/2 at Eclipse Records

Big Cats! is a famous producer. Guante writes and sings songs of woe. They'll be playing with a band, together for the first time ever.

Without giving too much away, this show is the first step in something very big. You'll see. Be there on the ground floor.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

2008 Year in Review

So it’s been a wild year. Moved to Minneapolis in the middle of 2007 after signing to Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, so this has been my first full year in the Twin Cities. It's great here. Been traveling a lot, but it's a perfect home base. Much love to the crew, as well as everyone I've been able to meet this year. This run-down isn't so much about bragging about how great I am (though I am, of course) as it is a record for my own use-- you gotta know where you've been to get where you're going and all that.

Unrelated to that, Knowshun just sent me a text saying "Merry Christmas you lyrical bastard."

Anyways, a few 2008 highlights:

Accomplishments:
~Picked as one of URB Magazine’s “Next 1000”
~Finalist in the Independent Music Awards for Best Hip Hop Song (One of These Mornings) and Best Hip Hop Album (El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment)
~One of City Pages’ “Artists of the Year”
~2008 Minneapolis Grand Poetry Slam Champion
~Helped lead the St. Paul National Poetry Slam team to a 13th place national finish (yes, Mike, I said "helped")
~My mixtape, "Conscious is Not Enough" was ranked #7 by Vita.MN readers for best local album of the year.
~Favorite act in the February Sample Night Live
~”One of These Mornings” in regular rotation on 89.3 The Current
~Won the inaugural Dubuque Area Writers’ Guild Poetry Slam
~Team won the Midwest Grudge Match slam
~Team won the Twin Cities “Big Slam”
~Wrote a bunch of articles on music and politics for CultureBully.com (CD reviews, longer essays and spitting in the face of conservative radio hosts), Mill City Scene (on hip hop and activism), DaveyD.com (on Obama, the 2008 Elections and the hip hop community), Women in RedZine (on Sexism in Indie Hip Hop) and others.
~Lots of positive press (scroll down)
~...making a living doing art, making music and poetry I can stand behind 100% politically, philosophical and artistically, and not compromising anything for anyone.

Notable Shows:
~Performed on the main stage at the RNC protest, the UnConvention, the Provention, and Ripple Effect w/ Michael Franti, dead prez, Anti-Flag, B.Dolan, I Self Divine, Rage Against the Machine and others
~Homegrown Hip Hop Fest 2008 w/ Kid Sister, Doomtree and others
~Headling performer at the Iraq Veterans Against the War National Conference
~Forward Music Fest 2008 w/ Neko Case, Killdozer, Mason Jennings and many more
~El Guante’s Haunted Van Tour through Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, West, Chicago, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines w/ See More Perspective, PosNoSys, Figureheads, Philip Morris, Ajents of Change, Imperfekt, Il Subliminal and a whole bunch of other great acts
~Exercise/Exorcise and SPIT with Lamb Lays With Lion Theater Company
~A Night to Stop the Violence at the Urban League w/ Tish Jones, Truthmaze
~Opened for PM Dawn at Trocaderos
~Hosted the SUBSTANCE Justice Jam w/ Hieruspecs, Kanser, many more
~Featured artist at ICE open mic, Souls on Display open mic, El Café open mic, SPIT Comedy and Spoken-Word Showcase, Minnesota Public Radio’s “In the Loop” Story Slam and the Madison, WI Grand Poetry Slam
~Green Jobs Rally w/ Jim Hightower
~ACORN show w/ Al Franken (I think I scared him a little)
~Opening act at Muja Messiah’s CD release party at First Avenue
~Headlining performer at the People’s Networking Convention
~Performed at the Palabristas chapbook release party at the Loft Literary Center
~Opening act at the Junkyard Empire CD release party w/ Eyedea & Face Candy and the Abstract Pack
~3 Minute Egg Launch party and interview
~”Return to El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment” release party at the Acadia and interview on KFAI’s MN Soundtrack
~Played a two-hour set at UW-Stevens Point when the headliner didn’t show up
~Hosted the 2008 UW-Madison Poetry Slam Finals
~Performed at Mill City Scene’s release party w/ Big Quarters, Kristoff Krane, Hyder Ali and Carnage

Lectures and Residencies:
~Spoken-Word coach at the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent
~Featured Artist at the Explorastory Storytelling Series at UW-Madison
~Workshop presenter at the U of M’s Voices Merging Spoken-Word Conference
~Workshop presenter at the People’s Networking Convention
~Workshop presenter at Lyrical Action Camp, Macalester College during the RNC
~Workshop presenter at the POWERSHIFT Conference
~Panelist: “Hip Hop and the 2008 Elections” at the Homegrown Hip Hop Fest
~Ubah Medical Academy residency
~North High School residency
~South High School residency
~Perpich Arts Academy coaching
~Marcy Open School coaching
~Humboldt Junior High residency
~Dunwoody College workshops
~one-day gigs at a bunch of schools

Releases:
~Harry Potter b/w Esta Tarde Single
~El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment
~Conscious Is Not Enough Mixtape
~Return to El Guante's Haunted Studio Apartment

Miscellany:
~Yoshi. Mach Bike. Moo Moo Meadows. What.
~Lego Guante Manor
~Didn't get a job because I failed the personality test. Sign?
~Big ups to Lil' Tijuana off Nicolet and Quang on Nicolet
~Going to the Maw
~Eddie Monkey and Jenny Duck as my desktop background, prompting questions

And Some Things to Look Forward To:
~First show w/ Big Cats and the Band: 1/2 at Eclipse Records
~Hip Hop Against Homophobia: 1/23 at the Nomad
~A collaborative EP w/ See More Perspective, soon
~Finishing up and beginning to perform my one-man spoken-word show
~Competing for a slot on the Minneapolis or St. Paul National Poetry Slam teams
~Guante/Big Cats concept album, "An Unwelcome Guest" in winter of 2009

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One of City Pages' Artists of the Year

Here's the link.

I've gotten a lot of good press, but this is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever written about me. I'm almost humbled, ironically. A great way to end the year.

Big ups to the Tru Ruts fam and CultureBully and all the poets and rappers and fans and everyone for the support all year. Thanks!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

it's like when Homer saw his face on that dish soap box


"Thanks" to my Culture Bully compatriot Jon Behm, who took this photo of an advertisement while gallivanting through Buenos Aires. Click on his name to see more cool shots.

But yo, what is going on? Is this some kind of message? Should my next album be called "Identidad Masculina?" Wouldn't THAT be something.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

feeling dirty... also, big show coming up

I voted for myself on Vita.MN's "best local albums" list. But I was right at number 11, and one more vote for "conscious is not enough" would put me in the top ten, so i did it.

I figure if Jon Jon can vote for Muja, it's only fair. haha. I also voted for Culture Bully for best local blog, but refrained from voting for this one, though I must admit it's pretty spectacular.

This is cool though-- i just heard that the mixtape cracked 500 downloads, which is about where I wanted it to be by now. If you haven't got it yet, go get it-- at my official site or myspace blog, or on this blog if you search for the link.

Also found out the City Pages is printing something about me soon. Lots of year-end attention, and we haven't even made the big announcement about January 23 or the 12/'09 album yet. Wink wink, yo.

Anyways, this is kind of a mishmash post, so i may as well post this too: the flyer for the big show on 12/27. These are about 5 out of my 7 favorite local hip hop acts, so don't miss it:

Me and SeeMore will be playing early, so come early, damn it. Everyone on the bill is phenomenal. Don't miss anything.

Finally, there's this:
TRU RUTS + ROSE UP PRODUCTIONS present SNOW BALL



Tru Ruts closes out the year with SNOW BALL, featuring performances from the RUTS CREW, with special guests MOOR and djo. The show will also include dvd screenings of highlights from one of the best shows of the year, KRS ONE before a soldout crowd at Trocaderos. Also highlights from the LIGHTNING + THUNDER cd release party, the Mid American Music Festival, a J Dilla Tribute and more. The night will also include an open mic. Come early to sign up and catch the screenings. SNOW BALL is part of Freakin Fridays at the Blue Nile, presented by Rose Up Productions, in collaboration with Tru Ruts.

SNOWBALL featuring El Guante, See More Perspective, Moor, djo + others. 9:00pm music • 18+ • $5. Blue Nile, 2027 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55413.

Monday, December 08, 2008

An Informal Top 10 of 2008 List

So my general aversion to top ten lists made me opt-out of CultureBully’s year-end hoe-down. But after reading it, it got me in the holiday spirit so I figured I’d post one of my own. These ten items aren’t necessarily the BEST albums/songs/moments of 2008, but they’re the ones that stick out to me the most right now. Lots are local (another reason I’m wary about publishing this at the higher-profile site… don’t want the music blog ethics police to come get me), some I didn’t even like all that much, and there are a billion things I’m forgetting or just missing. Yeah, I’m not very good at top ten lists. Instead, think of this as a Ten Cool Random Music Thoughts about 2008. In no order:

Chantz’s “Good Company” EP
Chantz is a rapper I work with quite often, so feel free to not believe me when I say this, but he’s an absolute monster on the mic. At only 17, his rhymes are more mature, funny, interesting and just fun to listen to than pretty much any other local emcee. The real treat on this EP, though, is producer Cory Grindberg, another young'n with brilliant hip hop chops. The beats are fresh as hell, with some great live guitar and lots of surprises. This album has not left my rotation since I got it; it’s really one of TC hip hop’s hidden secrets. The hidden track, a vocoder-heavy remix of “Gone,” is amazing. Check Chantz out here.

