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:

~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 (CD reviews, longer essays and spitting in the face of conservative radio hosts), Mill City Scene (on hip hop and activism), (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 CafĂ© 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

~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

~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 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.

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.