2004 Client Roster: Urban Dwellers Fashion

Urban Dwellers (Miami)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight

Fort Lauderdale natives Haj Sanchez, 31, and John Ska One, 28, founded Urban Dwellers in 1990 while Juniors in High School. As kids they were immersed in Hip-Hop culture for fun, they didn’t know that it would become their life’s work. Fourteen years later their merchandise, mainly T-shirts, mix CDs and swanky hats, can be found in stores across the Midwest, as well as on both coasts and all major cities in between.

This month the company shipped its first order overseas to a tiny Hip-Hop store in the Balkans. “We represent the underground world wide. Urban Dwellers is like a group of political artists who promote public awareness by putting out subliminal messages through our work that grab people’s attention and gets them to think about the world we live in,” said Ska One in a recent Pulse interview.

“Everything we do is ingrained in Hip-Hop culture, from our clothing, to our artists, to the social programs we support, it is all about the elements,” said Sanchez. The inherent difficulties of having such a huge vision tied to only a shoestring budget necessitate both partners keep day jobs at a publishing company.

“We work day jobs at Urban Dwellers Publishing Co. where we furnish the clubs down here in Florida with their fliers and brochures,” said Sanchez.These young Hip-Hop entrepreneurs definitely know how to diversify more than just their livelihood. Urban Dwellers is more than just a clothing company. Like many Hip-Hop clothing labels, it’s a way of life for both the producer and the consumer rooted in a Hip-Hop lifestyle that now even transcends musical genres.

If you look at who’s wearing Urban Dwellers clothing you will quickly realize that it appeals to all people who willingly embrace Hip-Hop culture, including punk rockers, skateboarders and cyclists. In this type of diversity, Urban Dwellers has found strength.“We are not trying to satisfy the masses, we are just focusing on those who can see the same vision we see. The brand represents a level of consciousness shared amongst people who listen to hard core (rock) or skate, or surf, or break or listen to Hip-Hop.

Urban Dwellers separate the people who think (like us) and the people who don’t,” said Ska One.“We also represent people breaking boundaries, people can’t look at someone with a Urban Dwellers hat on and stereotype. You can’t say ‘She listens to punk because she has that Urban Dwellers hat on’ because many different people wear our stuff,” said Sanchez. As for all of the logos full of armed men with assault weapons, don’t be afraid until you know what they represent. “Arm yourself with knowledge,” said Sanchez.

The pair admits sometimes deciphering the codified messages can be tricky but promise there is always a deeper message and sometimes you will only learn that by speaking directly with the artist who created it.Respecting their artists’ work as well as their business peers is also important to the two. While striving to constantly put their best foot forward, sometimes they are called to go beyond the call of duty. When Sanchez recently visited the Twin Cities to survey the market, I volunteered to be a guide and I was able to see firsthand the Urban Dwellers business ethic at work.

Upon learning that a local Hip-Hop store was recently robbed, Sanchez made a personal visit to extend his apologies to the owner but also to replenish his shelf free of charge. In today’s cut-throat business world it’s nice to see that some companies, especially a Hip-Hop based businesses, still have old-school values. Urban Dwellers is currently striving toward having more of a presence in the local Twin Cities market and are interested in sponsoring local artists for shows and tours.

Their music branch is also busy creating mix CDs and they are always open to receiving musical submissions. You can purchase Urban Dweller’s merchandise locally at Balance and Mindstate Distribution and you can also purchase merchandise and contact the owners directly at UrbanDwellers.org .

2004 Client Roster: UM & F Fashion

Fashion Article: Underground Music & Fashion
Published in the Pulse of The Twin Cities
By Kandis Knight

Matt Meyers and Jamar Hardy are not your typical business executives. As they approached me in their big, bright orange bomber jackets I realized the dainty table in the cute little coffee shop was probably the wrong setting to select for an interview with 6-foot-plus, 200-lb. Hip-Hop professionals.

Nevertheless, we somehow settled in for the interview about music and fashion. Meyers and Hardy are literally the muscle behind Underground Music and Fashion (UM & F), a local Hip-Hop generation company that has been around since late 2000.

Meyers, aka DJ Squire, is the former host of "Everlasting Beats", a Hip-Hop show on 91.7 FM. Hardy is a former buyer for a major retailer who is now a local high school basketball coach and a metro area realtor. Meyers and Hardy are not the only ones in charge at UM & F. Additional partners include DJ Kamikaze, aka Eric Pugh, who heads up the company's West Coast branch and is the former DJ of Wolfpack One, and James Houston, a retailing industry professional.
The company's founders were in their early 20s when they landed a huge deal to promote Adidas at the Final Four. "We contacted Adidas, and were like ‘we can do street promotions here in the Twin Cities.’ The next thing we knew we were getting like 20 boxes of clothing and promotional materials. It was big for us," said a smiling Meyers.

The company has grown and expanded since, even withstanding the post-9/11 national economic downturn. This week UM & F's first musical product will hit the streets. It’s a 16-track remix CD titled DJ Kamikaze First Strike featuring remixes of some popular Hip-Hop songs alongside some original material.

The only downside of First Strike is that it’s more or less a remix CD featuring national artists, there’s a distinct lack of a local presence on the disc. The music, however, is good and the blends are pretty interesting for those of us who pay attention to aesthetics like that.

"We let Kamikaze have creative freedom on the project because he’s in L.A. and he’s there to tap into that market,” said Meyers. “There wasn’t a lot of local talent represented on this project, but on our next release we will be tapping more into local talent."

In the meantime Kamikaze is busy making waves in L.A. on behalf of UM & F and the Twin Cities in general. First Strike is his new calling card and it it will only help out since Kamikaze is now rubbing elbows with industry A-listers such as Swiss Beatz. Meyers and Hardy remain behind in the Twin Cities, working at getting a store and studio up and running for UM & F before year’s end.

Prior to 9/11, UM & F had investors lined up and planned to open a store in Dinkytown. When those plans fell through, the young entrepreneurs had to put everything on hold until now. "Our new store will focus on our fashion and our music,” said Hardy. “It will be a place where people can gather and we will incorporate a studio also. The store will help us promote our idea of what underground music and fashion is and we’re going to want to be able to make the clothing in house. It will be like a base," said Hardy.

The music production side of the company is actively soliciting material from local emcees to be featured on their follow-up compilation CD (slated to be released in late summer). The company is also interested in signing local emcees to their label as their business expands. "There is no shortage of talent here in the Twin Cities,” said Hardy. “It’s just hard for local emcees to get on here—hopefully our company can help that."

Although it’s difficult for local artists to gain national fame, Meyers and Hardy are proud of recent advancements of Twin Cities Hip-Hop and seek to support the local emcees in any way possible. On a recent visit to L.A. Meyers was shocked to see another Twin Cities Hip-Hop artist making big waves on the West Coast. "All the way down Hollywood to Venice Beach there were Atmosphere signs at every bus stop."

For more information about UM & F, to purchase clothing, buy CDs, submit demos or simply show love and support log on to http://www.umandf.com/

2004 Client Roster: Cinnamon Brown

Cinnamon Fusion for Global Hip-Hop Soul
By Kandis Knight

When East Indian, Asian and Afro – Caribbean cultures meet, the exotic fusion is nothing short of dynamic, enter 26 year-old Amsterdam songbird, Cindy Limon, a.k.a. Cinnamon Brown. This spicy hip-hop/soul singer’s cultural identity is no doubt a beautiful, exotic fusion. Wait until you hear her unique melodies over saucy beats.

“Cinnamon’s music creates a combustion that is so dynamic, many cultures will be fused together under the sound of her music, much like the way the spice, cinnamon, joined people together in the ancient world,” explains her manager, Karl Sutton. “The spice was once valued more precious than gold, so will be her gift to the world.”

Cinnamon’s Myspace mantra reads “I am so focused” and this multi-lingual (English, Surimese, Dutch), multi-talented songstress has proven time and time again that she has what it takes to “explode” out of the box, like the taste of cinnamon explodes in your mouth.

“I think that Cinnamon was 2 years-old when she started singing. By command she would sing and dance. At this age she also sang Indian songs. It was our grandmother who taught her songs by making her watch Bollywood (Indian Hollywood) movies. When she got older she would only sing English songs,” explains her sister, Sharon Blijd -Limon.