Santogold
Read my review of this one here. Just cool music. Fun and dancy, but also really dark.

Gnarls Barkley: “The Odd Couple”
Not a whole lot to say that hasn’t been said already. These two guys just consistently make great pop/soul music. Cee-lo is my favorite rapper in the world from way back, and I DO wish he’d rap more on these projects, but it’s hard to argue with what we do get. Danger Mouse has officially won me over. I thought “The Grey Album” was insanely overrated, but his recent work has been beautiful. The whole album is listenable too, unlike their last one—very solid from front-to-back. My old review here.

Kristoff Krane: “This Will Work For Now”
Another local, another act I’ve played a lot of shows with, so sue me for bias. But this album is on that proverbial “next level shit.” This is a guy who can flat-out out-rap every emcee I’ve ever heard, but he refuses to be simply a fast-rap super technician; instead, he writes actual songs and pushes himself to go into strange and interesting directions. Not every song worked for me, particularly the faster, more overwhelming rap tracks, but even the stuff I wasn’t feeling personally is unbelievably impressive. And when Kristoff starts singing, as he does on “Easy Way Out” and “Miracle,” it’s over. This is a unique multidimensional, multidisciplinary talent that I sincerely hope the Twin Cities realizes it has. Check out Kristoff here.

Atmosphere: “When Life Gives You Lemons…”
So half the album I can’t stand. But the other half is some transcendent shit. I think it’s their most uneven album ever, but it’s also—to me at least—their best. When Channy Moon Casselle of Roma di Luna comes in on “Puppets,” it’s chilling. The storytelling tracks are great. Slug is rapping so simply, and while hip hop purists might not be down with that, I think it’s a great move—you don’t need ten syllable rhyme schemes or 130 BPM beats to affect people, to tell a story, to actually say something. Particularly coming off the free mixtape that was kind of boring to me and the EPs which didn’t do a lot for me, it was nice to see some ambition, something in a different direction.

Raphael Saadiq: “The Way I See It”
Yeah, I don’t even have this and have only listened to it once. Hoping to scrape up funds to buy it. But from what I’ve heard, it belongs here. Great retro-soul from one of the genre’s most distinct voices. “Still Ray” is a slept-on CLASSIC song, but the rest of that album did nothing for me. This album, however, seems like a winner all-around.

Invincible: “Shapeshifters”
Read my review of this one here. An emcee with good politics, good production and a good flow? It ain’t really that much to ask, but it’s delivered so seldomly. Invincible’s got it.

New MC’s “White Jesus” and Kanser’s “Future Retro Legacy”
While he gets a lot of attention for funny punchlines and just being a cool guy, Big Zach can hit you in an emotional place when you’re not expecting it. The solo disc is full of moments like this, and the production is out of this world. I also have to mention “Future Retro Legacy” if only for “Legacy,” an absolutely brilliant song featuring one of Zach’s most compelling verses I can remember. Check out Kanser here.

Haley Bonar: “Big Star”
In a world overflowing with folky/indie singer/songwriter types, Bonar sticks out because of her songwriting. The production and the melodies on her new album are very much on point, but it’s her lyrics that really separate her from the pack I think. A great live performer too. Check her out here.

Kanye West: “808s and Heartbreak”
If nothing else, I liked this because it was something new. Kanye has ambition, which is more that I can say for a lot of other talented acts out there content to sit in their little niches while the music world burns. There’s some crap on this album (the lyrics in particular leave something to be desired), but there are also a lot of great moments, and the overall vibe is very cool. In my opinion, you have to reward ambition. Even over some more solid albums released this year.

Random Thoughts:
~I know, I’m missing a whole gang of great hip hop including CRAC Knuckles, Blu, Elzhi, Foreign Exchange, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Jake One and more. But it’s just hard… I feel like I already know what all of this sounds like. Maybe I’m being closed-minded. If any of the above is some MUST-HEAR shit, let me know.
~The Roots’ “Birthday Girl” was unfairly hated on. People talk about them trying to sell out with this song; if you want to sell out, you don’t write a song about being tempted by underage girls. A great mix of dark humor, social commentary and a cool, guitar-driven beat. The rest of the album was good, but kind of felt like “Game Theory” throwaways at times.
~Never got around to “One Day as a Lion.” Was that a mistake?
~Brandi Carlile oversings everything, but she does it very, very well. “The Story” was a fun song, and her cover of “Creep” is pretty great.
~The Radiohead album was good, but they have so much brilliant material now that it’s kind of hard to get excited about their new stuff. As great as it is, it’s hard to compare to “OK Computer.”
~Big Quarters’ “BQ Direct” has had some killer songs. If you don’t know, find out.
~Q-Tip’s album was fun.
~”Carter 3” was mad overrated, which is probably obvious by now.
~I wish Erykah’s album had been better. Haven’t re-listened to it at all since it came out. That “Healer” instrumental, on the other hand…
~My album and mixtape were the greatest thing ever, but it’d be inappropriate to talk about that here, right?
~And a billion other things I'm forgetting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

TRU FRIDAY free downloads from artists on my label, including me


THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
In appreciation for your support this year, we are giving thanks with 4 days of free download from Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. Check out some of the best tracks from the label featuring Truthmaze, Sha Cage, El Guante, e.g. bailey, See More Perspective and Quilombolas. True music for the people. Spread the Word.
Go to: www.myspace.com/truruts
If the download does not work, email info@truruts.com.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guest Post: 8 Things You Can Do to Support LGBTQ Rights

From the tremendous Jessica Rosenberg:

Angry About Prop 8?
Take Action: Eight Things You Can Do to Support LGBTQ Rights


1. Contact your mayor, governor, school bard, congressperson, senator, your post master general, and tell them you're mad about 8 and ask them what they're doing to support their LGBTQ constituents. Can you imagine, Monday morning, if we all called?


2.
Got Money? Give it. To PFund, which gives scholarships to LGBTQ students, for instance, or to any of the excellent organizations working everyday for LGBTQ equality. Use it to support Queer business (not just the bars) and Queer artists (The LGBTQ reading series at Intermedia Arts, Outward Spiral Theater, One Voice Mixed Chorus, so many more).

3.
Got time? Even better. Use some, one hour a month if you have it (and I know you do) to volunteer at District 202, Outfront Minnesota, the Rainbow Health Initiative, Pride Alive… so many to choose from!

4.
Call your local high school, and see if they have a Gay Straight Alliance and what you could do to help. Think creatively. Queer Career Night, anyone?

5.
Write a letter to the editor telling them why you went to the Prop 8 protest. Post a blog about it on Facebook, bulletin on MySpace, or start your own blog. Be the media! Age-old activist riddle: If a rally happens in a city, and no media covers it, did it really happen?

6.
Call your family members, tell them where you were today and why, and engage them in serious discussion about this issue. Get people of every age on board.

7.
Organize a discussion lunch at work, at church, at the bar with your friends. Yes, this can be a terrifying topic to talk about. No, nothing will ever change if we don't reach out to people who don't already agree with us, really listen to them, and talk to them with love (even if it is love that they do not return). Come out for equality.

8.
Build an alliance. If you are part of any group (a well funded nonprofit or a knitting collective or a baby clothes store) that either works for or believes in full rights for LGBTQ people, find another group that also believes in that, see where your goals, strengths and strategies align, and where they differ. Figure out where you overlap, what you can do to help each other, and to, together, further LGBTQ rights. Yeah, this is a hard one. But damn, the imaginable rewards are endless, almost unimaginable.

{It is possible for straight people to do all of these things. It is even better when straight folks do these things! They're not expecting it from you!} --Jessica

Monday, November 17, 2008

what's the doings?

Been a busy month. A few updates:

1. Recap: in October, we played the Junkyard Empire CD Release show with Eyedea & Face Candy, members of the Abstract Pack (!) and of course Junkyard. The next week we played a wild a capella hip hop set in the basement of the Loft for 3 Minute Egg, and then I went out to Dubuque to win the first ever Dubuque Writers' Guild Poetry Slam (I beat Alvin Lau, which was definitely a surprise). Then played Reloaded Wednesdays w/ Toki Wright. Then played the Bedlam Theatre for an ACORN show (did you hear? they're the biggest threat to American democracy in the world! haha). Then played a Catholic prep school (reminded me of Hogwarts). Then had our big Halloween release party/radio interview-- had a packed house, sold lots of CDs, good times. I dressed as Tetsuo from Akira, and Seemore was Gomez Adams... and a zombie.

