Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guante: The Family Business

This is one of my strongest spoken-word pieces, but there are a half-dozen or more versions of it floating around online. They're mostly shaky early performances, rushed slam performances, or just not that impressive. But this one, put together by Patrick Pegg for Unique Techniques, is just about right. If you were ever going to share/post just one of my videos, I'd probably vote for this one.

This was shot with the assistance of a grant from the MN State Arts board, and we have a bunch more coming, including the definitive version of my zombie love poem, my Twin Cities poem, my indie rapper poem, my cockroach love poem and a bunch of Guante & Big Cats music stuff. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Guante & Big Cats: A Refresher

So as you may know: our new album, "YOU BETTER WEAPONIZE," will be released November 6. For those who are just now hearing about us, here's a look back.

I'm a hip hop artist, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist, educator and writer. Big Cats is an award-winning producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Sage Francis, P.O.S., TTxBC and more (he also has a solo album coming out 10/2). Together, we form the indie-rap duo GUANTE & BIG CATS. Our music is explicitly political, but it's also weird and fun. It's smart, but it also bangs. I guess that's the style-- lots of conceptual, storytelling tracks, gallows humor and substantive punchlines, all over some BIG beats.

We started working together in 2008 or so. Since then, we've played Soundset, performed on the Current's Local Show, played a bunch of gigs all over the Midwest, released an EP, mixtape and a full-length LP.

That LP, "AN UNWELCOME GUEST," was a concept album-- part love story, part zombie apocalypse, part exploration of superhero mythology, part political manifesto... not exactly an easy or straightforward listen. But it was beautifully produced and I'm still very proud of it. We got to work with some of my favorite local artists-- Haley Bonar, Big Quarters, Chastity Brown and Joe Horton from No Bird Sing, plus Prolyphic from Strange Famous Records (Sage Francis' label, who also helped us out with some digital distribution stuff; the album was officially released on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records). The most enduring track from the album is probably "No Capes," which I still perform regularly:

And here are videos of some of the other highlights from that album:

Performing "The Damp, Foggy Midnight" on the Current's Local Show, backed by a band featuring members of Dragons Power Up! and more:

Music video for "A Hug From a Stranger:"

Performing "Dragons" live at the 7th St. Entry:

The album got some stellar reviews, and while there are a couple of things I would do differently, it was a great launchpad for our future work and still holds up. Our semi-immediate follow-up was the free mixtape "Don't Be Nice," a less serious collection of punchline raps, remixes and live tracks. In that spirit, here's a FREE mix of some random songs of ours:


These songs are cool, but I can't wait for you to hear the new stuff. It's definitely exciting to reunite with a few more years of experience under our belts. More info (including the first single and video) to come. For now, check out this footage of me performing "To Young Leaders" (the first track on our new album) live at Occupy MN:

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

YOU BETTER WEAPONIZE Cover, Tracklist and Release Date

Guante & Big Cats:
01. To Young Leaders
02. Until There’s Nothing Left w/ Toki Wright, Crescent Moon
03. Lightning w/ Chastity Brown
04. Underground Sex Party w/ Kristoff Krane
05. Other w/ Chastity Brown, See More Perspective, Chantz Erolin
06. Fireworks
07. Everything Burns
08. Straight Outta Genosha
09. Break w/ Kristoff Krane
10. A Leap of Faith into a Bottomless Pit
11. The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege w/ Chantz Erolin, Truth Be Told
12. A Pragmatist’s Guide to Revolution
13. Asterisk

The album will be available November 6, election day. The release party will be November 9 at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis. Lots more details, singles, videos and all that coming soon. But mark your calendars.

For now, let me just say this: even in a year filled with great indie-hip hop releases, I have no doubt that this album will stick out. Big Cats is one of the best producers in underground rap, and these songs are like nothing else you're going to hear, locally or not, this year or whenever. Stay tuned.