At just 8 years-old, while kids in her region were singing Dutch nursery rhymes, Cinnamon was busy writing her own R & B songs and translating them to English so she could bring her talent to the world.

“I never wanted to put myself in a box. I did not want to limit myself by singing exclusively in Dutch. English allows me to reach the world market, I want the entire world to hear what I have to say and I knew that when I was just 8 years-old” smiles the potent diva.

“I have been studying artists like Aretha Franklin, Minnie Ripperton, Lady Saw since I was a kid, I also really admire Faith Evans, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige.”

Much like Mary J. Bilge, Cinnamon Brown is a powerful hip-hop/soul singer with a vocal range that will expand your ears, like the spice does on your lips, all she needs is her own “Puff Daddy” to propel her to the next level. However while she awaits that day, she has been busy recording hip-hop collaborations that already straddle continents as the spice trade did centuries ago.

“When Mary J. Blige released her first single Real Love, Cinnamon had her first real idol. In her bedroom and at school festivals she would sing Mary’s songs,” her sister fondly recalls. “She even performed one song, Sweet Thing, for Boys II Men whom she was introduced to at an after party in Amsterdam when she was real young,” recounts Blijd-Limon.

With all the American influence in her early upbringing, it is no wonder Cinnamon Brown has her eyes firmly planted on the U.S. market and so far, the US market has been showing her love in return. Cinnamon is receiving a great response from her US fans including some globe trotting A-list artists and celebrities who are first introduced to her flavor on foreign shores. Counted among her adoring fans is actress Meagan Good, a big fan, whom Cinnamon mutually admires.

If you have never had a taste of Cinnamon Brown, all of that will change, summer of 2007 when her entire camp will be relocating to Atlanta, GA. There will even be a Youtube channel set up to broadcast her adventures as a young international artist courting the Atlanta music industry.

"I am relocating to Atlanta because the music there really inspires me, not just the music but the scene keeps you motivated because people are constantly on their grind, I look forward to finding work and working with artists like Lloyd , Monica, or T.I. because they inspire me and they sound different from the rest."

Although she will be a new transplant, Cinnamon is no newcomer to the music industry. She has been penning songs for BMG Europe under contract for some time now, however she admits there are roadblocks in Amsterdam when it comes to breaking into the industry.

“We have major companies like EMI and BMG but I want to be released worldwide so I have to make some major noise first,” says Cinnamon, who has been making noise since 1993 when she gave her first live performance.

It was an explosive rendition of Real Love by Mary J Blige that sent shocks through her Dutch high school and knocked down doors for her ever since. Only four years later, the preteen was on national Dutch television singing Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers for a captive national audience of thousands.

Cinnamon kept her career on the fast track and in 1999 she was on a Dutch high school tour with Organized Mastaz. “I was at a radio station and I helped a couple djs out with their show and the radio host asked me to freestyle and they liked me.”

Next thing she knew she was a featured artist on The Social Life Tour. The tours did not stop and performing before crowds of thousands became an addiction. In 2003, Cinnamon toured Europe with the RMXCRW. In 2003, she hosted Innercity (The biggest international dance event on the planet).

“Hosting Innercity 2003 was a great experience, there were hundreds of thousands of people in one place. To be on a stage that huge and to see my face on a huge billboard was an incredible experience. I even had a chance to interview Biz Markie and DJ Kool,” she giggles.

While only in her teens Cinnamon was making major contacts with the music industry and Amsterdam radio, she was also making connections with European scenesters, producers and musicians such as QF, Pimpaclawz, Mr. Probz, Odessah, as well as Dutch rapper SugaCane and many others. Most recently Cinnamon has been laying vocals in the European studio of THEprinceOFbeatz.

With so much promise, ambition, talent, life and business experience, Cinnamon Brown’s unique style, taste and lyrics are destined to make their way to an international audience real soon. “I feel that I am a human being first and an artist second. My music reflects that. I can’t and won’t make a whole album with just party tracks. I want people to know who I am.”

From, Dancehall, Reggae, Afro-Caribean, Hip-Hop, R & B, Alternative, Rock, Pop, the flavor of the new millennium is Cinnamon and she will take hip-hop soul musical fusion to the world market, representing many styles, Cinnamon Brown is the spice of the new world, a true world class citizen, after all who does not like a little cinnamon spice?

Also featured on:

Da Social Life album - Sugacane ft. Cinnamon - Ghetto Star
RMXCRW - " Da Soundtrack "
The Ultimate Urban Invasion
DJ Law's mixtape - First Assignment Mixtape
DJ Vicious mixtape
DJ Waxfiend vol. 4 & 5 - Waxtrax 5
Black Mosart's 4 Da Streetz part 2

Check out Cinnamon's Sonic Bids Page
Add Cinnamon as a friend on her Myspace Page

2004 Client Roster: Detekh

Interview: Detekh (Minneapolis)
by Kandis Knight

The corner of Chicago and Lake Street belongs to Detekh of Supreme Beat Recordings. Detekh or "Tekh", is a veteran of local Hip-Hop. He has recorded nearly every emcee in the Twin Cities. Detekh has an underground buzz as untouchable, whether you are attempting to contact this elusive producer or get on the same level as his production. Along time ago he would answer my telephone calls. Now everything goes through his management.

Kandis: How do you tell the difference between a really good emcee and an "OK" emcee?

Detekh: Some emcees have developed techniques for writing and when they come into the studio and hear a beat they can adjust their lyrics to match. Sometimes an emcee will have prearranged formats that are ready for different types of beats. These emcees are ready to go in less than 15 minutes. Muja Messiah can write a song and then he can automatically change his flow to match a beat right on the spot. Not too many cats can do this but the ones who can are the true masters.

Kandis: So how do you explain this process to new emcees?

Detekh: You can't explain it. It’s like telling someone how to be cool. It should be inside of the emcee naturally. You can go to school for certain things, but if the talent isn’t there you spent four years in college for nothing.

Kandis: Do you encounter emcees that are stuck in a box even when they hear a hot beat?

Detekh: Yes, I think a lot of people don’t fuck with enough stuff. They need to expand and that will help their flows. They need to experience life on Chicago and Lake Street, or visit New York to see how people really grind. Everything starts in the streets, all trends. Some emcees hear a hot beat and freeze up.

Kandis: Who are some of the best local emcees you’ve recorded?

Detekh: Muja Messiah is right under Nas and Jigga. He is just in the wrong environment and market, kind of like a [great] basketball player who comes from the ghetto and can’t overcome his environment and make it [to the NBA]. I have recorded Slug and recently I have been working with Musab. They are both really hot in the booth.

Kandis: So how does an emcee conquer their environment?

Detekh: This is not a game, this is life. No one can just try to be an emcee, this isn’t something you go to school for. You can't just say “I want to be an emcee.” A lot of cats that are rapping do it because it looks fun or they want to meet girls. If you’re not really living this shit, then you probably will never be a hot emcee. A lot of emcees know that they are never going to make it; they’re just playing games and wasting studio time. The hottest beats I make are for the cats I feel are going to go somewhere with my track.

Kandis: How can you tell when an emcee is serious about their career?

Detekh: Out the gate, when they enter the booth. Their attitude tells on them. Some cats hit the mic and are in a whole different zone and they rip it, some cats get in there and play.

Kandis: What is your advice to young aspiring emcees?

Detekh: Just go far at everything that you do. Try to be as creative as possible. Make sure everything you do is joyful and fulfilling. You got to ride off of those little things; they boost you to the next level. Remember the music business is 90 percent business and 10 percent music.

Kandis: What do you think about the evolution of the local Hip-Hop scene?

Detekh: It’s cool that more cats are putting out full albums and a lot of hating has seemed to slow down. Cats are getting Web-Sites, business cards, T-shirts, doing shows that are better planned and I am starting to hear tighter tracks.

Kandis: What is a typical day like for Detekh?

Detekh: It’s a hardworking day, I work all day and don’t get much sleep. I’m an urban entrepreneur trying to make it. I have a lot of things going on. I check my pocket PC every morning and check my e-mails, there are a lot of appointments, meetings and stuff that I have to do everyday.

Kandis: What artists are you known the most for working with?

Detekh: Raw Villa, HAP, Slug, Muja, Musab to name a few…only classics.