In November, I hosted the Soapboxing Poetry Slam, then went off to UW Stevens Point with Seemore. The headliner never showed up, so we ended up playing a two-hour set. Songs, spoken-word, a capella/beatboxing stuff; we even brought up a guitar and played an impromptu acoustic set. Then it was off to Madison for the Homegrown Hip Hop Fest where we opened up for Kid Sister. Again, half our set was played in the pit with the audience, and we had a lot of fun. The next day I led a writing workshop and hosted the UW-Madison collegiate poetry slam finals with Queen God-is from Brooklyn. That was one of the best slams I've seen in a long time-- Madison is really becoming a powerhouse on the national slam scene, at least at the college level. Very inspiring. Here's me, there:

2. Been writing more for Culture Bully. Reviewed Q-Tip, John Legend, the Mighty Underdogs, Jedi Mind Tricks (coming soon) and more stuff I'm forgetting. Lots of great content there.

3. The new album, RETURN TO EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT, has gotten a fantastic response. I actually listen to it all the time. It's got remixes of songs from my last album, plus some new exclusive tracks. You can hear the "Bring Out Your Dead" Remix at my MySpace, and a new track at Seemore's. The artwork might be my favorite part:

4. Working on two primary projects right now-- a Blackstar-style duo album with Seemore, and a super-secret concept album with Big Cats. It's, if I may say so, on some other shit. More updates soon.

5. I'm also teaching the poetry class at the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and have been at Perpich, Marcy, St. Jon's, and other schools doing workshops and stuff. Hopefully there'll still be funding for stuff like this in the next year. Otherwise I'll have to get a real job.

6. More great shows coming up in December, both here in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. See you there!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Music Samples

If you'd like to hear what I do without actually paying for it, here are a few options:

Check out the songs posted at my MySpace page.

Here's the "Harry Potter" Remix for free. Guante & Big Cats! featuring Chantz. We also have a track called "Greed" on the free Midwest Broadcast mixtape.

Listen to and buy the Guante & Big Cats EP "Start a Fire" at the Guante & Big Cats bandcamp page.

Listen to and buy RETURN TO EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT at the Guante & See More Perspective BandCamp page.

Download my mixtape, "Conscious Is Not Enough." Click here for a DIRECT download. It's got about twenty tracks of hip hop, spoken word, jacked beats, original music and more.

Check me out on YouTube. If you just search "Guante" or "El Guante," a bunch of random stuff-- poems, live performances, more-- will pop up.

If you would like to buy my old CD, go to my BandCamp page. Alternatively, you can search for me on ITunes or go to CD Baby.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Guest Post: On the Importance of Volunteering

Where Will You Be the Week After?
by Jessica Rosenberg, Hands On Twin Cities


This has been an historic election, no question. One part that gets me jazzed is how many people showed up, got organized, and worked for the public good. People volunteered.

As an AmeriCorps member at Hands On Twin Cities, a volunteer resource center, we’re in the business of getting people to volunteer. The most common reason people offer for not volunteering is that they are, say it with me now, Too Busy. I have my suspicions about what everyone is Too Busy with, and this election has proved my point. If people truly care about a cause, and see a clear path towards making a difference, they will make time to volunteer. Despite the passion that both Obama and McCain inspired, I don’t think either man by himself was the cause people rallied around. We can all easily identify what we were volunteering for: I care about education, I care about the economy, I care about the environment, I care about the war.

Now there is a lot of discussion on how to not lose that energy. Some talk as if the world is a blank slate of activism, and there are now all of these energized people wandering around with nowhere to go. This is not the case! The world, and the Twin Cities in particular, is brimming with incredible organizations working tirelessly for causes of justice, that engage volunteers in meaningful work. Whatever cause speaks to you, and however much time you have, there is something meaningful you can be doing.

As a young progressive person in this city of young progressive people, I also see a lot of energy around activism and organizing. Let’s be honest, you can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a vegan biker activist poet (I wouldn’t recommend it, either, they don’t enjoy that. Trust me.). I think our energy and creativity will always make young people integral parts of this work. But sometimes our desire for new and exciting activism keeps us from seeing the simpler, older, less-sexy-than-being-arrested-at-an-RNC-protest way of making change: good old fashioned volunteering, just like your momma does.

In addition to marching, blogging and lobbying, volunteering should be an integral part of the activist playbook, and I’ll tell you why:

Volunteering works. You care about an issue? There are organizations out there working on that issue, and they know how to use volunteers. Concerned about literacy? Minnesota Literacy Council could use you to teach kids how to read. Worried about homelessness? Bridging, Inc. has been helping low-income families transition into their own housing for over twenty years. These people know what they’re doing, and they could use your help doing it. Want to solve problems? Volunteer.

Volunteering connects you to community. All sorts of people care about the same issues you do, and volunteering will connect you to old folks, young folks, people who live far from you, work in different fields, maybe even vote differently, but still care about the same issue. Meanwhile, you get to connect with the community you’re serving. Volunteering breaks down the barriers of space, race, class, age, profession and all the other things that divide us. Which brings me to:

Volunteering teaches you tons. Think you have an innovative idea to fix a problem? Nothing will battle test your idea and strengthen your credibility better than volunteering. And as much as you know about a cause or issue, you will know more and understand it better if you volunteer. Already work in service? Volunteer for a different cause, see the connections and learn other innovative ways to get things done.

In addition to these fine activist reasons for volunteering, don’t forget that volunteering is good for your health, great for your resume, and a stellar way to meet people. Seriously, studies have shown that volunteers have lower stress levels, stronger immune systems, and actually live longer.

I don’t believe that people don’t care, I don’t believe that most of us are truly Too Busy, and I know many of us are currently filled with energy. What I see keeping people from volunteering is that we don’t always know how to make volunteering a sustainable part of our lives, and not just on MLK Day. Volunteering should be something woven into our lives: I went to work, I went to the gym, I volunteered, I went grocery shopping. The good news is, many people in the Twin Cities already do this. Minneapolis-St. Paul is ranked 1st among large U.S. cities in volunteer rates. The sad news here is that we only need a volunteer rate of 39.3%1 to achieve our first place standing. We can do better.

If another impediment to volunteering is not knowing how, it’s time to consult an expert. I can’t make the day longer, but I can tell you how and where to engage meaningfully in volunteer work. Hands On Twin Cities is all about connecting people to the organizations and positions that utilize their skills and labor to create the world they want to see, with whatever time they have to give. To this end, we’re hosting a Volunteer Café this Tuesday, November 11th, at Common Roots. With the election (almost) over, a lot of us suddenly have a lot of free time on our hands. So tell us the amount of time you spent volunteering for or worrying about the election, and the issue you care most about, and we’ll find you the perfect volunteer position.

November 4th was an historic day for, among other things, civic engagement and the power of people. Let’s not let it end with the election.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tim Wise on what an Obama victory does and doesn't mean

Here's the link, courtesy of Racialicious.

No need to repeat what's better-said there. I'll be writing my face off in the couple of weeks, but this says a lot of what I wanted to say right now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Hip Hop Community and the 2008 Elections

Hey-- new article I wrote, posted in two places:

1. Mill City Scene, a new Twin Cities hip hop magazine

2. CultureBully, the music blog I write for

The third installment (the first was my Obama article a few posts down) will be published after November 5th, and will have to do with activism and the hip hop community-- what we do, what we could do better, and more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Updates!

One of the organizations co-sponsoring our big Halloween show is the League of Young Voters. Here's a guide they put together with their thoughts on all races in Minnesota. A good research tool:

Twin Cities Voter Cheat Sheet

Also, Davey D, one of my favorite people in the world, posted my Obama piece at his MySpace blog. It's sparked a lot of discussion, and I've written a follow-up to it which I'll link to here once it's published elsewhere, hopefully in the next day or so. That piece deals with the hip hop community and the 2008 Elections. The third piece in that trilogy will be published November 5th and deals with the successes and failures of "hip hop activism." Keep checking back for those.

Finally, the Culture Bully blog-a-thon was amazing. We interviewed almost a hundred artists and asked them about how arts education has impacted their lives. We got responses from Brandon Allday, Kristoff Krane, Prof Lukas, Big Zach, M.anifest, Muja Messiah, EZRA from Death Ray Scientific, Indigo, Sean from Hieruspecs, Laserbeak from Doomtree, Big Cats and more, and that's just the hip hop side-- also got stuff form Bon Iver, Lucy Michelle and many more. ALSO got a bunch of exclusive tracks from some of these artists. Check out the posts-- there are some real gems in there.

Playing a show for ACORN tonight at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis. If I don't see you there, come out to Halloween at the Acadia. It's going to be great.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CultureBully 60-Hour Charity Blog-A-Thon

CultureBully, a music blog I write for, is doing a 60-hour Blog-A-Thon in support of Donors Choose. Check it out. Here's the official press release:

CultureBully.com is teaming with DonorsChoose.org for a three day fundraising campaign supporting music development and literacy within local Twin Cities schools. Beginning with this post Culture Bully will be posting exclusive content at least once an hour, every hour for the next 60 HOURS!

