Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get Familiar: "You Better Weaponize" Guest Artists Spotlight

(CD release show pic by Jon at Reviler; see the whole slideshow here)

I've talked a lot over the past month about our new album (which you can stream and/or purchase here),  but I also like to use my website to promote other acts you should know about if you like me. So I wanted to throw up a post featuring some of the artists we decided to collaborate with. The Twin Cities have one of the best music scenes in the country (especially hip hop), and we were privileged to work with some of our favorite artists on the new project. Here's more information on all of them, plus links to videos, free music and more:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Song Spotlight: "A Pragmatist's Guide to Revolution" + a few post-election thoughts

This is a live video shot and edited by Patrick Pegg (who also did our music video); it was the second-to-last song in a 90-minute set, so I'm a little ragged and sweaty, but there it is. Over the next few months, I'm going to highlight individual songs from the new Guante & Big Cats album and talk about what they mean to me (in no particular order). This one seems appropriate for right now. Here's a link to the album version, which is a little more polished:

Before I talk about it, though, here's another video that's definitely worth watching. A bunch of Twin Cities activists (plus me) got together and filmed this the day before the election, to be released the day after the election, no matter what happened:

I think these two videos complement each other. Even though I've talked, rapped and written at length about how elections are not the only-- nor the best-- way to create change, there is something special about them. Elections are about concrete, achievable goals. You see something you want, you work to get it, and sometimes you win. Activism isn't always like that. Sometimes we're shaping trends that won't play out for decades. Sometimes we're winning victories that feel more abstract. It's one thing to get enough votes to defeat a referendum that would ban same-sex marriage in our state constitution; it's something else to fight for the true, total, sustainable liberation of an entire community.

It's like in poetry: a poem about "racism" as an abstract idea is never going to be as engaging as a poem about a specific, concrete act of racism or resistance and the down-to-earth, human reaction to it. And I think that's why we can mobilize millions of people to elect politicians or pass/beat referenda, but when that following Wednesday rolls around, so many of them disappear.

But rather than whine about it, or feel superior and more-progressive-than-thou about it, I think we need to see this as a challenge. How do we keep people engaged? How do we build a sustainable movement that can challenge our leaders no matter what party they belong to? How can we create systems and frameworks for change in our communities? I'm thinking about this at two levels:

I think organizations can take some of these lessons and apply them to their work. Let's give people concrete goals or tasks to hold on to when they join up. Let's frame the work we do in a media-savvy way, to attract new activists and media attention. Let's continue to build coalitions between organizations and entities who don't always see eye-to-eye on every little thing. I think it's possible to take the campaign-model and use it even when the goal isn't to get people to vote for something (when it's appropriate, of course). Let's put energy and resources into outreach-- it's not enough just to "be right" about an issue. We need principles, but we also need strategy, and we also need tactics; those three things aren't the same.

To use myself as a case study, I'm using this post-election glow to re-commit, kind of New Year's resolution-style. I've never been as much of an activist as I get credit for, but I'm figuring out where whatever talents I have can be of the most use. In 2013, I'll be focusing on media and education, doing a lot of traveling, facilitating workshops on social justice concepts and tying what I do as an artist more explicitly to what I want to do as an activist. I have some big plans in the works around media activism, video and social justice education. I'm excited to make some connections between spoken-word communities and media justice communities-- it's going to be a very busy 2013.

Which brings us back to the song. I wrote this song to counter the current of conspiracy theory rhetoric that has infected so much of political hip hop, but I also wrote it as a direct message to whomever listens to my music-- change is hard, but it's not complicated. Change happens when people organize together, using their individual strengths to create mass movements. We can't lose sight of that. We can't get sucked entirely into electoral politics, or drowned in philosophical debates about ideologies and hypothetical situations. We just need to start working. Of course, self-work and self-education and critical reflection are all important, but the work can't end there. We don't need perfection or heroes, and even the "heroes" we have already are really just regular people with flaws and uncertainties and insecurities just like us. Join an organization. Educate yourself. Dive in. That's really all there is to it.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Guante & Big Cats' YOU BETTER WEAPONIZE Available Now!

1. You can stream/purchase our new album NOW
You can listen to the whole thing at this link, and please buy it if you like it. It’s also on Itunes, Amazon, the Strange Famous store and elsewhere (and you can still get physical copies at shows), but Bandcamp is the best; it has the most artist-friendly profit split. I’ve poured all of my mental, spiritual and artistic energy into this album; I really hope you like it; every purchase means a lot to me personally.

2. Our CD release party is on Friday
Friday, November 9 at Hell’s Kitchen in MPLS, 10pm. Facebook link. If you’re in town, it’s going to be a one-of-a-kind show and we’d love to see you there. It’s 18+, and only $5 if you’re 21+ ($7 if you’re 18-20). Mankwe, Chantz + Julian + 80H20 of Audio Perm and the New Heist b-boy crew will also be performing. If you only come to ONE of my shows this year or any year, this should be this one.

3. A Request for Help, or “What I’m Doing Instead of a Kickstarter”
I don’t want your money (well, I do, but only when you buy the album); what I’m looking for is your social power; this is, incidentally, a big theme of the album. We don’t have a label or a big marketing budget. We’re making music that is beautiful, but also challenging and weird and outside-the-box. If we’re going to have ANY success, it’s going to be through word-of-mouth and independent/social media. If you like progressive, smart, funny, creative art, here are some things you can do to help that don’t cost any money and only a few minutes of your time:
  • Write a review! If you buy the album through Itunes or Amazon, please take a second to leave a review. If you buy it through Bandcamp or in-person, please throw up a Facebook post with why you liked it and link to the album itself.
  • Spread the word! Post our music video or the Bandcamp link on your Tumblr, Facebook wall, personal blog or Twitter. Post/upvote us on Reddit. Play it for your friends in the car. Say something nice; let people know why this stuff is worth checking for. It seems like a little thing, but it makes a huge difference.
  • Book us. If you’re in college, get in touch with me at and we can work through how to bring us there. I have a ton of experience booking shows at colleges and universities and even if you don’t know where to start, I can help.
We hope you like the album. Thanks so much.