From City Pages:

One Nation, Under Ground

Out of Balance: Lars Larson in Hennepin Avenue's premier hip-hop shop

by Chuck Terhark
August 4, 2004

Could it be that, after years of tussling over our stages, radio waves, and speaker boxes, the battle between local rock and hip hop has finally been settled in a downtown Minneapolis storefront? It's definitely possible. Despite its deceptive moniker, Balance, the new Hennepin Avenue hip-hop shop that recently took over the building where Sun's Rock 'N' Roll Items once was, may represent the decisive tipping of the scales in the long and bloody bout over the title of the Twin Cities' favorite music. The sweat and grime of Sun's has been scraped from the walls; the vintage KISS T-shirts, AC/DC posters, and assorted rock 'n' roll bric-a-brac have disappeared; and everything save the store's own support beams has been flushed from the building's bowels in one colossal hip-hop enema. Where musty butt-rock memorabilia once were, there are now sparkling displays of fashions by Zoo York, Triple 5 Soul, Drunken Monkey, and a new local brand called UM&F (which stands for "underground music and fashion"). On the whitewashed walls, someone has painted a series of teary, graffiti-style eyes, as if to ask, If these walls, which have so long sheltered rock monuments, could see, would they be crying?

Okay, probably not. But they'd certainly be eyeing Lars Larson.


Sitting in a cozy little chair in the rear of the store, right in front of a T-shirt display that reads "Money Makin'," Larson kicks back with a hat on his blond head, a grin on his jovial face, and a raspberry blush in his cheeks. "This is the first day we're open--the real grand opening isn't for a couple weeks," the 25-year-old Robbinsdale native explains with a quiet assertiveness. "But it's been okay. We made three sales, and lot of people have walked by and stopped in."

One of Balance's three employees, Larson is the creator of DUNation.com, a plucky local hip-hop site which he updates regularly with breaking news, show listings, MP3s, video feeds of concerts and MC battles, photos of local graffiti, and a lively message board that's visited by nearly every MC and DJ in town--and which is also prone to bouts of endlessly creative (if cringingly homophobic) shit-talking (sample closing signature from a message poster: "True fact--you're wack, with beads in your anus"). As DUNation celebrates its three-year anniversary this week with a concert at the Cabooze, its traffic is peaking, making its dutiful warden a principal soldier in the great hip-hop takeover of Sun's.

Outside of Balance, there isn't really a major cultural tug-of-war going on, at least not musically. While the closing of Sun's is certainly the end of something, it's not the end of rock 'n' roll. Genres aren't like buildings: They don't get renovated, remodeled, or torn down and rebuilt. They tend to evolve. Just ask local rapper Brother Ali, who performed at the Texas indie rock orgy known as South by Southwest this year to find legions of fans singing along to all of his songs. Or ask Minnesota freestyle champ Eyedea, who, in the past three years, went from winning an HBO battle contest to signing with Epitaph, a punk rock record label. The underground just keeps branching out, like trees, or human beings. Like websites.

"It's really amazing how popular DUNation has become," Larson says, noting that the site began as a collaboration with his high school friend, Clayton Chelmo. In the summer of 2001, the duo created Division Underground, a double-edged web community devoted, on Larson's side, to hip hop, and on Chelmo's side, to techno. (This is where DUNation gets its mysterious initials. It is not, as some have ventured, a French pronoun or a reference to Digital Underground, nor is it pronounced "doo.") Larson eventually broke from Chelmo's site, and today he co-owns DUNation with his cousin, John Palm.

Today, the part-time Balance employee is dressed for work: nice slacks, black shoes, and a blue buttoned-down shirt with prominent vertical stripes--a fashion that south Minneapolis producer Dtekh will later describe as "his Kanyes," a reference to rapper Kanye West, whose debut album, The College Dropout, is one of the hottest hip-hop releases of the year. Larson is himself a college dropout, having attended Hennepin Tech and the College of Visual Art in St. Paul before opting to spend more time working on his ever-growing website. "It's all been word-of-mouth," he says. "We've never advertised or anything, and now we're getting 36,000 hits a day. It's insane."

Actually, it makes sense. Larson's cool demeanor never quite gets in the way of his ability to network, and he carries on in the manner of a man who's used to getting what he needs by making sure everyone else gets what they want. That drive to continue the unpaid responsibility of maintaining DUNation is the reason the site has become so successful. As a consequence, Larson sleeps little, he doesn't have a girlfriend (he blames an abundance of hot male friends), and he's awful with names. During the course of the evening, he occasionally forgets my name is Chuck and calls me "Derek," and he later e-mails me messages addressed to "Chris."

"I'm sorry," he says. "I was up till five last night in the studio with Dtekh. We were supposed to record this radio show yesterday, but he didn't call me until 11:00, and even then we couldn't do it because he was driving down Lake Street in his underwear."

Larson has been on the phone all afternoon trying to get a hold of Dtekh, who runs Supreme Beats studio. Tonight, he and Larson will use the studio to pre-record the first installment of Beats and Rhymes, a new weekly hip-hop show featured on the all-local Internet radio site MisplacedMusic.org. As Balance nears closing time, Larson gets restless. He picks up the phone again, and learns that Dtekh is eating dinner with onetime KMOJ DJ Travis "Travitron" Lee.

"You know where Soul City Supper Club is?" Larson asks. "We'll just meet him over there, then go to the studio. Maybe you'll get to meet Kandis."

Kandis Knight writes most of the news and interviews for DUNation and contributes a short news spot to Beats and Rhymes. Larson's also got a hunch that she is the reason Dtekh was driving around in his skivvies last night.

As he makes his way into Supreme Beats, Larson is thinking about the DU message board. He rubs his lips, shakes his head, and sighs, reluctantly admitting that the board's gossip and in-group fighting is one of the reasons his site gets so much traffic.

"I should moderate it more, I guess," he says. "I don't want to censor it--y'know, free speech and stuff--but it's just insanity. They're a bunch of haters. It's like a reality show for the whole scene."

Like any good reality television show, the message board counters its disagreements with a dose of romance. Two babies have already been born as a result of hook-ups made on the board. And the content runs deep: DJ Aaron Money regularly posts essayistic threads with titles like "The Cost of Poverty." But in the end, it's the beef that keeps people reading.

"Everybody reads it," says Larson. "I ran into Brother Ali the other day at Davanni's, and he told me about how [Rhymesayers rapper] Siddiq had called him up just to tell him about a thread."

That's when it strikes me that Larson knows everybody. His website isn't just a resource for the underground; it is the underground. He's gelling an entire scene--which makes it hard to blame him for mixing up a name or two once in a while.

That's why, when he does it again an hour later, I don't hold it against him. "What's up everyone, we got Derek in the house!" shouts Larson into the microphone as he glances over at me. Sitting on a red velvet couch in the production booth at Supreme Beats, I don't remind him that my name is Chuck. Instead, I check the song list that Larson and Dtekh have already laid down. It's a solid hour of local hip hop: Los Nativos, Musab, Traditional Methods. "That's the best album of the year," Dtekh tells me, pointing to the Traditional Methods track. Even off the air, Dtekh speaks like a radio DJ: fast, articulate, and purposeful. When he tells you something, you buy it.

While Dtekh and Larson continue working, I find Kandis Knight sitting by a computer in an adjacent room. A colorful paint job runs up the high walls to the ceiling, and Knight researches her news spot by scouring the DU message board. She looks at some announcements for the local hip-hop festival "Yo! The Movement" and DUNation's birthday party before giggling at a post titled "Unknown Prophets and Big Quarters, July 22." Three pages into the thread, the discussion gets reduced to a verbal sparring match between a local amateur MC named A-lib and Jay Bee, the baritoned co-host of Radio K's The Beat Box. In the post that Knight is reading, A-lib says that his adversary is "whiter than baby powder" and makes highly dubious claims about Jay Bee's sexuality.

"You little twerp," Jay Bee writes. "Anus-stabber. Stop giving me your white friend's celly, queer. Pussy bitch." Knight giggles again as Larson walks up and reads the post. "This is getting out of hand," he says.