With the support of over 50 local and national musicians these posts will include exclusive commentaries by the likes of Josh Grier of Tapes ‘n Tapes, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, YouTube legend Tay Zonday, Kid Dakota, Maria Isa, Kristoff Krane, M.anifest and many, many more!

Additionally, Culture Bully will be debuting brand new music from 14 local acts including Jeremy Messersmith, Roma di Luna, Little Man, Nobot, Dan Israel, Heiruspecs and Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles.

DonorsChoose.org is dedicated to addressing the scarcity and inequitable distribution of learning materials and experiences in our public schools. The mission of DonorsChoose.org is to improve public education by engaging citizens in an online marketplace where teachers describe and individuals can fund specific student needs.

And before you go, we ask that you consider clicking the Donors Choose banner below and giving what you can to help enrich the lives of a number of local children through music and reading. Thank you! - Culture Bully

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why I'm voting for Obama

(Note: It’d be exceedingly easy to write a “why I’m voting for Obama over McCain” article, but I figured most of the people who read my writing aren’t very likely mulling that question over. I do, however, know a lot of third-party supporters, anarchists and far-left types, as both fans and friends. This is for them I guess. I’ve been dreading actually posting this since it’ll probably just piss people off, but with only a couple of weeks until the election, it’s now or never. Hope it can spark some thoughts.)

As a far left-leaning person with a lot of far left-leaning friends, I’ve heard the arguments against voting for Democratic candidates; I agree with most of them. Yes, the party is weak-willed when it comes to asserting a truly alternative agenda. Yes, the party is as much in the pocket of corporations and special interests as the Republicans are. Yes, the party has supported and continues to support American imperialism and war. Yes, a vote for a more progressive candidate can pull the Democrats further to the left. Yes, one can break down the major parties and candidates, issue by issue, and not see a whole lot of difference.

And I really like the third party candidates. Cynthia McKinney, Rosa Clemente, Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez—these are real progressives with proven records and lots of great ideas. I hope they do well, and I definitely think they should have been allowed into the debates.

Yet I still plan on voting for Barack Obama. I have two main reasons why.

First, Obama the candidate is different from Obama the idea. Whether for the right reasons or not, Obama has energized and excited people from around the country (and beyond, which is important to note), many of whom had no interest in politics before, many of whom are just getting into politics for the first time and many of whom are cynical veterans reinvigorated by his campaign. An Obama win won’t solve all of our problems, but an Obama loss would almost certainly be devastating. Disillusionment would run rampant, moreso than ever before. All the people Obama has energized would likely fade away into cynicism and apathy.

Because sure, maybe a lot of people are naïve in their belief that Obama can really change this country. But they are excited. And civic engagement—activism, organizing, really taking an active part in democracy, going beyond voting—often starts with voting for many young people. Our challenge as progressives is to harness this power, not rip it to pieces in the name of absolute ideological perfection. Our goals should be to acknowledge these newly politicized people and welcome them into our various campaigns and organizations.

Most of us acknowledge the fact that real change comes through collective organizing, people working together to fight for what they believe in no matter who is in office. So why not make that job a little easier by electing someone who, while thoroughly imperfect, is at least a step in the right direction? In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter who the president is because we’d be ready to pressure him/her with massive, multi-tiered movements in the streets. Unfortunately, we’re not. We need to be working on that, but in the meantime we need to be taking what we can get through the ballot box.

Related to that, my second reason for voting for Obama has to do with privilege. While Democrats and Republicans share many fundamental beliefs and agendas (and we need to continue to point this out), there are differences that truly matter. Obama might not stand up and fight for gay rights, for example, but he also won’t be actively trying to oppress the LGBTQ community. He might not stand up and fight for a woman’s right to choose, but he won’t be actively trying to overturn Roe v. Wade or appointing conservative judges to the Supreme Court. He might not stand up and fight for poor people, or public schools, or the environment or universal heath care, but he won’t be actively, enthusiastically implementing regressive, illogical policies to destroy them all. McCain will be.

Yes, the Democrats are weak when it comes to standing up for progressive ideals. But they’re also weak when it comes to stomping on them. If I have to fight someone, I’d rather fight the glassjaw than the prize fighter any day.

It’s just that it’s easy, as a straight, white, middle class male to say “I’m going to vote my conscience.” On the handful of issues where the Democrats do differ from the Republicans in significant ways, those most likely to be hurt by a Republican president tend to be from oppressed groups. An Obama victory may not fundamentally change the course of the nation, but it can make life measurably better for a lot of people.

Of course, Obama isn’t going to save us. But neither are any third-party presidential candidates, not this year anyway. Not when they’re polling in the low single digits, not when their candidacies aren’t taken seriously by a huge majority of the American people, and certainly not two weeks before a national election they’ve been completely shut out of (which is definitely unfair, but it’s also the reality on the ground). I know none of them expect to win, but even their secondary goal of influencing the major candidates is out of reach this time.

I’m a poet, and from a rhetorical standpoint, it’s much easier to advocate voting for third party candidates. “The lesser of two evils is still evil.” “A little bit better than the other guy isn’t much of a campaign slogan.” “I’d rather vote with my heart and conscience than play this stupid political game.” I even say in one of my songs: “the difference between Republicans and Democrats?/ One spits in your face, one stabs you in the back.”

And those statements are still valid. But to me, voting in a presidential election is a tactical decision, not a strategic one. We’re not going to usher in a new era of peace and enlightenment through voting alone. We take what we can get on that front, and then get back to work on the other fronts—organizing, building community and struggling for something better. If we can put a guy named Barack Hussein Obama into the White House while doing that, I can’t think of a good reason not to.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Interview w/ El Guante & See More Perspective



The project is called 3-Minute Egg. Interview by Matt Pieken.

Also, playing tonight at the Red Sea with Kristoff Krane, Saturday at the Nomad with Junkyard Empire and Face Candy (Eyedea's band), and a whole bunch of other great shows this month. Check out the MySpace for more.

And the big news is the RETURN TO EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT CD release party on Halloween at the New Acadia in Minneapolis (Cedar and Riverside).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

RETURN TO EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT


Yes, it's a remix album spearheaded by SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE.

Yes, the release party is Halloween at the Acadia in Minneapolis (in conjunction with an appearance on KFAI's Minnesota Soundtrack).

Yes, it's funky.

Yes.

Just a heads-up. More to come.

UPDATE: promo video by NYE. Spoiler alert for people who haven't seen "Eraserhead" or "Don't Look Now."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

random music bulletpoints

1. Maybe i'm a decade or so late, but how fucking brilliant is "Creep" by Radiohead? I know OK Computer was their masterpiece and that their later work was maybe more interesting on a technical level, and maybe even that The Bends had more great melodies and structured songs, but on a purely emotional, lyrical level, i honestly don't think they've ever surpassed "Creep." I'm listening to the Brandi Carlile cover right now, and it's just incredible. It's one of Radiohead's most human songs, and it's just so on point on every level. Those lyrics, literally (she's too good for me) and metaphorically (what's the point of my even existing?), are deceptively deep, yet it's still catchy as hell and even transcendent toward the end-- Thom Yorke's voice, yo...

2. Speaking of Brandi Carlile, I know nothing about her, but i have a few of her songs and i love the cracks in her voice. That raggedness, even when she's oversinging (which i would do too if i had a voice like that) is so perfect.

3. I'm starting to think my favorite album of all time might be the first Mermaid Avenue album-- Billy Bragg, Wilco and Natalie Merchant singing Woodie Guthrie lyrics. If you haven't heard it, definitely check it out. I'm not a huge fan of any of those artists by themselves, but coupled with Guthrie's lyrics they really do a great job here.

4. I need to pick up that new Raphael Saadiq album. From what i've heard, it's lovely. "Still Ray" is one of my favorite songs, and we all love Tony Toni Tone, but the rest of his work has been underwhelming to me. I have a feeling this album will be something special, though.

5. Be sure to check out Big Cats' "Sleep Tapes," an instrumental hip hop album. He's produced for Sage Francis and others, and we're currently working together on a full-length concept album that's going to be rifuckingdamndiculous.

6. In other local news, the new Haley Bonar album, "Big Star," is really good. For those of you outside the Twin Cities, you may not have heard of her. But definitely check her out on Itunes or MySpace or whatever, especially if you like that alt-country singer/songwriter stuff. I generally don't, actually, but Bonar has such interesting lyrics and such a unique delivery that she won me over. Her older albums are also worth checking out. "Am I Allowed" is probably my favorite song of hers.

7. Upcoming shows: the Soapboxing Poetry Slam season opener is Monday, 10/6 at 8pm at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul. I'll be competing there. On Saturday, 10/11, i'll be playing with Junkyard Empire and Face Candy for the former's CD release show at the Nomad. Finally, we're having a CD release show on Halloween at the New Acadia Cafe as part of KFAI's MN Soundtrack. Details to come.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

new reviews: Common Market, Kings of Leon

Review of Common Market's "Tobacco Road"

Review of Kings of Leon's "Only By the Night"

Both are up now at Culture Bully. I was maybe a bit too hard on Common Market, who are a great hip hop act and have a very solid album on their hands, but I stand by what I wrote. The more I listen to the album, though, the more I really like it.

