Interview: Carnage

Carnage (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight

In the Twin Cities there are few hip-hop artists who truly defy the racial divide that exists there. Few can get down with anyone from the organic, old school hip-hop circles to the hood rappers in North Minneapolis.

Carnage born Terrell Woods is one such an artist. He has worked with an extensive list of Twin Cities and national artists that includes your most ghetto fabulous hood-hop stars to the uptown yuppy types. Carnage even does rock and roll.

I am sure the fact that he grew up on Chicago’s infamous southside has something to do with his drive to go beyond boundaries.

“I lived with my mother for more than half my life. She lost custody of my sisters and I when I was 12. I saw her boyfriend abuse her. This made her turn to alcohol then later drugs,” explains the overly personable Carnage. “I grew up with hope and kept my head on straight. I saw lots of ill shit. Life was hard growing up.”

Because home life was unstable, Carnage learned early to adapt. Carnage’s life was a constant cycle of moving from apartment to apartment, then shelter to shelter. When Carnage was four years old his family moved to St. Paul. But the moving and adjusting didn’t stop there. He moved around through high school. This definitely explains Carnage’s popularity in many circles.

“I grew up with gang-bangers, the REAL ones, who were fresh out of Chicago, I saw people sell and take drugs. My mom was a crackhead for a while, as well as an alcoholic and a prostitute, and so were my aunts. I saw drugs and alcohol ruin many lives.”

Although most people see Carnage as an extremely happy, well-adjusted artist, he has a dark side many of us will never quite grasp. “Wondering where the next meal was gonna come from at times was scary. My mother’s lifestyle caused us to get evicted from three or more apartments and live in shelters, which we also got kicked out of. I was forced to grow up fast, and I was very mature for my age.”

Despite being raised in a children’s shelter, foster homes and a group home during his adolescence, Carnage still came out a champion. Carnage graduated from Bloomington Kennedy High School. After high school he was accepted at Hamline University and earned a degree in psychology in 1997.

Carnage’s music career has been a slow yet steady progression and demonstrates his ability to persevere.

As far as advice for new emcees, Carnage has some. “Quit giving undeserved props. Tell people who need to elevate to do so, don’t be nice cause they are your friends, and quit hating, help others out when you got connections if they are worthy of it,” says Carnage.

Carnage plans to capitalize on this and expects to be releasing 5 different projects this year. A few live albums as well as new projects with Eyedea, Cheap Cologne, and some works with label mates Hecatomb. And finally a solo album, his first full solo album. “I spent all this time, all these years, trying to make a perfect album. And I just realized you can't do that, nothing is perfect. You have to grow with each project.”
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Interview: Toki Wright

Toki Wright (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight

“We get raised by the radio and the television more than our parents. It’s fucked up. And while we sit and play up a lifestyle that is killing us, we get blamed for all the wrongs in society while somebody sits up in an office and collects a bigger check off of it and never gets blamed.” –Toki Wright

Minneapolis emcee, Toki Wright, is bigger than hip-hop. Wright is the President of YO! The Movement, a non-profit, international youth leadership organization based in Minneapolis, MN. Wright also heads up The Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-hop which attracts an international crowd of thousands and is in its sixth year of production. Most recently, Wright has captured headlines representing Midwest hip-hop in war torn regions of Africa.

Armed with his music and his message, Wright has been fighting for people who are “down and out” and as he does his star is quickly rising to the forefront of the contemporary conscious hip-hop movement. Wright’s future is big and bright in spite of his humble beginnings. “I was born and raised in Minnesota. I spent a small amount of time in St. Louis and Chicago. My father moved up from the Robert Taylor housing projects on the Southside Chicago, where my family spent all their lives. He took a big chance,” says Wright, who is well known as the humble gentleman and crusader for the working people.

Wright’s mother introduced him to hip-hop as a child. “Growing up in my house you heard a lot of The Gap Band and Michael Jackson. My mother is a big MJ head,” he laughs. “My mother actually put me on to Hip-Hop. One day she brought home the Fat Boys “Crushin’” tape.” My oldest brother put me up on NWA and Slick Rick. We used to steal his tapes while he was gone. Hip-hop soon took over the house.

As a preteen Wright moved around extensively, making his transition into world class citizen easy. “I used to always say that I had moved 15 times by the time I was 15.” In St. Louis, Wright first stepped to the mic and found his calling, however the world slowly came crashing down around him.

“My parents moved from Chicago to Minnesota to work for a company that eventually laid them off. I was on the street at fourteen. I had to learn how to take care of myself early.”

Today Wright takes care of the community, a decorated community activist and loyal hip-hop supporter, Wright takes his power as an emcee seriously. “We get paid to play ourselves. We get caught up in making music for commercial radio and the next generation thinks that this is the way we need to live our lives. I think people need to respect the pioneers, KMOJ Radio, and especially the North Side of Minneapolis. These are major players that hardly get shown love.”

Wright is currently working on his mix cd called LBHQ 3.0 (Low Budget High Quality). “I am still working on my full length album. That’s why I’m doing the LBHQ 3.0 mix cd, to keep people interested until I finish my full length project.”

LBHQ will be a part of a series that is still top secret. The new album is called “A Different Mirror” which is about looking at yourself through the perspective of others and having to deal with it and “Soul Searching” from my group The C.O.R.E. is an album about trying to find your soul through your music when people have given up on that deeper aspect of making music. “Home” from group APHRILL is about living your life far from the place of your origin and features fellow Twin Cities artists Nomi, and Medium Zach.

“I plan on releasing LBHQ 3.0 in March, then my album “A Different Mirror” in May, The C.O.R.E.’s “Soul Searchin’” will be released in the spring, and APHRILL’s “Home” will come out as soon as we can pay for it.” Wright is also working on The Chosen Few (TCF) crew album. The Chosen Few is one of Minneapolis’ hottest hip-hop groups comprised of DJ Snuggles, Fic, Guardians of Balance, The C.O.R.E., Illuminous 3, King Karnov, Mazta I, Trama,, Reg E Reg, and DJ Fu Manchu.

Wright is also has shows coming up with Saul Williams and Brother Ali. You can also check Wright out hypemanning for Brother Ali’s tour for his new album “The Undisputed Truth.” Pick it up when it comes out. Instant classic.

When Wright is not on the road or performing, you can find him working hard in the studio with a slew of extraordinary musicians and producers including; Benzilla, Reg E Reg, King Karnov, Mr. Len of Dummy Smacks Records/Company Flow, Rock City, and Lazerbeak of Doomtree.

“I don’t think most people really know my work. I get a lot of judgment based on songs that are 3-years-old. I have yet to really let people hear what I’m talking about. I also like to have a party at the shows. No offense but they’re not some ‘neo-soul’ gigs like people try to paint me to be. Most of the people that say that have never even seen or heard me.”

Wright’s advice to new artists is stern. “Play in front of people that don’t like you before you get on stage. Play in front of all Black, White, Asian, Latino, crunk, “neo-soul,” mainstream crowds. Find out what it’s like to get shit on and booed. Correct your mistakes and step your game up. Don’t just listen to your friends. They might just be trying to make you feel good.”

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