Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things I Did in 2010

I know some people read these kinds of lists and scoff or whatever, but New Year's is not a time for humility; it's a time for honest reflection.  And if you're awesome, it's hard to be humble about things, haha.  Of course I had a lot of help and support from my label, friends, co-workers and collaborators, but I'll admit: I'm halfway awesome.  So here are some things I did this year:

~Released "An Unwelcome Guest" w/ producer Big Cats!, one of the most ambitious, original, quotable, poetic hip hop albums to ever come out of the Midwest (biased, but stop me if I'm lying).  Don't take my word for it, read the press quotes... or better yet, listen to it.

~Released a free mixtape ("Don't Be Nice") w/ Big Cats! (all original beats, even though it's a mixtape) that proved that we not only do what we do well, but we do what other hip hop acts do well too, probably better.  Also designed the cover, which I think is really cool.

~Took first place at the National Poetry Slam, as part of the St. Paul team, for the second year in a row.  Performed "The Family Business," my best poem, on Semifinals stage and "Handshakes," a poem deconstructing how masculinity is performed, on Finals stage.  Also helped organize a bunch of workshops on spoken-word and activism and education during the week-long festival.  Got a ton of press too-- feature stories in the Pioneer Press, got to go on the Current and even on the TV.

~As arts coordinator, helped build the Canvas, a teen arts center in St. Paul, into one of the most dynamic, high-quality after-school programs in the area.  Aside from coordinating a lot of the programs there, I personally facilitated a weekly writing circle, an MC workshop and a couple of different social justice-oriented workshops, hosted numerous events and built a lot of relationships.

~Played in multiple cities in the Midwest (often multiple times)-- St. Louis, Des Moines, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Brainerd, Stockholm and more I'm probably forgetting.

~Played dozens of shows here in the Twin Cities too, from Kristoff Krane's CD release party to opening up for Dead Prez at Voices Merging's hip hop conference to debuting a snippet of my one-man spoken-word show at the Bedlam to playing numerous progressive events from the Defend Public Education rally to the IWW's Fall Feast to much more.  Not a lot of rappers can say that they got booked to perform at the CONvergence sci-fi conference, the Dragon Festival, the Twin Cities hip hop awards, the Loft Literary Center and the Uptown Pride Fest all in the same year.

~Also hosted some big events, something I'd like to do more of in 2011.  This year, hosted the big No Bird Sing/LookBook/Kill the Vultures show at the Cedar, the Twin Cities Spoken-Word Sampler at Honey, Kristoff Krane's other CD release show at the Cedar and more.

~Continued the successful Hip Hop Against Homophobia concert series; the last one featured Mike Mictlan from Doomtree, Heidi Barton Stink and Kaoz and was held at the Canvas.  The next one will be a two-day joint in June at Patrick's Cabaret.

~Got written up in a very flattering City Pages feature.

~Got one of my poems featured in The Progressive.

~My label, Tru Ruts, secured national distribution.

~Laid a ton of groundwork for the MN Activist Project, a database and promotional campaign aimed at getting more people involved in progressive organizing.  Not public yet, but look for a launch in the springtime.

~Completed writing/performance residencies or single workshops in a dozen schools in the Twin Cities and beyond, on top of visiting almost every St. Paul high school and talking to students as part of my Canvas duties and mentoring a young poet one-on-one.  Even got to go to my own high school and talk about spoken-word to students who had never heard of it.  Hopefully I can get famous once all these kids turn 21, haha.

~Performed on 89.3 The Current's Local Show:

~Freelanced for Reviler, one of my favorite local music blogs, on top of providing all kinds of original content right here and on my Twitter.

~Facilitated workshops on topics from writing and performance to privilege and oppression to how to write a bio and more at the Giant Steps conference, the Minnesota OUT Campus Conference, the St. Paul Youth Commission's Youth Summit, the Vices to Verses Conference (where I also got to sit on a panel about hip hop and feminism) and elsewhere.

~Performed live in-studio on Radio K with Big Cats!.

~Wrapped up the first/second draft of a book of essays and creative nonfiction that I might go get published.  Weighing options right now.

~Released a music video that I'm proud of:

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

~On top of the two aforementioned albums, recorded some of the best music of my career; you haven't heard it yet.  But soon.

So again, big thanks to all the people who have been around this year, supporting the work that I do.  You're only as good as the community that surrounds you.  It's been a great year (not even getting into my personal life, haha), but it's still really just groundwork time for me.  Looking at the long-term plan right now, and things are good.  Lots of big stuff planned for 2011.  Stay tuned.  Let's build.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New FREE Song w/ See More Perspective & The Rube

Hella posts lately.  But that just means life is busy.  Here's a new song.  Download for free:

"Shotgun Soliloquy REMIX" by Wake the City (Guante & See More Perspective), produced by the Rube.