As for the second link, reviewing non-hip hop acts is fun because I don't get so bogged down in politics and context-based stuff-- it's really just about "is the music cool, or not?" May not win me any journalism awards, but it's fun.

Lots more on the way.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

in the City Pages

Here's a feature on the upcoming slam season, featuring a walk-through of one of my poems.

And no, I didn't write it. It's in this week's City Pages.

This is cool. I'm exciting about building the slam scene this year-- getting more audience, getting more poets to perform, expanding the base, so to speak. These days, it's not cool for a poet to enjoy slam; the fashionable attitude is that you do it for a while and then "grow out of it." But it's been a lot of fun this past year and has definitely made me a better writer, not just a better performer. And the TC scene is, as Matthew says in the article, pretty great. There's a lot of work to do, but we have a firm foundation to build on.

I'll be competing at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul on October 6th at 8pm. I'll be just getting back from Madison this coming Sunday, so will miss the Parkway slam this month, and I'm not sure when the next Kieran's slam is but I want to try to make it that one too. Hope to see lots of people out this year.

Monday, September 01, 2008

a few RNC protest thoughts

The crowd seemed smaller than expected, but the space was really big too so i have no idea how many people actually showed up. The march was relatively short, though i had to do it one and a half times for various reasons and my feet hurt like hell. Here's a shot of me performing on the main stage:

Obligatory police photo:
Didn't witness any major run-ins with the police, though a segment of the march got a little crazy and there was some pepper spray and all that. Those big sticks are pretty crazy.

And another shot of me performing:

All in all, it was an interesting day. As much as i support large-scale marches and protests, i think they all could be improved organizationally. I'm working on an article along those lines that i'll forward to the appropriate people. The one thing i said before i performed was that i really believe all this marching is next to worthless if people don't take this energy and excitement back with them to their own communities and build/organize there. Hopefully that happens. Election years can wreak havoc on organizing communities, as good activists are sucked into the campaign machine, which IS important, but also distracts from the work that needs to be done every day.

Lots more articles and thoughts coming up.

Oh and the link to the free mixtape will go live very soon, i promise.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Conscious Is Not Enough: A Preview

So in the next day or two, i'll be posting a link to my new mixtape, "Conscious Is Not Enough," which you'll be able to download for free.

It's 19 tracks, about half original beats and half jacked beats and deals mainly with the idea of change-- where change really comes from, both on a personal level and institutional level. We're going to be hearing so much about voting in the next few months (particularly from rappers, whether they're genuine or opportunistic), i wanted to put something out that says "yeah go ahead and vote, but voting by itself isn't enough."

That message may, admittedly, come across a bit bluntly on the album here and there, but that was definitely by design. I think we have so many weird cultural hang-ups around preachiness... my philosophy has always been that if you have something to say, say it. Even if people don't like it, you've still said your piece and planted the seed. So many rappers seem obsessed with the idea that sharing an opinion is "bad," so they cloak whatever thoughts they have in layer after layer of metaphor and gibberish. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing-- i think the best political art is about finding the balance, though. Not so blunt that it's boring; not so abstract that it's meaningless.

And if the music itself can back up the message, they're really nothing to worry about anyway. And the music on the mixtape is pretty great i think. I was very lucky to work with some amazing producers and also pick out some really fun beats to jack. I think people will enjoy it. And even if they don't, it's free, so fuck 'em. haha.

In other news i've also just printed a second addition of my book, "SHOTGUN SAMURAI VAMPIRE HIP HOP," that's trimmed down-- took out most of the song lyrics, only link to the essays now, and then added a few poems. That'll be available at shows.

Monday, August 25, 2008

the current played me between ani and bjork

that's pretty damn cool.

El Guante on the Current

UPDATE:

They've been playing me every day for a while now.  That was kind of unexpected.  I guess it makes sense though-- "One of These Mornings" is probably the most universal song on the album.  Big thanks to 89.3.

We used to listen to the Current before moving here, online.  It's cool to hear myself on it now, regularly.

and life suddenly makes sense

NEW STUDY: BIRACIAL ASIAN-AMERICANS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE SAD

Haha.

In other news, this is going to be the busiest weekend ever, what with the RNC in town. A schedule:

8/28 at the Turf Club: Culture Bully show with Lucy Michelle, A Night in the Box, Skirt and the Floorbirds. (unrelated to the RNC but big ups to Culture Bully).

8/29 at the Ramada by the Mall of America: Iraq Veterans Against the War National Conference. I'll be performing around 10pm.
8/30 at Macalester College (weyerhauser boardroom): Lyrical Action Camp; workshops about art and activism facilitated by me-- 3pm.

8/30 at Macalester College (mary gwen owen stage in the campus center) Special performance for the student convergence on Macalester-- 9pm.

8/31 at Macalester College (weyerhauser boardroom): Lyrical Action Camp; workshops about art and activism facilitated by me-- 3pm.

9/1 in downtown St. Paul: March on the RNC. 11am.

9/2 at the Capitol in St. Paul: RIPPLE EFFECT concert w/ dead prez, spearhead, anti-flag, i self divine, me and the tru ruts crew and others. 12 noon.

9/3 at the Blue Nile: Tru America party at the Blue Nile w/ a whole bunch of people. 10pm.

And a million other things going on all week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why March on the RNC? Seven Reasons

(Just a little something I wrote. Feel free to forward, debate, etc.)

Why March on the RNC? Seven Reasons
by Kyle "El Guante" Myhre

It’s really the fault of the activist community that so many people outside of that community think we’re a bunch of naïve hippies. We haven’t done enough to make the connections between what the majority of the American people want and what our goals are—a connection that desperately needs to be made clear. When I tell people that I’m planning on being there for the big Sept 1 march on the Republican National Convention, I usually hear the same counterarguments. They assume we’ll all be there to:

1. Throw rocks at the police and deface property out of some misguided sense of youthful rebellion. Or…
2. Hold hands around the Xcel Energy Center and sing folk songs until it turns into a giant sunflower. Or…
3. Use brute force to shut down the Republican campaign and silence their opinions because we disagree with them.

These are all fallacies perpetuated by people who either don’t understand the purpose of large-scale protests or explicitly want them to fail. As activists, we are not simply flailing our arms about and shouting at the wind so we can feel good about ourselves. The goals, benefits and reasons for being there are numerous; here are just a few:

1. Because it will be a concrete example of democracy in action
Democracy is, in many ways, an “active noun.” If it isn’t regularly practiced (in ways more meaningful than just voting once very two or four years), it withers. The RNC protest will feature a vast array of voices, tactics and examples of democracy in action. From education (workshops and conferences), to resistance art (guerilla poetry, big concerts) to liberation healthcare (Northstar Health Collective Free Clinic, various street medics), to childcare, to legal resources (Coldsnap Legal Collective); even down to food (Seeds of Peace, other free mobile kitchens)—the RNC protest has democracy built into its very infrastructure. It’s about practicing what we preach and bringing into existence the kinds of systems and institutions we’d like to see.

2. Because it will energize community activists from around the country
Real change often comes through community organizing—a counter-recruitment effort, a city council or mayoral campaign, a local movement for affordable housing, a living wage or any other important goal. Big national rallies are great catalysts, energizing and inspiring activists who will march for a few days, network with like-minded people and then return to their home cities ready to get down to business. Being an activist is often exhausting, thankless work, so this kind of communal experience is invaluable—for the concrete benefits of networking and trading tactics, but also for the intangible benefits of seeing that you’re not alone.

3. Because we need to send a clear media message to the world
The media can be a tricky thing for progressives to deal with. Too often, the media will distort coverage of events like the RNC counter-protest and focus on the bad apples, or the crazies, or basically anyone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. At the same time, however, this event is a great opportunity to show the world that a large number of American people do not agree with the direction the country is headed in. Citizens across the country need to know that their uneasiness with the government is not unwarranted paranoia, but a very common attitude. People in other countries need to know that George W. Bush is not the face of the American people. People everywhere need to be reminded that there is a very real power in numbers, in people coming together for a common cause and exercising free speech.

4. Because it will inspire young and/or inexperienced activists
Everybody seems to support “change,” but few people are really committed to creating it. I’ve seen big rallies crystallize young activists’ impulse to be change-makers. There’s a certain energy you can only experience at large-scale events—you see with your own eyes what the police are capable of, you talk to and learn from professional, experienced organizers, you feel the excitement and much more. It’s a commitment just to attend a large march—a crucial first step in the journeys of many future leaders.

5. Because we need to build a real movement
The RNC protests will feature a multitude of tactics and goals that reflect the multitude of activists and activist organizations coming together. Again, the RNC was/is a catalyst for these myriad issues, organizations and individuals meeting, working together and interlocking further. If the Republicans have been good for anything, it’s that they’ve made stronger allies out of anti-war activists, immigrant-rights groups, anti-racist organizers, the LGBTQ movement, universal health care advocates and a wide range of other progressive activists. The RNC protest—not so much as an ideological focus but as a real, physical space—will further cement these incredibly important bonds.

