The tour isn't done-- it'll be an ongoing thing through the summer, but the first swing is over and here's a recap. Lots of packed venues, lots of great artists, lots of food, lots of CDs sold... one hell of a trip:
0. Me, See More Perspective and e. g. bailey set out in the haunted van from Minneapolis. As you may know, i believe in building community, so this post is going to link to a bunch of artists you should really check out right now. These aren't my friends or people to whom i owe money, these are emcees, bands and poets who can get DOWN. This whole swing had unbelievable talent showcased at every show. We're building a powerful network.
1. We started out in Milwaukee at the Stonefly, and played with the always amazing Figureheads and Milwaukee emcee Haz Solo of the House of M. Haz had a wild set-- he's got that futuristic throwback style that's so hot right now-- crazy stage presence, big glasses, danceable beats. Very energetic and entertaining. Figureheads tore it down as usual. Their new material is crazy-- still has that cold, electronic feel juxtaposed with so much... heart. A very unique group. Me and See More broke out the masks for the very first time, which probably scared people. But it was a great show. Big ups to Nigel Wade, Darlin' Nikki and Pyramid, three of Milwaukee's top poets and all tremendous human beings, for coming out.
A lot of the photos from this show didn't turn out too great for whatever reason, but here's the lovely merch table. Look how the whole album/book/single/sticker has a singular aesthetic. I'm a damn genius:
2. Next stop was West Chicago, which is not, contrary to popular belief, the West side of Chicago. It's its own city. We played at a spot called the Oasis, which was very interesting-- a hookah bar and restaurant in a strip mall. Ezekiel38 was first-- a very solid Chicago-style emcee, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, all-around cool guy. Chicago's Philip Morris went next-- this is one of those guys who elevates his live show-- through personality, through creative call-and-response and through a natural charisma you have to see to believe. It wasn't the most attentive crowd ever, but Phil won them over. Here he is:
The night's biggest surprise for me was Agents of Change, one of a very small group of bands in the country to do punk/hip hop WELL. A lot of acts, at least in my experience, who claim to blend those two genres are really just mediocre punk bands with some rapping really poorly over the riffs. But this band had CHOPS, and the emcee was a beast, flying all over the room, rapping, screaming, stripping, jumping off chairs. And to top it all off, these guys have good politics, an increasingly-rare treat. Definitely check them out. Here's a photo:
Aside from myself, who was great (of course), the last act of the evening was Gray Area, a crew of like a dozen rappers. Even though there were only two mics, the whole crew stayed on stage, jumping around and supporting each other. It wasn't the most nuanced or revolutionary hip hop ever, but it was kind of cool to see a huge group of guys just having fun making straight-ahead hip hop music.
3. Next was Madison, my home-away-from-home. We had high hopes for this show and were not disappointed. It was free and all ages, and co-sponsored by the University's Union Directorate. We managed to work with the Multicultural Student Coalition, a powerful and influential student group on campus, to blend our two potentially-conflicting events (my release party and their b-boy battle, both scheduled for the same night) into one supershow. And though six hours of hip hop can be a bit much, it worked out beautifully. Here's a picture of Soul Sessions, the pre-event that hosted the b-boy battle (photo by e. g. bailey):
The show itself was wild-- we wanted to mix genres and get a really eclectic vibe. The show featured the Big Mouth Cooperative, a wild jazz act; PosNoSys, an all-hmong rock/hip hop band whose name is short for "Post Nomadic Syndrome;" Truthmaze, who blends hip hop with blues and reggae; See More Perspective, whom you should know by now; Sha Cage, one of the top spoken-word artists in the Midwest; the Figureheads, who masterfully blend electronica with hip hop; DJ Fundamentalist and myself. A lot of people came out, and we went to Perkins afterward and ate too much. A few highlights, courtesy of e. g. bailey:
Oskar Ly of PosNoSys:
The Figureheads w/ me in the background and Greg combusting:
Tracksmith of the Figureheads, who produced three songs on my new album:
Me and See More Perspective:
It was nice to see a lot of old friends too. The infamous Last Minute Poets even reunited for a trip to Perkins. Look how happy we ALL are:
4. Next was Chicago, a Sunday night show at the Elastic. This was the smallest show we did, but maybe the most fun. A killer lineup: Ezekiel38, Il Subliminal, Diagram of Truth, Nazirah P. Mickey, Jyroscope, DCG, See More Perspective and myself. The night was full of surprises. Jyroscope did an all-Biggie jacked-beats set (it was March 9), Il lost his beat CD and did the most incredible a capella beatbox/singing piece i've heard in a long time. He's really doing some interesting, against-the-grain stuff. Diagram of Truth, down from a big crew to a duo, haven't lost a step-- great stage show, two emcees who also DJ and produce and play keys on stage. Me and SeeMore let loose and played one of our best sets. More pics from e. g. bailey:
A no-look freestyle session w/ me, Ezekiel, DCG and Colasoul of Jyroscope:
Nazirah P. Mickey:
Jyroscope with backup dancers Il Subliminal and Gilead7:
5. Minneapolis was the one i was worried about. Being a new emcee in a city full of emcees kind of feels like being the new kid in high school. And, yeah, i might be the COOL new kid who doesn't give a fuck what people think of me and smokes cigarettes by the bike racks, but it can still be a stressful place to inhabit. But i had no reason to worry-- the show was packed, even with little-to-no-mention in the media. Tru Ruts gets down like that. We kept the show a mostly family affair: Sha Cage, Truthmaze, See More Perspective and myself; but we also brought in DJ Fundamentalist, Autumn Compton & the Most Wanted, and Chantz. Autumn and the band play a beautiful blend of hip hop, soul, downtempo and almost folk. They organize Freakin' Fridays every Friday at the Blue Nile-- be sure to support that. Chantz is sixteen and a better rapper than me in a lot of ways. Kid is scary good, and i'm glad we could get him on the bill. More pretty pictures:
Autumn Compton & The Most Wanted (though the wonderful violin player got cut out of the picture-- sorry!):
See More playing hypeman during my set:
6. Last stop on the first swing was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at this place:
It was very cool to play in a regular ol' bar for a change, and one called "The Blue Collar" at that. Our host, Imperfekt, is a monster of an emcee, yet another kid from a city i'd never been to who can just tear shit down. He played first, and got the crowd very hype. Though the spot looks kind of small from the outside, they really pack people in. With no stage, we're kind of just there in the middle of the crowd, rapping. It was beautiful. For our set, SeeMore took his cordless mic and walked to the far other end of the building and we surrounded the crowd with rhymes. Very fun. Krummie capped the night off. He was one of the 25 finalists for the White Rapper Show, and showed why. Photos from e. g. bailey:
Me and See More Perspective:
See More Cats:
The best part of the whole swing (perhaps aside from getting caked up) was meeting all these artists and solidifying our Midwest network. We are the next generation of indie artists, and it's just so beautiful to see us all working together like this. Hopefully we'll be hosting a lot of these artists here in Minneapolis soon.
THANKS to all the people who came out to all the shows. I hope you like the album.
EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED VAN TOUR will keep rolling. Check the website for dates.