Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Special Guante Showcase on June 9, National Poetry Slam news, new album, more

1. My next Twin Cities show is a big one; hope you can make it:

Saturday, June 9 at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Minneapolis.
10pm.  $10 at the door or $6 if you buy them here.

I got a 2012 MSAB Artist Initiative grant, and I'm using it to get high quality video of a full performance-- half spoken-word theater, half rap show. DJ/producer Big Cats! will be there, and we'll be previewing a couple of tracks from the new album. The 2012 Twin Cities National Poetry Slam team will be there too. If you've never seen me perform before, this will be the perfect introduction. Facebook event page here. (Photo by B-FRESH).

Guante is a fiscal year 2012 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is funded, in part, by the Minesota State Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

2. I won the Minneapolis poetry slam finals, so now I'm going to the National Poetry Slam this year in Charlotte.  After taking first place at Nationals as part of the St. Paul team two years in a row and then taking a year off, I'll be representing the whole Twin Cities as part of the TC United team this year... which is cool, since I live in Minneapolis anyway.  The TC team will be me, Khary Jackson, Kait Rokowski and Shane Hawley.  If you're one of the half-dozen people in the world who follow the "sport" of poetry slam, you'll know that that's a pretty scary team.

3. The new Guante & Big Cats! album, "YOU BETTER WEAPONIZE," is the best thing I've ever done.  We're wrapping up production now, and it'll come out this Fall.  In a year where we've seen or will see huge releases from Brother Ali, P.O.S., Kristoff Krane, Carnage, Toki Wright, Heidi Barton Stink and I Self Devine, not to mention non-locals like Aesop Rock, Killer Mike, El-P, Big KRIT and many more, I can say with no doubt that this album will still be something special.  After all, the goal isn't to be better than everyone else, it's to bring something new and unique to the table.  And we'll definitely be doing that.  I can't tell you how excited I am.

4.  I rearranged some stuff on this site.  Now, all of my spoken-word videos are on one page and all music videos are on another.  Check 'em out, and please share if you like them-- Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.  I really appreciate it.

5. It's been the busiest six months of my life.  From in-depth artist-in-residence gigs at Highland Park in St. Paul, Roseau and Karlstad, MN, plus one-time lectures, workshops and panels at dozens of schools, plus a ton of big shows (opening for Doomtree in St. Cloud, Hip Hop Against Homophobia in Northfield, MN Slice at Intermedia, Heidi Barton Stink's CD release, hosting Augsburg's Spring Jam, playing at a bunch of different colleges), plus writing and recording new material, plus moving, plus working on some projects that I can't even announce yet... I appreciate the support.  Any time someone posts a video to their FB wall, or shares a CD with their friend, or shouts me out on Twitter-- it all makes a difference.  Thanks again.  Here's footage of me working with the students in Roseau:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PRIMER: Twin Cities Hip Hop

(P.O.S. at Soundset; photo from Rhymesayers)

DISCLAIMER: Remember, this was written in May of 2012, so shouts to Dem Atlas, Lizzo, Allan Kingdom, Haphduzn and all the other artists who have made big waves since then. This write-up is a starting point, nothing more.)

Is the Twin Cities hip hop scene oversaturated (as this recent Slug-by-way-of-the-City-Pages article said)?  I don't think so.  There are a ton of hip hop acts here, but there are also a ton of hip hop acts doing radically different, interesting, creative things.  I've been wanting to post something like this for a while now, and this seems like as good an opportunity as any.

One note, though.  The TC hip hop scene is DEEP.  In this post, I'm going to talk very briefly about the artists I know, but there are MANY more that I don't.  Basically, this is how I see the scene right now, in 2012-- and I'm one person who occupies a specific space within that scene, so my view is going to be skewed, naturally.  This is NOT meant to be a comprehensive overview of every single person making hip hop music in the Twin Cities-- just a place to start.  So if you don't see yourself, or your homies, just leave a comment-- it wasn't an intentional omission.  

In the interest of space, I'm also not including singers (big ups to Alicia Steele, K.Raydio, Claire de Lune and others), DJs, b-boys/b-girls, poets, producers, promoters and the like, though all are instrumental in creating the scene that we have here.  And in the interest of not getting punched in the face, I'm going to save the criticism (constructive or otherwise) for another post.  I may not love every artist below, but I do believe that every artist below has qualities someone could love.  So I'm focusing on the positive here.

I wanted to write this so I'd have somewhere to point all those people who say "I had no idea MN had a hip hop scene, " or the people who love Atmosphere and Doomtree but don't know what else is going on here.  Because there's a LOT going on here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

3 New Videos: Starfish, The Mommy Effect & Lightning

Brainerd, Minnesota has been one of my favorite places to perform over the past few years.  That's mostly thanks to Matt from the Moonshine Lounge, who has done an amazing job organizing these shows.  These three videos were filmed at that spot (by Creative Jinx), and I'm really happy with how they turned out.

There are two or three other versions of this online, but this is definitely the best performance of this poem, a poem that means a lot to me. Aside from being about educators and schools, this is really a poem about the tension between engaging in on-the-ground direct service work and the need to work for large-scale, institutional change. Obviously, we need both; but it can be hard to figure out where you fit in as an individual.  I think that's a really important question that activists-- and people in general-- need to keep asking themselves.

This is an older poem, even though it's just now finding its way online. It's always been kind of a second-tier poem for me, but listening to it again, I like it (for the content, but also for its structure and arc). On the surface, it's about military recruitment, but I think it's really about mothers, and the lack of respect afforded to them by the powers that be. With that in mind, this poem is a companion piece to this song in a lot of ways.

This is another version of "Lightning," an a capella performance of a song that's going to be on the next Guante & Big Cats! album. There's already a good version of this online, but it's on Vimeo so I wanted to get it up on YouTube too. And I can't wait for people to hear the actual album-version of the song.