But there's no time to read the rest of the message. He has a radio show to record, and after he returns to the mic, it comes off without a hitch. Dtekh is such a hyperactive co-host that the program sounds a little like a B-96 house party without the commercials. And the tracks the two DJs play make for a fine capsule of the local music scene. Listening to the show, it's tempting to believe that with someone like Lars Larson at its helm, local hip hop just might snuff out local rock 'n' roll after all. But I've got my doubts. So does Larson.

"When Sun's closed, they threw away a bunch of their leftover stuff, and people were lined up to dig through the garbage for that shit," he tells me. "People keep coming into Balance thinking it's still Sun's. Three kids came in today looking for Motörhead T-shirts."

He laughs. Maybe he'll carry a couple in the store, he says, just in case the kids come back. There's symbolism for you: Motörhead shirts and Triple 5 Soul under one roof. Maybe there really is some balance in this music scene after all.

2004 Client Roster: Purest Form

Purest Form (Minneapolis)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight

The first time I saw Purest Form (http://www.purestform.com/) perform was at my own event, Tha’ Tunnel this past September. I remember when the group hit the stage a friend approached me and said “They’re really good, are they really from here?” “Yes,” I replied as we bobbed our heads and submerged ourselves into their performance, which was a breath of fresh air to the Twin Cities Hip-Hop community.

Purest Form takes Hip-Hop seriously. Purest Form is a local group that stands out because of their national-level-group focus and commitment (which continually tricks locals into thinking they’re from out of town). Listening to their music, observing their business etiquette, seeing their performance, one can tell Purest Form is serious about their work.

“As Purest Form we’re trying to preserve the Hip-Hop culture from when we were growing up and strive to elevate it. I don’t mean we want to keep it how it was in 1987 and rhyme like Kane (Big Daddy Kane) and Rakim but we want to be influenced by them and take their similar mental states and elevate it with the time lyrically and address issues that are prevalent today. That’s why we call ourselves Purest Form because we are trying to keep that purest form that is coming from the heart of Hip-Hop,” said A-Ron.Purest Form’s first full-length CD, Perfect Balance, was released September 2003 (available at Electric Fetus or online at CD Baby.com) and if there’s one thing these guys represent, it’s just that, a perfect balance of creativity, principle, skill and intellect.

The members of Purest Form, Alibi aka. Alex Leonard, 23, A-Quil aka. Anthony DuBose, 24, Dialek aka Anthony Powe, 24 and A-Ron aka Andy Winger, 22 are all St. Paul Central graduates and currently engage in professions from teaching to Web Site development, photography and, of course, music. These emcees are clean-cut and have a schoolboy image that’s backed by real-life post secondary education, an image befitting a Midwest Hip-Hop group.

With so much going on in their lives, they do struggle to find a perfect balance. “We can’t be as involved in the local scene as much as other groups and I think that’s misunderstood as cocky or elitist but it’s strictly the time factor because we all just graduated from college. We would love to spread ourselves out there but we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin because our major goal is providing quality music no matter how long it takes,” said Dialek, who also is the group’s music producer.

Since the release of Perfect Balance the group has been busy performing around town. To date they have performed six local shows, most recently headlining Try D’s “The Fu!@# Fund Raiser” on November 28 at The Red Sea, featuring an all star lineup of who’s who among local Hip-Hop artists.The members of the group have all paid dues even though many locals consider them a young, new group.

“We viewed ourselves as being old in the local scene because we’ve been doing this since high school, but when we released this album we realized although we’ve been doing this for a long time, we’re young and new to the local scene as compared to many local Hip-Hop artists,” said A-Ron.The group’s debut, long on quality music with no filler, is the kind of album that makes me proud to be a Twin Cities Hip-Hop fan. I could tell from listening to Perfect Balance that The Purest Form would provide an interesting interview and they didn’t disappoint, providing a conversation packed with lots of commentary on the local scene.

“The biggest problem with the local Hip-Hop scene and what I would like to see change is the level of respect for true artistry,” claims Dialek. “It’s almost turning into a comedy show here. To a lot of people, rap and Hip-Hop is entertainment and to other people it’s really a way of expressing what’s going on in their real lives with the intent of inspiring others to reach greatness. I’d like to see more people take pride in their craft regardless of who they’re performing in front of.”

“I’d like to see local Hip-Hop coming from the heart and there should still be a sense that you have to show and prove your skills that was how it was when we were growing up. People should push themselves more so that we can have a local scene where people aren’t trying to be like other places but other places are trying to be like us—because we do have a lot of talent here,” said A-quil.

“People rap around their friends too much here and of course your friends are going to tell you that you are good. I want to see people push themselves more, criticize each other more, constructively you know. I want people to tell me how to get better. I want to see the purest form of Hip-Hop return to the Twin Cities where we’re socially critiquing society and Hip-Hop to make it an art again,” said A-ron.

2004 Client Roster: Out of Bounds

Out of Bounds (Minneapolis)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
By Kandis Knight

I met a zealous Stephen Wayne from local Hip-Hoppers Out of Bounds while hanging out a few weeks ago at Tonic in Uptown. He was a ball of excitment and eager to chat about his group and their album, Hedfonmuzik. Wayne co-produced Hedfonmuzik for Twin Cities Hip-Hop group Out of Bounds.

Although they released their first CD in 2003, Out of Bounds has been performing underground for several years.
I heard of the group from several friends and so I was also excited when Wayne disappeared into the nightclub and came back with a copy of Out of Bound's freshman offering. "It’s electronic Hip-Hop, kinda it's own style," says Wayne, trying to explain the group’s unique sound. Chris Caesar, 27, is the front man for Out of Bounds.
His voice is hard-core and full of passion yet also capable of pulling off more reflective low-key moments. Throughout the course of Hedfonmzik his lyrics charge hard, coming across with an energy rarely seen outside of Red Bull addict circles. As I listened I had to ask, where does he get all of that intensity? The beats and samples complement each other like Hip-Hop set to a sci-fi movie soundtrack or Music Choice Soundscapes if you like that kind of thing. If not, trust me, it’s all good. I chose to listen to the CD while running around the lake so I could focus all of my attention on the lyrics and aesthetics.
Although it’s difficult to decipher all of the lyrics I was thoroughly satisfied with this project. I found myself listening to “Song For A Friend” four times, mesmerized by its rawness. “Wake Up Call” was another standout track. The lyrics on that track are dope, "Your beats are corny, your whole style bores me to death, I slept cause it's done so poorly. . ."
"We recorded on a Roland MC 505 Groove Box and so sometimes we got a cheesy sound," said Wayne. "Eventually we upgraded to an MPC 2000 and recorded into sonar, at a basement studio called Profile Music in St. Paul."Wayne graduated from Music Tech and is also working on his own Drum and Bass/ambient trip-hop album. "So far we have 30 beats finished for the next Out of Bounds Album. It took us four years to complete Hedfonmuzik," said Wayne. From track to track, Hedfonmuzik has a lot to offer, including cameos from Try-D, Josh Johnz, Dessa Darling, Zai and Joe Keith. Instrumentally, Out of Bounds collaborated with the likes of Cheap Cologne, Bill Collins, Anders Sonnenberg and Tom Lewandowski from Wookie Foot.
At the end of the CD comes a proper Twin Cities anthem, “Twin Towns,” featuring the scratches of Cheap Cologne. On this track Caesar gives Twista a run for his money with rapid flows destined to make everyone get up and get loose. Keith Goya, aka KG, 26, is the DJ for Out of Bounds.
While listening to the breaks and scratches you can almost visualize the intense energy it must have taken to achieve the sound Out of Bounds accomplished. If every Twin Cities group had a first CD this good, Minneapolis/St. Paul would be guaranteed to stand out on the national Hip-Hop scene.
So far the group has their CD in all stores that sell consignment and the group has sold thousands of CDs out of their backpacks. Wayne is currently doing the promotions for the group and is trying to launch an on-line radio site that features the music of Out of Bounds, Unification Theory, Medida, Pleasure Pause, Negative One and Josh Johnz to name a few. For more information about Out of Bounds please visit http://www.outofbounds3000.com/ .

Interview: MadSon


By Kandis Knight

The Unknown Prophets, MaDSoN and Big Jess, recently released their latest contribution to Minneap-rap, MaDSoN's Peace Amongst The MaDness, and it’s an extremely timely project.