6. Because voting is not enough
It’s up to the citizens of a nation to hold its leaders accountable. Of course, damn near every progressive in the country will be voting for Obama this November. No disrespect to the Greens, but it’s true. At the same time, few of us are naïve enough to believe that the Democrats are fully able—or even willing—to undo the damage done by eight years of Bush/Cheney. If we’re serious about change in this country, that change has to come through a smart, organized movement on the ground pressuring our elected leaders no matter what party they belong to. The RNC protest will be a major step in that direction, a testing ground for new tactics, a networking space for activists and an experience to ignite our passion for creating change beyond the ballot box.

7. Because the Republican agenda is one of hatred, greed and suffering
Obviously. This is the reason most people will be marching—not out of some big-picture movement-building political analysis, but because they simply want to exercise their free speech. This is perfectly valid. The Republicans have set the war agenda, attacked women’s rights, actively oppressed the LGBTQ community, ignored the environment, given tax breaks to the rich, locked up millions of non-violent offenders, gutted our public schools… this depressing list could go on for a long time. While marching on the RNC won’t magically fix all these things, it will—for the other reasons stated above—make a real difference.

Of course, there are activists who really want to run up the costs of the convention, throw wrenches into it wherever possible or completely shut it down. All I’m saying here is that whether you’re a hardcore freedom fighter who wants to smash the state or simply a soccer mom who is worried about the war, there is a space for you at the march. We all don’t have to be there for the same reasons; what matters is that we’re there for reasons that we believe in.

Assemble Monday, September 1 at 11am at the Capitol in St. Paul for a march to the Xcel Energy Center.

And though it’s technically a non-partisan event, you should also check out RIPPLE EFFECT, a free music festival organized by SUBSTANCE on Tuesday, September 2 at 12:30pm on the Capitol Mall. Featuring dead prez, Michael Franti, Anti-Flag, Wookie Foot w/ Matisyahu, I Self Divine, the Tru Ruts crew, Indigo and more. I’ll be performing there as well. www.rippleeffect08.com

See http://protestrnc2008.org for a full schedule of events, news and updates.

(Kyle “El Guante” Myhre is an emcee, poet, educator and activist currently based in Minneapolis, MN. Contact him at www.myspace.com/elguante, or guantemail@yahoo.com)

Friday, August 08, 2008

National Poetry Slam update!

So my team (St. Paul) competed Wednesday and Thursday night and took first place in both bouts. We'll be competing tonight at the semifinals at the Overture Center against four incredibly talented teams. It's at 8pm and costs $15.

If we win, we'll be at Finals Saturday night. We're the underdogs, but i love all the pieces we're putting up tonight. It should be pretty great.

Nationals as a whole has been good. All the bouts i've been to have been well-attended, by both poets and non-poets alike, though i can't say that that's been the case for every bout. A lot of the heavy hitters and celebrities are here but not competing, or not here at all, so it's been cool to see so many new faces and hear new poems all week.

A few random links:

~A piece i did for Isthmus on NPS 2008

~Dane101.com has all kinds of updates, photos and commentary

~The Official NPS 2008 Website

Saturday, August 02, 2008

2008 National Poetry Slam in Madison 8/4-8/9

Here's the official site, with bout schedules and all kinds of other stuff.

My team (St. Paul) will be having our prelim bouts here:

Wednesday, 8/6 at the Brink Lounge at 8pm

Thursday, 8/7 at the Majestic Theatre, 10pm

Come see us. It'll be great.

Semifinals and Finals will be at the Overture Center on 8/8 and 8/9.

Also, here are some random pictures of me:

Performing at First Ave. in Minneapolis for Muja Messiah's CD release party:
Me and Jim Hightower at a rally for Green Jobs:
President Guante:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nas review, Wale review

More new stuff i wrote over at Culture Bully.

Review of Nas' "Untitled"

Review of Wale's "Mixtape About Nothing"

I also reviewed the Cool Kids' album for the Liberator, but i don't know when that'll be out.

Lots more cool stuff coming up on Culture Bully too, so keep checking back there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

super update town

1. So in case you haven't noticed, I'm writing for Culture Bully now, and this blog is taking a back seat. I'll still post here if I feel like making fun of someone, bigging myself up or ranting about the Animaniacs or whatever, but serious "writing" will be over there for now. It's a great team, and as far as music blogs go I think we have one of the better ones. Check it out-- daily updates.

2. Yet another glowingly positive review of the new album, "EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT." This one is courtesy of Rift Magazine: "Slamming his way through each beat, literally, is the slam-artist and lyrical slaughter-house known as El Guante with his potent yet poetic new album..." Click the link for more. It's a little... odd in terms of the writing, but I can't complain-- they liked the album.

3. Lots and lots of shows all over the Midwest coming up, including the National Poetry Slam and some other big festival shows and stuff like that. Keep checking the MySpace for calendar updates.

4. For those of you who don't use ITunes, the album is on CDBaby now. Here's the link. It's also in a bunch of Twin Cities record shops. If you can get a physical copy, do it. The artwork is cool.

Yeeeeeeeah.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

URB Next 1000

http://www.urb.com/promotions/next1000/profiles/992-El+Guante.php

The reviewer kind of misses the point of that song (see the director's commentary on this blog), but whatever.  Vote for me if you got a minute.

Here's the text:

"Shocking as it may be, somehow between writing plays, literature and poetry and organizing politics, this Minneapolis rennisance man still finds a way to hold down a rap career. Chalked full of biting politcal commentary and with all due respect ot Slug, this guy is attemtping to carry the twin cities on his back. Peep "Home Sick Home" which is Guante's rally-call for some Midwest pride. And He's putting his moola where is mouth is this summer as he takes his spoken word prowess across the Midwest circuit."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

National Conference for Media Reform this weekend


And here's a great event to get warmed up:

KFAI + TC DAILY PLANET present PARTY FOR MEDIA REVOLUTION @ TROCADEROS
featuring Willie Murphy + the Angel Headed Hipsters, International Reggae All Stars + others
June 5th - Trocaderos - 8:00pm - 18+ - $10 adv/$15 dr
107 Third Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN


KFAI, Fresh Air Radio, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet will host the Party for a Media Revolution on Thursday, June 5, 2008, the eve of the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis. The event, to be held at Trocaderos Night Club, will showcase some of the Twin Cities' top musical talent, including the International Reggae All Stars, Cadillac Kolstad and the Flats, and the funky, political R&B of local legend Willie Murphy and the Angel Headed Hipsters. In the upstairs Acoustic Lounge, and between sets on the main stage, performers will include Dan Newton, Spider John Koerner, and more. All proceeds will benefit KFAI and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. "It's a great party for a great cause," says KFAI Executive Director Janis Lane-Ewart. "Whether you're passionate about seeing a more diverse and democratic media system or you just love a great party, come out and support our local independent media!" The 2008 National Conference for Media Reform takes place June 6-8 at the Minneapolis Convention Center and is expected to draw more than 3000 people. It is hosted by Free Press, a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media.

When: 8PM to 1AM
Where: Trocaderos Night Club, 107 Third Avenue North, Minneapolis
Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Buy tickets online at www.kfai.org.
Must be 18 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Trocaderos will offer its full dining menu.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet, a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance, is a community newswire and syndication service showcasing original reporting by citizen journalists, as well as the best of the neighborhood and community press. The Twin Cities Media Alliance brings together media professionals and engaged citizens to improve the quality, diversity and accountability of local media. In addition to the Daily Planet, TCMA offers classes, workshops and public forums. KFAI is a volunteer-based community radio station that exists to broadcast information, arts and entertainment programming for an audience of diverse racial, social and economic backgrounds. By providing a voice for people ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media, KFAI increases understanding between peoples and communities, while fostering the values of democracy and social justice. www.kfai.org

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT: NOTES AND COMMENTARY

So though we’ve been selling it at shows and it's been getting some great reviews, June 3 marks the official release date of the album. It’s on Itunes right now. Go get it (and if you already got it, please tell your friends). For those who care, here’s a track-by-track breakdown—just some thoughts and reflections on the process of creating the songs and how they eventually turned out. Self-indulgent? Probably. But ain’t nobody making you read this.

First, a note on the mastering. Much respect to Scott Radke, who mastered the album; it was recorded in about five different places by five different people using five different equipment sets and must have been a nightmare. Lesson learned.

Also, a note on the interludes. The numbering gets weird later in the album because there are a number of instrumental interludes produced by See More Perspective. At first, I was against adding more tracks to an already bloated (in the good sense of the word) album, but they really make the CD, bringing everything together.

SESSION ONE: GHOSTS
The album is divided into three “sessions,” partly because of aesthetic differences but mostly just to break the 80 minute album up into manageable chunks. The first session is the concise, 12 track project I would have released if I cared what people thought. Haha. I know shorter albums generally get more critical acclaim, but this album, three years in the making, HAD to be long and I’m not trying to cut this release up into three EPs just to make the purists happy. Session One doesn’t necessarily have an overarching concept, but it does have a lot of recurring motifs, references and themes. Not that anyone ever pays attention to that kind of stuff these days, but it’s all there if you look for it.

