Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New See More Perspective Album Available Now!

We're having the release party Friday night at Hell's Kitchen.

You can get the new album now, from here.

I'm on a track (it's my rarely-performed architecture-themed love poem, with See More's music behind it).  And the whole thing is just bonkers.  Favorites: "Self Taught," "FLW" and "Bottleneck."

See More is one of those rare artists who truly deserves your support.  And he makes great music, so supporting him is easy.  Pick up the album.  Come to the show.  Hugs and Kisses.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Guante & Big Cats! Music Video!

Guante + Big Cats! - A Hug From a Stranger from Tru Ruts on Vimeo.

Big thanks to Tony Perkins and everyone at the E-Squared Cafe. This turned out pretty cool. It's one of the more understated songs on the album, but it's also one of my favorites. Hope you like it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

BIG show December 3 at Hell's Kitchen

Friday, December 3 at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis:
See More Perspective's "Architextual Design" Release Party
w/ Guante, Mayda, Heidi Barton Stink, Fresh Squeeze and the Rube
10pm.  18+.  $5
(affordable parking is available in the ramp right next to the venue)

Here's the Facebook Event Page.

Now, I realize that there are a couple of other big shows in town that night.  But let me make an argument for this one:

1. See More Perspective is very talented, and talented in a way that really sticks out from everyone else in town.  The new album has been three (!) years in the making, and it's worth the wait.  The music is smart, sincere and funky all at once.  Much more in the tradition of acts like Lyrics Born and Blackalicious than most Twin Cities acts.  He's also a hell of a live performer.

2. The supporting acts are honestly some of my very favorite performers in town.  Mayda is a pop/soul/rock singer/songwriter who should be internationally-known, and hopefully she's on her way.  Heidi Barton Stink and Fresh Squeeze make fun, radical hip hop that's incredibly refreshing.  The Rube is one of my favorite DJs in the world.  And I'm f'ing awesome.

3. Hell's Kitchen has quickly become our favorite place to play-- great food, staff, drinks and atmosphere.  And this show is only $5, so you'll definitely be getting your money's worth, and then some.

Really hope to see you all there.  See More has been putting in work for years, as a producer, studio engineer, rapper and activist, and this show is going to be bonkers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Hip Hop

(Updated/revised 1/21/15)
I’ve been an MC for about ten years. I don’t say that to position myself as any kind of scholarly hip hop expert; I’m not. I’m a practitioner. And as a practitioner, I’ve noticed that there are a few fairly basic things that a whole lot of people seem to regularly get wrong about hip hop—at conferences, in classes, in online debates and just in conversation. So what follows are ten simple-- but important—foundational things that I wish everyone knew about hip hop.

1. Hip Hop is Big
Hip hop is bigger than rap music (more on that below), but even just focusing on the music: everything that you hear on the radio or see on TV is less than 1% of what is actually being made in the world. To dismiss all hip hop based on that kind of superficial exposure is like saying "film is a worthless art form" after seeing all four Transformers movies and nothing else. Hip hop is bigger than any stereotype, caricature, or preconceived notion.

2. Hip Hop is Diverse and Dynamic
Once you acknowledge that hip hop is bigger than the half-dozen artists they play on the radio over and over again, you can begin to appreciate the vast stylistic diversity present in the music. While there are commonly shared elements (rhymes, verse/chorus structures, drums, etc.) individual artists can and do have wildly different approaches to the form in terms of style, subject matter, delivery, etc. The complex, ever-shifting geography of hip hop’s many subcultures, undercurrents and call-and-response aesthetic debates is one of its greatest strengths.

3. Hip Hop is Global
Every city in the U.S. has a hip hop scene. It’s not just New York, and it’s not just major population centers. Even suburbs and smaller rural communities often have one or two kids who rap, or at the very least take part in the culture in some way. On top of that, just about every country in the world has a hip hop scene, with MCs rapping in many different languages and dialects, b-boy and b-girl communities sprouting up all over the world, and hip hop as a major driver of youth culture just about everywhere on the planet.