The CD begins with a poem called “Desiderata” performed by Marigua + Childs. I was impressed because I had found the same poem about two years ago at a thrift store. I liked it so much I retyped it, framed it and hung it in our studio. Although Marigua's voice is a tad on the rough side, it’s the power of the words that truly inspires.

"The intro was the last thing to be completed. I needed an alternative to my original idea for the intro when it fell through. My Dad loves that poem and would always tell us (Unknown Prophets) we should use it on our CD somehow. As I read the words I knew that it was perfect for the intro to Peace Amongst The MaDness," describes MaDSoN, aka Mike Madison.

When Marigua finishes her recital, moaning strings lead the listener into the next track, “Peace Amongst the MaDness.” The song captures a personal struggle between good and evil. Every lyric fits perfectly into this tale of light and dark in a post 9/11 world. "Aye Yo, I'm trying to reach the masses/ but I remain lost here in this cold and frozen sea of blackness/Drowning in this sadness/ I'm just praying that God can help me find some peace amongst the madness/Trying to reach the masses/ But I remain lost here in this cold and frozen sea of blackness/ Drowning in this sadness/ I'm just praying that God can help me find some peace amongst the madness.

"The inspiration for this song came from every experience MaDSoN has had to face in his life. "Every person and event in my life (inspired this song),” he claims. “I also wanted to create an album that would reflect the inner battles we all face within ourselves. In a sense, Good vs. Evil."MaDSoN takes us to the old school in track No. 3.

“Times Like Those” is a track about all of the things old school Hip-Hop and life used to be. "Will we ever live in times like those again?/ If we don't kill our roots we can grow again/ Will we ever live in times like those again?/ The holes in our souls we can still sew and mend/ Will we ever live in times like those again?/ Can we find shelter from all the cold and wind/ Will we ever live in times like those again?/ If we believe in ourselves then I know we can."If that hook doesn't catch you, the hook for track No. 4, called “Impress You,” will. "Joia Senser [the daughter of ex-Vikings player Joe Senser] sang the hook on that song. She has an amazing voice. Her work on the Unknown Prophets’ upcoming Against the Grain album is gonna blow people away," says MaDSoN.

Living up to its ambitious title, Peace Amongst The Madness offers songs that are lyrically rich and positive. "It's difficult at times (being positive) because you see so many negative artists with no content getting all the attention and radio play. Unknown Prophets have always been positive. Jess and I both work with kids and see first hand the effect the music has on the youth today and we feel it's our calling to change that. Our time will come."

“Ten Days Left” is the fifth track, and a prime example of the Prophets’ handling of dark subject matter with positivity. It’s a song about a soldier with 10 days left before going home from the war field—and it’s a party song. Ironically gun shots are heard just before the song ends."Each song is special to me in its own way, but if I had to chose [a favorite song on the album] right now it would be ‘Paradise.’ The instant Big Jess played me the beat I knew I had to have it. From the opera singing to the strings, the beat itself is a masterpiece. The hook was the last thing I wrote to it. I struggled trying to come up with a hook that would be worthy of the beat. One night, I woke up at 3 a.m. out of a dead sleep and had the hook in my head. I sat up, turned on the light and started writing it down."

From listening to Peace Amongst The Madness, I was intrigued by MadSoN's spirituality, and he’s very open to discussing it. "I was born and raised Catholic,” he readily admits. “I owe a lot of my spirituality to my grandma who I believe shaped and guided my faith throughout life. As I got older I felt like my faith was slipping along with the world around me though.

After completing the album and listening to it from start to finish I felt like my faith had strengthened and I was more at peace. I get a peace from the album that I can't quite explain."

Peace Amongst The Madness took this Edison High School graduate nearly six months to complete, although he and Big Jess had the idea to do solo projects since last November.

"With a full-time job, shows, and handling all the management for the Unkown Prophets ourselves, it was hard at times to meet certain deadlines we made for both our albums.  There's so much on my mind. My music's future success, the war, my career, etc. Every day that passes I ask myself "‘What should I have done that I didn't?’ ‘Did I waste another day or opportunity?’"

MaDSoN has soared to heights most don't reach by being himself and remaining true to the game. "I wanna be well known for my passion like Wellstone. I want the listener to feel my soul in each song. I want people to question their actions, their faith, their heart. Most of all, I want people to enjoy each song as much as I do and find peace amongst their own madness.

"Peace Amongst The Madness is available locally at Mindstate, Cheapo, Fifth Element, Electric Fetus and the Connect.Visit The Unknown Prophets’ website for shows, forums, etc.

2004 Client Roster: DJ Stage One

DJ Stage One (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight

As told by the legendary Dj himself.

When I was in Junior High I moved to Minneapolis from Dayton, Ohio. I’ve been back to Ohio, but basically I’ve been living here, Northside! I was first inspired to DJ because my mom and dad had this huge record collection back in the ’70s that I inherited. I grew up listening to everything—funk, jazz, rock—everything.

One day I was watching Beat Street on the late night tip. I was heavy into graffiti at the time (my tag name was Stage One) and I saw my man playing some records and all that so I was like, I could do that. Back in the day everyone had turntables in the house you know? I started grabbing old stuff and putting it together. I did it for the neighborhood back then and it blossomed into gigs.

I was in the clubs DJing when I was 18 even though you were supposed to be 21.A lot of things that have helped me nurture Hip-Hop here although it was hard to obtain certain things. Coming up I remember it being hard. Like you want to see certain Hip-Hop concerts but they wouldn't come here, so all you had was the record. Sometimes you'd have records that didn't have covers so you had to imagine it. It’s hard here for Hip-Hop artists in Minnesota.

Living out here in Minnesota we had to build our own set of standards and rules. I’m proud of the fact that Hip-Hop here started from nothing and now it’s a big thing. We didn't have videos and there was nothing to derive the culture from. It had to be built from scratch, like any other middle America city in the early ’80s.

Back in 1984, the one thing we had was the Hip-Hop Shop with Travitron, Freddie Fresh and DJ Dev Tronic on KMOJ and I got tapes from New York. I'd listen to tapes from radio shows like WBLS and 98.7 KISS with DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout. I did some work on the radio with Smoke and Delite and we had a show called “Strictly Butter” on KFAI back in 1995-1998 or something like that.

Those were formative years because a lot of artists were coming through at a time when the underground scene we now know was just starting to come about. The Rhymesayers were just getting started, they were called the Headshots, and they would come through and get on, Common Sense came through, Def Squad came through, a lot of artists came through. I feel I helped the local Hip-Hop scene.Some of the old school crews I miss, IRM, Truth Maze aka B Fresh, Kel-C, Curt, TLC, I miss all my old grafitti crews, Wild Style Crew, EB, Viper, the Juxtaposition Crew, I miss all of the crews even the ones we didn't get along with because there isn't a Hip-Hop machine like that anymore.

Now it’s a little more Millennium-driven as far as the technology. People are making an album in a day with Protools and people don't need to do graffiti when they can do art on their computers. I miss the old state of mind but I’m not trying to go back. It was more pure and raw because it was harder to get information, now we got the internet and things are easier. I don't want to sound like I’m a purest because I’m not. I’m for change and all of that but you have to admit that the whole way Hip-Hop is perceived now is different than what it was then. Look at fashion, fashion is driving it now it seems.

You don't even got to like Hip-Hop music but you can dress like a b-boy or b-girl. You know instant Hip-Hop, just add water or add the video. All you got to do is watch one video and you got a little game. The other thing that has changed is the fact that the DJ does not get represented in the new era. We got to do it ourselves and we got to be a soloist. Like CB4 when they broke up and it was just a dude by himself, it's corny. It's cool in a sense, it’s just that rap music and DJing are spreading thin between themselves right now versus the ’80s style when it was Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Cash Money and Marvelous.

I got love for everybody here because they show me love. I deal with a lot of record labels, I get records and I’m trying to break records here, locally. The community wants to hear the music but there are not many DJs here supplying what they should be supplying. You hear people saying things like, “I got the new DJ Clue mix tape” or, “I got the new Sickamore” but they don't got the new Micheal Mack, or Disco T, Stage One, or Brother Jules. We are not really nurturing our own homegrown talent as far as the DJing thing.

I’m trying my best to expose people to as much new music as possible instead of only playing the top 40 hits that the radio is playing. I try to be an ambassador to the game when I play music. I try to let labels know that there is a community out here. They know about Atmosphere but they don't know about the others or that there is a fan base for their music. Like Saturday there was a show for an artist named Approach.