1. Unmastered w/ Truthmaze
This is one of those verses you write that you end up using for everything. It’s not a specific political commentary or storytelling verse, just some straight-up flexing. I use it in schools a lot since it’s mostly age-appropriate and I guess vaguely uplifting, and I use it in shows as an intro or a capella breakdown because I think the half-time ABAB rhyme scheme makes it sound dramatic. Figured it’d be a good intro to the album, a kind of mission statement.

Originally, I had a beat for this from LuvJones, aka DJ Curfew. It was a great beat, and we’ll definitely be using that version for something in the future, but it was an honor to have Truth come through and beatbox for this one—had to take that opportunity. For those who don’t know, the guy’s a legend—definitely check him out live or pick up his last album.

2. Harry Potter
Pop-culture reference aside, this is another mission-statement kind of song. The overall idea here is that I’m juxtaposing the Harry Potter books and hip hop, not as specific pieces of art but as cultural phenomena. Both kind of exploded out of nowhere (in hip hop’s case, at least that was the impression for most people outside NYC) and, against all odds, made a huge global impact. I think that as artists, we can’t be afraid to be different, to reach for something more than “ayo that beat was hot” or “that melody was pretty,” but to consciously strive for that next-level-shit. I’ll admit it’s kind of a weird metaphor, but I think it works.

Ethos Mega of Office Hours made this beat, and I wish we could have gotten more from him on this album, but hopefully we will in the future. He killed the outro breakdown on the production side; that beat/rhyme combo on the last 16 bars is probably my favorite single moment on the album, and this song ends perfectly.

3. Esta Tarde (The Other Half)
I met G_Force on the internet, and have yet to meet him in person, despite the fact that he produced half of this album and half my last album as well. The kid’s a genius, and this song has really become a fan favorite since we unofficially released it way back in 2006 or whatever. That’s me and DJ Pain 1 in the background of the breakdown, talking shit and clanking bottles.

While most hip hop relationship songs are either faux-edgy, melodramatic catharsis-fests or saccharine, soulless sex jams, I really wanted to write a realistic love song. I think this comes pretty close to capturing some relationships that I’ve seen… not that I’ve been a part of, though, thankfully. It’s bittersweet, which is by far my favorite emotion for a song; making the most out of a bad situation.

4. The Fourth Wall
This is a good example of what I try to do as a songwriter: I think this song works on two levels, both as a celebration of the working-class everyman struggle (a theme that has been done to death) and as a call to transcend that, to be more than “everyman.” As someone who has worked a whole lot of different jobs, from janitor to food service to facilitating college classes to working in high schools to being a professional rapper, I’ve developed a complex relationship with the 9-5. This is really a song about trying to make a difference no matter what your day job is; it’s definitely one of the more personal songs on the album.

The beat is by DJ Pain 1; I love uptempo beats and this was a lot of fun to rap to. I couldn’t decide whether to rap the hook or really try to belt it out—it’s probably for the best that it ended up somewhere in the middle. Lyrically, this is a pretty dense song that, I think, comes off pretty straightforward. That was another goal I had going into this album: where a lot of rappers express simple ideas in the most abstract, weird way possible, I wanted to tackle issues with some depth but do so in everyday language. I think that worked out well on this song, but we’ll see what other people think.

5. One of These Mornings
Another great G_Force beat; I decided not to even record a hook and just let that sample play. I really like how this song turned out—it could be the next single. Usually I prefer edgier stuff, but this is one of those songs that is both really inoffensive and also, in my opinion, pretty deep and meaningful. It’s a song about connection, about why we live life the way we do. As a fairly introverted person who doesn’t have a lot of close friends, that connection piece is deeply tied to my art—touring and recording has allowed me to reach out to people and engage in the larger community, something I probably couldn’t do otherwise.

6. The Illusion of Movement
This song, oddly enough, is based on Zeno’s paradox, which basically says that you can never get from point A to point B, because you have to get halfway there first and there are an infinite number of halfway points on the way there. Movement, then, is an illusion, as is change of any kind. The metaphor in the song is that we struggle against impossible odds even when we know we can’t win. You can call it madness or you can call it love or you can call it simple stubbornness, but it’s what makes us human. As a love song, it’s kind of depressing and inspiring at the same time. And if that’s not the perfect description of love…

This is another Pain 1 beat, one of the best on the album. As a song, this one is really well-structured. I love the interplay between the lyrics and the beat and how it naturally climaxes and concludes. It’s been a surprisingly hype live song too.

7. Orwell Oh Well
The beat here, courtesy of DJ Pain 1, is a monster. It’s hype without being a cookie-cutter Just Blaze bite, and it’s smooth without being a soulless club banger. Definitely not a typical underground hip hop beat, which is high praise in my book. It’s just weird, so I wrote a weird song to complement it.

It’s one of the more straight-forward songs on the album I think—some smart-ass punchlines about how we’re happily marching (or dancing, I should say) on into oblivion, devouring ourselves without even noticing. It’s an anti-dancing dance song, I guess.

8. Your Boyfriend Leaves Much to be Desired
This might be the biggest curveball on the album. On one level, it’s a shit-talking song, a goofy college radio type song—most people will probably either love it or hate it based on that criteria. But really, it’s coming from a deeper place. When I was in Austin at the National Poetry Slam, my team hung out with some people one night after I had gone back to the hotel. One of the women they met told them about how her life’s dream was to be a trophy wife, to wait for her cheating, no good ex-boyfriend to come back to her. That story really got me thinking about how society devalues women’s strengths and pressures them to settle for jerks, how our culture ostracizes the single woman and makes her feel as though something is wrong with her. The sexism there isn’t so much structural or institutional as it is psychological, which is just scary.

The beat is by G_Force. I had originally wanted a more up-tempo, playful beat, but I think it turned out better with the more loungey piano beat. This is probably the song I’m most nervous about when it comes to releasing it into the public consciousness… it’d just be easy to misinterpret. But again, we’ll see.

9. Fake Plastic Emcees III w/ See More Perspective
I’ve been working with See More for a few months now, and we mesh really well. His upbeat positivity mixes very well with my brooding melancholy. We’re like the yin and yang of indie hip hop—he gives out hugs to our fans and I kick their puppies. He produced the interludes on the album, as well as contributing the beatbox here. I’ll mention that we one-taked this, no studio magic, layering or punch-ins, just him beatboxing and me rapping for three minutes or whatever.

I consciously tried to stay away from the rapping-about-rapping songs that are so prevalent on underground hip hop albums, but these three verses were too good to just waste. So I compromised and did a beatbox track with no (real) hook rather than put together a whole song. It’s a good example of how I struggle with tradition vs. innovation—these kinds of punchline songs are very much a part of what hip hop IS… and while I don’t think we should do nothing BUT punchline songs (as a lot of rappers do), there’s nothing wrong with a couple here and there.

I should also note something to avoid controversy. The mention of Rhymesayers and Doomtree in verse three are NOT underhanded disses. I’m saying that a lot of young rappers are simply emulating them rather than finding their own identities. I thought that was obvious, but apparently it’s not.

10. Flicker (Redux)
Yeah, this song was on my last album. But I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and the G_Force beat is just heartbreakingly good, so we had to put it on this album too. It’s a re-recording, cleaner and clearer than the original, but using the same beat and lyrics.

While most will probably hear this as a sweet little love song, to me, it’s really about time as a more general concept, about growing old and remembering little flashes of your life. It’s scary and it’s beautiful and I guess above all it’s bittersweet.

11. This Road w/ Jer 1 of the Figureheads
Jer is the only guest rapper on the album, and I guess that shows just how much I respect him. My only regret is not getting Greg (who is also in the Figureheads) on the album too, because both of them are amazing. Jer actually recorded his verse and wrote the hook before I got a chance to do anything, so this is really like his song featuring me. Pain 1 did the beat, which brings to mind the Figureheads’ style without being a carbon copy of it.

And I’ll admit, when I heard his verse I didn’t really know what to do. This is a pretty uplifting, positive song, and my whole M.O. for the past few years has been dark and dreary and angry. The resulting verse, I think, is one of my best—a meshing of a dark attitude with a really positive message. This is a song about priorities, about knowing what’s important to you and fighting for it no matter what. It’s really about love.

12. Spirit Bomb
This is yet another song that plays as a love song but was written about something else; namely, hip hop and art in general. Art is such a strong force to bring people together, to create connections between people who would otherwise not be interacting, and that’s a beautiful thing—even if those connections are superficial or transitory. As important or meaningful as our actual words can be, I think our real impact as artists involves building community and bringing people together.

The beat here is by DJ Pain 1 and is another subdued monster. That outro is so perfect, and it caps off the first “session” of the album really well.

SESSION TWO: I FIGHT WITH WEAPONS
The next three songs are bundled together because they were all produced by the Figureheads’ Dave “Tracksmith” Olson. Since they have a pretty radically different feel, we separated them from the first 12 tracks. Tracksmith’s style is rooted in electronic music, and this beats have a cold, pulsing vibe to them; it was great to finally get to work with him. Because of time restrictions, we had to more-or-less one-take each of these songs. Which was fine, because it was like 100 degrees in the booth, which was in the attic of a church.