4. There is a Difference Between “Hip Hop” and “Rap” But It’s Probably Not What You Think
Individuals will often try to differentiate between the two terms based on content/quality (like rappers just rap while hip hop MCs represent for the culture); I’m not saying that that’s wrong, but I do think a less subjective, potentially more useful definition is this: “Rap” is the physical act of rapping, of speaking lyrics over beats. “Hip hop” is the larger culture that includes rapping, but also includes many other elements, traditions and practices (see next point).

5. Hip Hop isn’t Just Rap Music
The traditional four elements of hip hop are DJing, rapping, graffiti and b-boy/b-girl dance. KRS-ONE and others have identified other elements that are sometimes thrown into the conversation: vocal percussion and beatboxing, street knowledge, entrepreneurialism, fashion, slang and language, music production, and more. I know hip hop photographers, hip hop educators, hip hop activists, hip hop playwrights, etc. What makes them “hip hop” is a larger conversation (related to generational identities, geography, aesthetic approaches, and much more), but it helps to think about hip hop as this impressionistic landscape, not just as “rap music.” It’s much bigger than that.

6. While Practitioners Today Come From Many Different Backgrounds, Hip Hop is Part of Black American Musical Tradition
Hip hop was born out of the black and brown struggle in the Bronx of the 1970s, and is very much a piece of African-American musical tradition. But practitioners of the art today come from every community—every racial/ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status, nationality, class background, geographic origin and any other marker of identity. Some see this as another example of black art being co-opted; some see this as a truly multicultural art form capable of transcending borders. Some see it as both.

7. Hip hop is Not Inherently Violent, Sexist, Homophobic, or Materialistic
To be clear, I’m not saying that there isn’t violence, sexism, homophobia, and materialism in rap lyrics. But the key word here is “inherently.” To re-use the film metaphor, there’s a whole lot of violence, sexism, homophobia, and materialism in Hollywood too, but that doesn’t mean that film is an inherently debased medium, or that there aren’t thousands upon thousands of examples (indeed—the overwhelming majority) of movies that break from that trend. This point is not to minimize some of the aspects of the culture that can (and I would argue, should) be seen as problematic; it is to say that those aspects are not wholly representative, and also that violence, sexism, homophobia, and materialism are deeply embedded in this country in ways that hip hop reflects, and sometimes perpetuates, but is not responsible for.

8. There May Be a Difference Between “Mainstream” and “Underground” or “Conscious” and “Ignorant,” But It’s Often Not that Simple
While it’s convenient rhetoric to state that independent, underground hip hop is all revolution and consciousness and eating vegetables, while mainstream hip hop is all guns, cars and pimps, that’s wildly oversimplified. There are plenty of underground MCs saying ignorant or otherwise meaningless stuff, and plenty of famous MCs who are pushing boundaries in terms of both style and substance. Clearly, an artist with major label backing and a multi-million dollar promotional budget will have a different approach than a kid making beats in his basement, but for the most part, “Mainstream vs. Underground” is a false binary that simplifies the culture in a way that makes it easier to not authentically engage with the art itself.

9. Hip Hop History is Complex, Fascinating, and Above All, Important
If you want to better grasp ideas like benign neglect, gentrification, institutional racism, the relationship between artistic expression and American capitalism, or the power of popular resistance to oppression, read Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” the best hip hop history book I’ve come across. There are a lot of good books about hip hop out there, but I’d recommend starting with that one.

10. Hip Hop is Beautiful
I know, this one is subjective. But the older I get, the more I move away from the “here are the three artists I like so I’m going to compare everyone else to them!” framework. Instead, it’s really about active listening and critical thinking. There is something to appreciate and something to critique in every song, every album, every artist. And when you do that, when you take the time and energy to actually engage with the culture (even if you’re not actively part of the culture) it’s indescribably rewarding. As much as hip hop heads like to romanticize the past, I find that I am continually surprised by hip hop culture, and increasingly excited about its future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

videos you should take a second to watch: Eyedea, Toki Wright, more

This is video from Michael "Eyedea" Larsen's tribute show. I never knew him that well; we just had some mutual acquaintances and he came out to a few of the events that I did, but over the past few weeks I've just met tons of people who were affected by his life somehow. It's one thing to be a beloved artist; it's another thing to have a physical, measurable impact on other human beings, which Eyedea really, really had. In all this sadness, that's definitely something to celebrate. Check out this piece that Andrea Swensson wrote about the show.