I was hip to him months ago, his label sent me the CD and the wax. So I just figured that the underground community knew about him, but no one came. We need to promote a little more and stretch our arms out and network to people in other cities and let people know that we have a community here that would like to hear your music. Something that does bother me is the fact that a lot of record stores are prejudiced against Hip-Hop.

They will stop selling records, or move the records around their stores, or they hire employees who do not know about the music so they are ordering hundreds of Lil' John CDs that never fly off the shelves and then they want to stop selling Hip-Hop all together. We need to strengthen this whole community and everyone needs to do a little more research.I feel like my career is growing, I‘m getting a little busier and making a little more money. It never started out being about the money, but one day someone handed me some money after a gig and then I was just like "I got to get that." It’s nice, I can make money doing what I love.

Being a DJ in Minneapolis is interesting. It’s always something new, it’s never the same atmosphere and that’s what’s fun about it. It’s a challenge every time, going through the crates getting ready for a show. I don't just have a set crate, I can't do a crate and leave it here and come back next Saturday and use the same crate. I’m always in a different mood and it’s fun to go off of who is going to be at a show performing. I'll build my crate off an artist’s character or the type of crowd they draw. I'll just start building. I may bring James Brown one night, then Portishead, sometimes rock, alternative, whatever. I like playing off people's emotions in a club. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they lounge. I can still put people into a state of mind.

Compared to a big city where they want the music now, they want to hear their song, and, if not, they are ready to rush the DJ. Here people know what to expect from you. I dig that.In my free time I’m also interested in activism. I’m trying to help fathers get more rights when it comes to child support and I want to help former prison inmates get their lives back together.

If Hip-Hop didn't influence me to be the person I am I wouldn't be into activism or as sentimental as I am. A lot of people I have dealt with have had a positive effect [on ther personal values] from Hip-Hop. I want to urge DJs to stop playing so much new stuff and start playing more classics because we are forgetting. There is a generation gap starting in 1988 and the story needs to be told. Hip-Hop here emerged in North Minneapolis.

Now it seems like Hip-Hop in Minneapolis is more of an entertainment thing—MTV versus a lifestyle. I urge people to come out and kick it. Everyone is in their own little worlds and their own little chamber. And for the record, I use a Stanton Mixer but I like Vestax Mixers and I’m using the Technique 1200 for life. I check in with http://www.allhiphop.com/ everyday. Also, Freddie Fresh has a book that everyone needs to cop. You can catch up with DJ Stage One at the Dinkytowner every Saturday and at Soul City Supper Club on Wednesdays and at The Red Sea on Thursdays. You can also e-mail Stage One at djstageon@aol.com.

2004 Client Roster: Dj Kool Akiem

by Kandis Knight

As the summer drags on and the city seems lifeless, I thought I’d catch up with someone who moved out of this city for some inspiration. Although the Micranots sadly are no more, we still got mad love for DJ Kool Akiem who is currently in ATL (Atlanta, Georgia).

This one I had to do out of love and respect ‘cause this brotha’ has paid his dues here and he has moved on. I know his thoughts expanded my horizons.

Kandis: What’s playing in your CD player right now?

Akiem: MM Food by MF DOOM. He got some of my favorite cuts on there. “Hold Hot Shit,” love that one.

Kandis: How long did it take to complete The Emperor and The Assassin?

Akiem: It was a long process, I started the pre-production in Brooklyn, then stayed in Minneapolis for a couple weeks to track the vocals then a I did all the post production, arrangement and interludes back in Brooklyn, Pennsylvania and Atlanta. Originally I planned to mix it in New York, but that didn’t work out, so I went to Atlanta to mix. Really I would have liked to mix it in Minneapolis but that wasn’t going to work.

Kandis: How Does The Emperor and The Assassin differ from your other Micranots releases?

Akiem: I think it’s a lot more solid album, everything fits almost like a story. But at the same time there are more singles to choose from, it’s a little less esoteric then other albums.

Kandis: Are you from Minneapolis? If not where are you from?

Akiem: I grew up in San Diego, then my family moved to Minneapolis where I spent my teenage years. So Minneapolis is an important city for me, where I became an adult. Then I moved to Atlanta. I never really felt at home in Minneapolis. There was like a personal tension between myself and the whole city. Not to mention certain people or elements of the city. It was probably just shit I went through as a teenager. Still, it’s cold as hell and dominated by some liberal white culture shit. Things have changed a little. I still hate the MPD for too many reasons, individual pigs, too. So when I left, I felt like I was escaping. I still remember leaving the city limits in a packed up U-haul, like “damn I finally made it out that place.” When I got to Atlanta, even as an outsider I felt more at home. It’s nice and warm, the police didn’t bother me if I didn’t bother them and plenty of black people doing real well. The opposite of Minneapolis. At least that’s what it felt like at the time.

Kandis: How do you feel the city you were raised in affected you?

Akiem: That’s a hard question, DNA, or environment? Besides causing me to hate the snow and cold weather, possibly more than if we stayed in Cali, I think that coming up in Minneapolis has taught me about a particular mode of racism, that special liberal progressive racism that seems to control the city. It’s different than in the South, ATL, where the racism is separatist and disengaging, “I don’t like you, you don’t like me, do you want to do business? Yes. okay fine.”

While in Minneapolis it’s more engaged and complicated “Yes I like you people, of course we should do business, I’m sure you need my help right?” Then, If you’re not white in Minneapolis you get seen as being “other then normal,” like white is regular and anything else is “different.”

You go to other cities like NY and that feeling is hardly there, white isn’t the default. The “flesh” colored crayon isn’t necessarily pink other places. Then you have this thing where too many black people in one place is cause for alarm, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing, they could be campaigning for Bush and white people will still be all spooked (scared).

I still don’t get over the strangeness of being in a mall with nothing but black people, shopping, running all the stores, and what not. But then you have a white family, kids and everything come in and shop like nothing’s wrong. You know god-damned well they were not raised in Minneapolis, because they would have been running out the place and calling the police.

Kandis: Now since you’ve left, what are your hopes for the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Scene?

Akiem: Honestly I’m not too concerned with the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Scene, except for its relevance to my good friends. I mean, I’ve started to focus more on personal relations with people, rather than scenes. People outlast scenes and even movements these days.

Kandis: Why did the Micranots break up? Akiem: That would be a riddle, wrapped in a question, locked inside an enigma so to speak. I think it was more of one person quitting rather then a breakup. If I tried to answer why, I would invariably be incorrect in whatever answer I give. I have my interpretation, but I will leave that be. It’s just kind of a shame, and somewhat laughable to see a crew disintegrate on the official release date.

Kandis: Are you still down with RSE?

Akiem: I’m still down with RSE and I left Minneapolis like ten years ago, it’s too long ago to be missed. I don’t feel “home sick” or anything. ATL or even Brooklyn is more my home now. You know RSE ain’t only Minneapolis anymore, we got crews from other cities on RSE now.

Kandis: Were there any life-changing events for you in 2003?

Akiem: Probably going on the Seven’s Travels tour. I’ve toured before, but not 60 cities. The main skill I acquired from that was being able to get on the mic. I did all the back up vocals for the show, not something I ever did.

Kandis: What were your most memorable shows in the last year? What shows are you looking forward to in the immediate future?

Akiem: The most memorable was the very last Micranots show at the SXSW in Austin, Tex. last March. Even if fools weren’t even speaking [to each other within the group] we pulled off a really good performance for professional reasons. I played with Musab and MF DOOM that night. I’ve done some more shows with Musab, like opening for Ghostface. And I also went with DOOM on the Talib Kweli tour around the country. And I should be with DOOM on the “MM Food” tour with RSE.

Kandis: Do you have any shows booked? What are your plans for the summer 2004?

Akiem: I was going to go in the “And 1” basketball tour for Scion cars, but they ended up booking someone cheaper. Someone observed that they just wanted a DJ at their booth for visual reasons rather then for the commercial set I was going to give them. Shit, I would rather stay away from that corporate stuff anyway, but I do have to put money in my pocket still. So for the summer I will be taking care of a lot of family things, traveling and probably make it back up there soon.

Kandis: What do you think you have learned about the business that you’d wish others knew?