14. Bring Out Your Dead (J’Accuse)
This song is a direct homage to a really old French film I’ve never seen. In it, fallen World War I soldiers come back from the dead and march through Paris, chanting “J’Accuse.” The only reason I know about this is Youssef Sawan, who co-founded the Madison Observer with me and had a regular column called, you guessed it, “J’Accuse.” Something about that image, the dead demanding reparations from the living, really stuck with me.

The deeper meaning here is that while a lot of people die and suffer directly in war, we are ALL affected by it on some level whether we realize it or not. Every war is an endless war. I think zombies are always, on some level, metaphors for the sins of the living, and there’s a lot of power in that—they come up twice on the album.

15. Scratching the Surface with a Sledgehammer
I think it’s really important to avoid preaching to the choir, to instead turn the lens on ourselves and our own community. This is a song about how predictable indie hip hop has gotten, point blank. And I’m guilty of some of the stuff I talk about here too, so don’t take it too hard (I’m not dissing any specific people, except for maybe homophobic battlerappers). I just think it’s an important conversation to have. The best art, to me, transcends formulas and attempts to do something new and different. Rapping about rapping, doing generic “girl songs,” spitting vague political platitudes—all that stuff (and more—this song could have been ten verses long) is fine in moderation… but it’s really overdone and I wanted to talk about it.

Funny story about that drop in the first verse (actually the drop wasn’t able to get added to the album version of the song, which kills me): me and See More performed this live once, opening for Brother Ali. The two bars in that drop (“my third eye is open, scopin’ for revolution/ my lyrical spiritual miracles are the solution”) are supposed to be WACK, they’re examples of what I’m criticizing in the song. But since we added the drop, the crowd went crazy at that part. The moral of the story: if you’re an emcee, add drops to all your punchlines no matter how wack they are, because people LOVE drops.

One last note: as “political” as I am, people often ask me why I don’t have more explicitly political, burn-the-flag-and-start-the-revolution-type songs. I think the answer is that everything I really want to say is in the third verse of this song and in “Kodama.” I’m not really into rapping about problems—I’ll rap about the idea that people have to figure out what issues they care about and then go do something about them, about the importance of activism.

16. Home Sick Home
In the spirit of rejecting the formula, this is a song that takes the idea of repping a city or region and turns it on its head—it’s a song about standing up for what you believe in, no matter where you’re physically standing or where you live or whatever. I wrote this on a road trip through southeast Wisconsin, and it was also informed by my time in north Illinois (the part that isn’t Chicago). This isn’t a big, sexy, flashy song, but I think it’s one of the more thoughtful tracks on the album. I hope people listen to the lyrics.

SESSION THREE: DEATH POETRY JAM
And this is the spoken-word section. All the poems are live recordings, and the interludes that separate them (as though it were a set with a DJ) were done by See More Perspective. These aren’t necessarily my best poems; they’re the ones that fit the vibe of the album, had high-quality recordings and were done in time. It figures too—I wrote three of my best poems ever after completing work on this project… maybe they’ll be on a future release. Though this session pushes the album into 80 minute territory, it was really important to me to include them. As someone who raps and performs poetry, I wanted to showcase both sides of what I do.

19. Misfortune Tellers (live)
This is kind of a transition piece. It’s written like a rap (couplets, 16-bar base) but it’s really meant to be an a capella poem. I wouldn’t ever record this over a beat. A popular misconception about the relationship between rap and spoken-word is that rap is just rhyming poetry. And it is, but it isn’t… rapping has a certain swing to it, and just because you’re writing rhythmic couplets doesn’t mean it’s going to sound natural over a beat.

Anyways, this piece is about the power of art. I write a lot about how art ISN’T going to save the world and how “revolutionary rappers” are fooling themselves. I stand by that, but I do think that art has some role in the progress of humanity—it’s not just a bystander. It can inspire us, it can document our successes and failures, and it can aid in the long-term social, cultural and moral changes that must accompany the specific institutional changes we need to move forward.

21. A Butterfly Flaps Her Wings (live)
A fairly subtle theme running through this whole album is that negative energy like anger and sadness and disillusionment don’t necessarily have to be “bad.” If you can focus them, you can use them as motivation to do positive things. That’s the metaphor in this piece. On a simpler level, this is also a goofy breakup poem. I don’t write a lot of poems like that, but I wanted to give it a shot, to tackle the most cliché of concepts and try to put a new spin on it. I think this piece was successful in that respect. It’s also one of my more well-structured poems—there’s a lot of build-up and crescendo and dynamics going on.

00. The Mommy Effect (live)
This is a more straight-forward piece, an examination of military recruitment and all that. But it’s based on something real—the “mommy effect” really is a term used to talk about how mothers are not letting their children enlist. And that just seemed so over-the-top condescending and sexist that I had to write a poem about it. We actually had to cut this piece from the final album due to time constraints, but it’ll appear on a future release.

23. A Paid Advertisement (live)
So this isn’t a very good poem, in the traditional sense. It’s more about therapy, about venting about all the stuff in the spoken-word community that annoys me. The full piece (which you can read in my book) is even longer. This piece might not win me a lot of friends, but I’d rather be open about what I think is wack than just talk behind people’s backs all day. This is yet another piece about being honest with ourselves in our own communities—I could have poems and songs criticizing gangsta rap, Republicans and reality TV (and I do sometimes), but those are easy targets. We really need to be talking about ways we can improve as well.

And criticism isn’t just about being a smart-ass or feeling good about myself. I love my community (spoken-word, hip hop, activist, etc.), and I want my community to be as powerful as it can be. Sometimes that takes tough love.

Also, I think I’ve just about outgrown these kinds of poems. I think the slam community has gotten past a lot of the clichés—not all of them of course, but things seem to be better now than they were five years ago.

25. Love in the Time of Zombies (live)
I get the feeling a lot of people don’t “get” this poem, but it’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever written—a straight-up love poem. Again, when you’re going to write something that everyone’s already written (like a straight-up love poem), I think it’s important to come at it from a new angle. I wrote this at the National Poetry Slam last year; I was so disgusted by the lack of originality I saw in a particular bout that I wanted to write something completely off-the-wall. Be sure to check out the video too.

This piece could also be read as a metaphor about colonialism. That subtext is buried, but it’s definitely in there (“pale and shrieking on the horizon,” etc.).

27. Kodama
So this is a piece, like Misfortune Tellers, that kind of walks the line between poem and rap song. I opted to do this one over a beat, partly because I just liked the beat so much (G_Force again) and partly because it did kind of work. As you can see, it’s still a little stiff compared to some other songs, but I like it better with the beat than without, particularly at the end when the music fades out.

So a quick explanation, because this may be one of the deeper tracks on the album: kodama were made famous by the movie Princess Mononoke—they were the cute little tree spirits. But in Japanese folklore, they’re more than that. The idea behind them is that it takes a great deal of effort to get a tree to start walking, but once you DO get a tree to start walking it’s even harder to stop it. And that’s just such a beautiful metaphor for activism and organizing.

This song also confronts the hip hop truism that says to make great art, all you have to do is look out your window and describe what’s going on. There’s a lot of value in doing that, but I think it’s equally important to imagine something different, to visualize a better world and fight to make it happen.

I like the idea of coming full circle, and this song ties up so much of what this album and the last few years of my career have been about—it alludes to the tree/head sticker and first single cover, it talks about ghosts and spirits, it talks about activism. And those last two bars are probably the most potent couplet on the album. All in all, even though this album isn’t 100% perfectly cohesive, I really like its flow. I think the sequencing was done just right, and See More’s interludes really add a lot.

80 minutes is a long time for a hip hop album; I fully realize that. But listening through this again, I stand by my decision not to cut it down. Each song is meaningfully different from every other song, and the variety in the beats and subject matter makes everything work I think.

THE ARTWORK
My cousin, Jason Myhre, did the artwork, just as he did on my last album. The back cover is a direct homage to (or parody of) “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite,” which I think is hilarious and fresh. But for those who don’t get that reference, it might be kind of an odd design. Oh well. The front cover was sketched without Jason having ever seen my actual apartment. Oddly enough, it’s pretty close to what it looks like.

With this album, we really tried to have a strong aesthetic cohesion between the album art, the art on the two singles, my book, and the stickers and other promo material: high contract black and white, subtlety, and interlocking images. The tree in the window on the album cover is the tree from the sticker and first single. The washed-out image inside the booklet is from the second single’s cover. The building on the second single’s cover contains the “haunted studio apartment.” The leaf and headphones on the back cover is a reference to the sticker and first single design. It’s all intertwined. I’m not sure if people are really going to notice that stuff, but I think it’s cool.

Anyways, I hope you all enjoy the album. It was a long, stressful, costly, but ultimately rewarding journey. Tell your peoples. Hit up the MySpace. I’ll be in your town soon.