It's a fun track; I finally got to use that stupid "woozle wozzle" punchline I've been saving.  The actual song (this one is a remix) is a monster, though.  We just can't release that one yet.  Someday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Some Guante & Big Cats! Live Footage

Some footage from a Guante & Big Cats! show at the 7th St. Entry.  Audio by Empty, video by Pure Optics, edited together by Rangel Arts. The band is Mike Ries (drums), Mike Coyne (guitar & bass), Chris Tures (guitar), Eric Blomquist (keys & saxophone), Big Cats! (MPC & bass) and Guante (vocals).

We are a very big, loud, angry band; I'm not sure how well that translates here (particularly in the instrumental parts of "Bleeds" and "Midnight" where it just goes nuts), but you get the idea.  Come to a show.  Most of these songs are from our debut LP, "An Unwelcome Guest."

If It Bleeds, It Leads:

1 10 20 200:


Red States:

The Damp, Foggy Midnight:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Break Spoken-Word Institute

Instead of visiting my family and relaxing like a normal person, I'll be doing this from 12/27 - 12/30.
I'm not mad though.  It's actually going to be very cool.  As some of you know, I serve as arts coordinator of the Canvas, a teen arts center in St. Paul.  This year, we're having an intensive four-day spoken-word workshop over winter break, with a big open mic on the last day.  While this is targeted at teens, I have a pretty broad definition of youth.  If you're interested in spoken-word and want to get some pointers from some of the best in the Twin Cities (Tish Jones, Khary Jackson, Sierra Demulder, me), feel free to stop through.  It should be a lot of fun.

Also, if you work in the Twin Cities with youth in any capacity, please spread the word about this and the Canvas in general.  We offer a ton of high-quality, free arts programs for teens, from photography to hip hop to dance to drawing and much more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The best thing I ever wrote

I know it's super weird to find your own work hilarious, and I'm not exactly known for being funny, but I laugh out loud every time I read this.  It's a one-act play I wrote about hip hop, bloggers, academics, rappers and much more.  If you've ever gone to a hip hop conference, studied hip hop in school or sat on a panel, you might be able to relate:


It's an older piece, but I just updated it with some new content.  Getting ready to put out a book, and this will probably be in it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

12/17: two all ages shows; one poetry, one hip hop

It's going to be a busy night.  First, I'll be at the Black Dog Cafe in St. Paul at 6:30pm doing a full poetry set for a COMPAS for the Arts fundraiser.  Immediately after that, I'll be headed to Tarnish & Gold in Minneapolis for this:

Isn't that a nice flyer?  Four acts, four different genres, in a beautiful all ages art gallery/sound space.  Friday, December 17 at 7pm.  I'll be playing a couple of new acoustic songs, plus the usual bangers.

Here's the Facebook event page.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wednesday at the Loft Literary Center

On Wednesday, I'll be performing with Imani Woomera, a spoken-word artist from Hawaii who has done a ton of work around spoken-word and slam throughout Africa.  She'll be debuting her one-woman show in Minneapolis.  I'll be performing a spoken-word set to open the show up.

It's 7pm at the Loft Literary Center.  $12/$6 for students, but no one will be turned away.  Hope to see you there.

Where does CHANGE come from?

So as some of you may know, I'm currently working on this big project dealing with activism, involvement and social/political change.  More details on that later.  For now, here's some stuff that I've been kicking around in my head for a while.  Basically, it's my philosophy of change.  I'll be using it as an intro for the project.  Any thoughts?

Change happens at four levels:
  • Personal: critical self-reflection and education (reading books, taking classes, thinking about issues).
  • Interpersonal: face-to-face direct service work, volunteering, raising awareness, starting conversations with friends and family, etc.
  • Institutional: organizing to challenge oppressive or unjust systems; attacking the root cause of a problem rather than its symptoms.
  • Cultural: broad-based "hearts and minds" change.
This project works from a pretty basic philosophy.  Real, meaningful, lasting change comes from people working and struggling together to attack the root causes of problems.  That isn't to say that volunteering at the homeless shelter, voting once every two years, writing poems about the issues you care about or reading lots of books don't do anything-- it's just that none of those things can create real change if they are divorced from organizing.

The four points above are really an activist ecosystem-- we need all four (not necessarily in equal proportions in a given context) if we really care about making the world a better place.  That may seem pretty simple, but a whole lot of people get wholly caught up in one or another.  Some people are all about knowledge and being the perfect more-progressive-than-thou super genius; they know the issues inside and out, but they don't ever do anything about them.  Others are all for "smashing the state" or whatever, but never take the time to do the critical self-reflection that effective activists need.  As the old saying goes: "thought without action is a daydream; action without thought is a nightmare."

At the end of the day, understanding is not enough.  "Raising awareness" is not enough.  Winning some abstract debate about an issue is not enough.  Waiting for the previous generation to fade away is not enough.  If we want to create real progressive change, we're going to have to struggle for it.  We have to be smart.  We have to be proactive.  We have to be relentless.

That's all meaningless, however, if we don't know where or how to start.  This project is about streamlining the process, about turning liberal thinkers into progressive activists by making it as easy as possible to plug in and get involved.

...more information to come.