Akiem: That even small independent labels will try to fuck you over just like the majors. Its all a game.

Kandis: Who are some of your favorite national Hip-Hop artists and how have they influenced you?

Akiem: Marley, Premo, and the RZA. Marley for blending loops and song structure with scratches and shit. Premier for chopping shit up real good and rearranging shit. And the RZA for bringing out that rugged off beat shit, cutting tracks on and off in ill places.

Kandis: Any advice for Twin Cities artists?

Akiem: Not really specifically to the TC, but I’ve got a lot of advice. It’s more specific, and less general, you know, there’s no magic route into the music industry. I wont say “Hip-Hop industry.” Hip-Hop is a culture.

Kandis: What did you hope to achieve by moving out of the Twin Cities?

Akiem: I achieved them a long time ago, escape, renewal and building. For more information about our beloved DJ Kool Akiem, please visit his official website.

2004 Client Roster: Lyrasis

Interview: Lyrasis (Minneapolis)
by Kandis Knight

Depending upon how diverse your Hip-Hop taste is, or how long you’ve been kicking it around the local Hip-Hop scene, you may remember two local females going by the name of Lyrasis and Link (collectively called Double L) from back in the day. I recently caught up with Lyricist a.k.a. Tracie Barber, who is now solo and poised to drop her new album (currently untitled) sometime this year. We discussed her former career as the first lady of Clientele Records (formerly home to Lil’ Buddy) and the new direction her career is taking as she prepares for her “come-back.”

Kandis: Where were you born?

Lyrasis: I grew up on the southside of Chicago.

Kandis: When did you start rhyming?

Lyrasis: I was out when Salt ‘n’ Peppa were out.

Kandis: That’s all you ever need to say! Nuff said. Who are some of your music industry influences?

Lyrasis: I would say Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah. Because they’re not just artists, they branched out into other areas of the Hip-Hop business. They’re multitalented. I would want to follow their path into acting and producing. I co-produced some of the music on my new album.

Kandis: Did you go to college?

Lyrasis: Yes, I went to business school in Chicago. I got a two-year certificate. Kandis: Tell readers about your career, the highs and lows.

Lyrasis: I’ve pretty much done it all [in the Twin Cities Hip-Hop scene]. I’ve opened up for Jay Z, MJG, Twista, All For One, Jodeci. On the high end of my career, I can say I have done a lot of performing here and I have learned how to work the crowd. On the low end, I was signed to Clientele Records and some things went on and I was released from my contract.

Kandis: How long were you with Clientele?

Lyrasis: For two years and we were released from the label about two years ago due to the difficulties. Our album was next in line to drop. [Unfortunately], it was never released.

Kandis: You mean the Lil’ Buddy situation?

Lyrasis: Yes, but it was still a good experience. We got to shoot a video in New York that actually was playing on BET. It was a very good experience I didn’t know it took that long to shoot a video. It took almost like 24 hours [of shooting to complete]. By the time it came on BET I was like, “I don’t even want to see it.”

Kandis: So what’s up with Link?

Lyrasis: She’s still my girl but she decided Minnesota was not for her and she moved off to Detroit and St. Louis. She’s also getting back into the studio. Hopefully we might do a reunion project.

Kandis: Even though you’ve been doing your thing for a long time locally this forthcoming album is your debut solo album, right?

Lyrasis: Yes. I was on the Vibe Compilation and we recorded with Sounds of Blackness in 1999. We had singles out getting air play on the radio, our debut project, however, was never released because of the trouble at the label. So I’m starting fresh, new material, new team, new producers. I went through a lot but everything made me a stronger individual.

Kandis: What are your goals?

Lyrasis: Everyone says you can’t blow up or make it out of Minnesota. A lot of people try to establish themselves here and then they move out of town thinking that they can do better elsewhere. I want to prove them wrong by getting organizations to work together and look out for local artists. There is a lot of talent here. All the artists need is a solid platform. I have a strong relationship with KMOJ and B96 and I think they really have a forum to get local music some exposure.

Kandis: Why do you feel it’s so difficult for females to make it in Hip-Hop?

Lyrasis: I think a lot of it has to do with males not seeing females as being “hard” enough. There are some females that come hard, but it’s hard for females to get on because men run most of the labels. Big ups to Queen Latifah. It’s a male dominated industry, all the guys are putting their buddies from college and high school on. It’s hard for a female to get heard.

Kandis: Describe your style?

Lyrasis: I don’t put myself into any categories, however, people say I fall somewhere in the Eve and Foxxy Brown category. Kandis: That’s a dang good category to be in. (laughs).
Lyrasis: I love them both, Foxxy please come back.

Kandis: Who would you like to collaborate with?

Lyrasis: I love Kanye West and we’re from the same hometown. Also Twista, I know him personally.

Kandis: Didn’t Twista used to hang out in Minnesota in addition to doing shows here before he blew up?

Lyrasis: Yes. He’s also doing some work with Crucial Conflict—they would all come back and forth up here doing work. I met Twista when we opened up for him about two years back before he signed to Rocafella. I used to see him at The Regal in Chicago when he would perform there.

Kandis: What label are you on now?

Lyrasis: There are a couple deals on the table. Nothing is finalized but everyone will hear about it.

Kandis: Which producers are you working with?

Lyrasis: I’m working with Flinch Productions and we have a clique called Ill Saga.

Kandis: How many tracks will be on your new album?

Lyrasis: We have eight tracks done and we are shooting for 14.Kandis: What’s your favorite track so far?

Lyrasis: It’s a track called “Kitty Kat.” It’s a feisty little song.Kandis: Meeeeoooowwww. (laughs). I guess that’s the proper ending to an interview with one of The Twin Cities more established female emcees.

Interview: T. Hud

T-Hud (Minneapolis)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
Take a listenby Kandis Knight

Many of us only know one side of Troy Hudson and that is as a basketball player for The Minnesota Timberwolves. I recently sat down with Mr. Hudson in hopes of learning as much as I could about his other side, the side that is set to debut in July 2004 when he will be releasing his first album, The Stress of Both Worlds. Sure we talked a little basketball (our interview took place in the midst of the T-Wolves playoff drive on May 20), however, due to his ankle injury and the excitement this superstar had about his album we dove head first into the business of his music business.

Kandis: So what was the highlight of the game for you last night [the T-Wolves game No. 7 Western Conference Semi-Final victory over the Sacramento Kings]?

Troy Hudson: The highlight of the game, we were up by four points the game was going back and forth. We were making a run and KG hits the three pointer over two people, puts us up by seven. I think that was when the momentum of the game changed. It gave us an edge.

Kandis: You’re an extremely driven person, what was your childhood like?

Hudson: Poverty, but not to the point where I couldn’t eat. I’m not going to say I had a great upbringing but my family was always behind me. My mom was always there, my grandmother. I had the things I needed, not the things I wanted. I didn’t have as much as a lot of kids had. That’s why I worked so hard to get them out of the projects as well as myself. Everything wasn’t always easy.

Kandis: What lessons have you learned from your ankle injury?

Hudson: I learned that one day it can be here and the next day it can be gone. When you’re coming up coaches always tell you to get your education because you never know when you could break your leg and never play again and that never happened to me until now. My ankle is healing now but it is still not a guarantee that it’s going to heal completely. The doctors say I will be fine, but it’s all up to God in the end. You just learn to take advantage of the blessings and the opportunities that God gives you and always look forward to seeing each day. With this ankle injury I wake up every day and I want to play in the next game [but I can’t] and it’s tough. You learn that on a day to day basis when you’re healthy you take a lot of things for granted.

Kandis: What were your thoughts when KG was elbowed [referring to the flagrant foul by Sacramento’s Anthony Peeler, a former Timberwolves player for six seasons, in game 6]?

Hudson: What was I thinking? Well I had just watched the Roy Jones fight the night before so I was kinda impressed that KG didn’t go down. He has a stronger jaw then Roy Jones but I thought that would really fire KG up. He’s the type of guy that gets fired up off of stuff like that. I really thought we had a stronger chance of winning that game, I thought he was going to come out and hit like 40 points in the next quarter.

Kandis: What was the overall mental journey like finishing this CD? I know it takes a lot out of an artist to put out that much creativity.