This is the video for Toki Wright's "A Different Mirror," which I think is one of the most well-written rap songs of all time. There's so much going on in those lyrics, and the way he ties the past to the present is just chilling. Toki is one of the best MCs in the country right now.

Here's Kristoff Krane's Local Show performance. I've written about Chris on my site before, but he remains one of the most creative, engaging, genuine artists I know. He's a phenomenal rapper, and this song shows he can also sing.

On a less serious note, here's a quick little YouTube link for the "Harry Potter" remix that me, Big Cats! and Chantz did. Figured it'd be a good time to post it, with the new movie coming out. I'm seeing it Friday night. Here's a link to our free mixtape too, if you don't have it already.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Support Equilibrium, lyrics essay, See More Perspective, random news

1. Hey-- first of all, you can donate to Equilibrium here.  If you don't know, EQ is one of the best spoken-word shows in town.  Creating a space for spoken-word artists-of-color, EQ has won all kinds of awards and consistently puts on a great show.  In these rough economic times, they need support.  Check out this video too:

2.  Our show last night at Honey went really, really well.  It was beautiful to see so many people from so many different scenes and communities come together.  Hopefully, there'll be some photos up soon at MN Mic.

3. I wrote a point/counterpoint on the importance of lyrics over at Reviler.  Guess which side I'm on.  You can read it here.

4. Friend and label-mate See More Perspective if FINALLY releasing his album, "Architextual Design."  The release show is scheduled for Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis on December 3 and I can honestly say that it's going to be one of the best shows we've ever put on.  Not announcing the lineup or sponsors just yet, but please mark you calendars.  The album is phenomenal, and this show is really going to be something special.

In the meantime, check out some FREE stuff that See More has released at the Boombox Emporium.

5.  There is just SO MUCH going on right now.  I'm involved in a dozen different projects, between music and poetry and activism and youth work and residency stuff and just life in general.  For more up-the-minute updates, follow me on Twitter or get at me on Facebook.  Thanks!

Friday, November 05, 2010

good stuff by people I know

My friends are very talented:

This is a free download, and one you should grab right now.  A weird mix of spooky indie-pop, indie hip hop and jazz, this group/album is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Dameun Strange and MC/producer See More Perspective.  It's very atmospheric without being too melodramatic, maybe a little less Halloween and a little more Dia de los Muertos, if that makes sense.  Through all the doom and gloom, the album retains a sense of absurd positivity, a playfulness that's really refreshing and fun.  And they put on a killer live show, too.

Graham O'brien: Live Drums
Graham is the drummer in two of my favorite bands, No Bird Sing and Junkyard Empire.  He's also a producer, and one of the few people I really trust when it comes to forward-thinking hip hop aesthetics.  His debut solo album mixes dark, brooding production with crackling live drums, and the result is incredibly engaging.  Think a less-busy El-P meets Thom Yorke's solo material.  Most of the album is instrumental, though the few guests (including Kristoff Krane, Eric Blair from No Bird Sing and Adam Svec) really shine.  The last track, in particular, is starkly beautiful-- it's a remix of Svec's "Wolves in Milwaukee."  Get the album here.

Idris Goodwin: These Are the Breaks
I'm cheating on this one, since I haven't actually read it yet.  But there's no doubt in my mind that it's brilliant.  Idris is one of the smartest, funniest, most talented hip hop heads in the country, and his work as an MC, as a poet, as a theater artist and as an essayist is always great.  You can order the book now from Write Bloody.

Monday, November 01, 2010

live video: Guante: Your Boyfriend's a Republican

Some footage that filmmaker, actor and beat-maker Daniel Rangel caught at my last show.  A fun little song over a jacked Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson beat.

This song is from my 2008 mixtape, "Conscious is Not Enough."  My label, Tru Ruts, is actually going to be re-releasing that mixtape this month, but I'm re-recording a lot of stuff to make it sound better and be more relevant to today.  So be on the lookout for that.

Finally, make sure to check out my last post here, about progressive voter guides.