Hudson: It takes a lot out of you, a lot of time a lot of effort. You know finishing the album was great for me because you might do 60 or 70 tracks and you have your album completed until you turn on BET and you see a song and you’re like, “Man, I need a song with that type of feel on my album!” So you go back to the studio and try to create a song with that type of feel. It takes awhile until you’re satisfied with your album. It’s a relief that I have it all done.

Kandis: Are all of the tracks complete, mixed and mastered?

Hudson: They’re all complete besides the two tracks left that need to be mastered. I’m saying that’s it right now, I don’t want to listen to another track. You keep getting tracks from producers and you listen to them and you start thinking, “Man this would be hot on my album!” I don’t want to listen to any more tracks I want to be satisfied with the album.

Kandis: How many tracks are there?Hudson: There are 18.Verb: What type of feedback did you receive when you initially told people that you wanted to put out an album?

Hudson: What was their feedback? Their feedback was “Uh do you think you can be successful? Kobe tried it, Shaq tried it, a lot of athletes tried it.” All that feedback did was fuel me. That fueled me to the point where I was like I’m gonna prove them wrong. I’m going to prove that an athlete can do more than one thing if he has the love for something, and I have the love for music. That is what I set out to do was prove people wrong and at the same time prove to myself that I can make a successful album, you know, make something that sounds real good.

Kandis: What label are you signed to?

Hudson: I have my own independent label, NuttyBoyz Entertainment, a label that I started because I didn’t want to be in a long contract where they are taking all my money out of my pockets. I had the money and the finances to do it myself, that’s the way I wanted to do it, you know, so I could reap the benefits.

Kandis: What company will distribute your album?

Hudson: A group called BCB out of Houston, Texas, an affiliate of FYE. I’ll have a bunch of stores that will be distributing my album, they gave me a great deal. Like I said, I want to benefit from the hard work that I put into this album.

Kandis: When is the release date set for?

Hudson: July 2004 and the album is called The Stress of Both Worlds.

Kandis: Do you know how many units will be released?

Hudson: I haven’t got to that point yet but I am definitely planning a regional strategy as well as promotion starting with the Midwest area. I feel it is the type of music that will catch on and spread across the country and world. It will catch on in the Midwest region first.

Kandis: How long did the album take to complete?

Hudson: It took probably six months. It took that long because I’m a writer and a performer, not a producer or engineer. I had to book studio time and I had to wait for people to mix my CD. If it was up to me it would have been finished in a month because that is how hard I work. I can write a song in like an hour. I go in, I write the song

Kandis: In addition to Twista and Crucial Conflict do you have any other collaboration on the CD?

Hudson: Yes I worked with Devin the Dude from Rap-A-Lot who has done things with Dr. Dre’ and Jay Z. He is one of those artists they call up for a certain type of song. I have a song with Bizzy Bone from Bone Thugs in Harmony, he’s a great artist. I did songs with my artists, Mounique (Philadelphia) and KK (Milwaukee).

Kandis: What’s your favorite track on the album?

Hudson: That’s tough. I can’t really narrow it down to one because I have so much versatility on the album. I have some crunk songs that are really good down South. If I’m riding around and I really want to be in that mood I can do that. I have love songs for the females because I really enjoy that type of music. I have some really serious songs that deal with some serious subjects, it depends on what mood I want to be in.

Kandis: What song will you release first?Hudson: “Killanoiz,” because I’m from Illinois. I’m from Southern Illinois, Carbondale, about five hours south of Chicago. Crucial Conflict, Twista and Belo from Do or Die are on that track. Those are three of the top Illinois acts, and I wanted to put them on it to create an anthem for Illinois.

Kandis: Are there plans being drawn up for a CD release party?

Hudson: Yes we will definitely have one here. We will probably have three parties, one in Illinois.

Kandis: Which producers have you worked with? Hudson: S. Francis, he’s out of Philadelphia and he’s done work for Beanie Segal, State Property. He’s done work with Jigga. I have an in-house producer named Baco, he’s done stuff with Public Announcement and a lot of guys from Chicago. A guy from Minneapolis named Benobi. Naki, The Beat man, he had the evening slot on WGCI radio as well as production.

Kandis: How did you meet Twista?

Hudson: Mounique, one of my artists, did a nation-wide song with Do or Die in 1997 called “Can You Make it Hot Like This?” She had a video to it and the video did well, now she’s signed to my label. She’s originally from Philly but she lived in Chicago for 10 years and she was in the Chicago music scene and she knew Do or Die so we got Belo from Do or Die to come do the track first. Belo knew Crucial Conflict, they came down and showed love. Crucial Conflict knew Twista and they told Twista “Get over here it’s hot!” He came down and he showed love and it was just a blessing that all them guys showed love when they really didn’t have to.

Kandis: What do you hope people learn about you from your music?

Hudson: That it is serious. It is not a hobby. I spend a lot of time doing it. I can really flow. I really put thought into my music. I am a creator. I want people to know that I am a creator. I want people to know that they can come to me and be like “Hey we need a hot hook or we need a hot 16.” This is serious, this is not just a hobby because I’m in the NBA and I got a lot of money to waste, cause I don’t. I want people to know that I am really pursuing a dream, my music.

Kandis: What other types of music do you listen to?

Hudson: I listen to R & B, rock, gospel. My favorite is Blues. I like B.B. King, Bobby Bluebland, Tyrone Davis. I’m real old-fashioned. I don’t listen to new school R & B, I like Luther, Teddy P., Levert. That’s the type of music I listen to cause I have like an old soul.

Kandis: What CD are you bumping in your Range right now?

Hudson: Um mine. Mine. Naw, I might have something like some R. Kelly, some Tupac, some Scarface. I might get criticized later on if I don’t say Jigga. I like all music but if I’m really going to sit down and want to think and want to really listen to some music, I’ll throw in some Tupac. I’ll put on the mix tape and let it ride.

Kandis: Where do you hope to be in five years?

Hudson: A couple platinum albums of my own, platinum albums of the other artists on my label. I want to have a label that doesn’t only consist of rap and R & B, I want a label that has every genre represented. I want to be behind a desk making decisions as CEO, I want to go on tour and make music also, but I also want to be making decisions.

Kandis: Have you worked with any other artists from Minneapolis?

Hudson: I worked with a guy named Jabba, he does Jamaican music, a girl by the name of Timotha Lanae, she’s real jazzy and soulful, and the producer Benobi.

Kandis: Do you know any other professional athletes who are working on albums?

Hudson: I don’t know any that are doing albums but I know a lot of them are really into Hip-Hop. This is a Hip-Hop generation, these guys grew up with Hip-Hop. A lot of the guys coming in now are really talented when it comes to Hip-Hop. I want to be the first person to really kick that door down.

Kandis: What city do you represent most?

Hudson: Illinois. I’m not from Chi-town but I do rep the Chi because it’s part of Illinois. I grew up listening to Do or Die, Crucial Conflict and Twista you know? Chi town is like a second home.

Kandis: Do you battle rap?

Hudson: No, I don’t battle rap. Actually a couple people and me had a discussion about this yesterday. It is great if you can battle rap but the songwriters who can make a hit song can make the money. There are a lot of battle rappers who are real good, they can eat you up, but when it comes to writing a hit song, they can’t do it.

Kandis: Do you have a video completed?

Hudson: I’m working on the storyboard right now for a video for my song “Killanoiz.” I want to be the one who directs my video. I think I have the talent and ability to do everything. If you want to be the head honcho you got to know how to do everything. If it was up to me I would make a video for all 18 tracks.

Kandis: In what ways do you feel your music is groundbreaking?

Hudson: First of all, I’m a professional basketball player so I’m going to bring it like no other. It’s going to be different, Shaq brought it and he went two times platinum, Allen Iverson brought it but it was never released. I think when people hear this they are going to be like, woah, finally a guy who plays sports is bringing it like he is really from the block.

Kandis: How would you describe your style?

Hudson: It changes from track to track. I have let people hear it from outside of my clique and a lot of people love it. Most people don’t know it’s me from track to track because it changes so much.

Kandis: Do you have a website?Hudson: http://www.nuttyboyz.com/ it should be up by the time people read this. You can click on there and learn more about me as a person, a basketball player, a rap artist, the CEO of a label, clothing line all types of things.

Kandis: What’s the clothing line called?

Hudson: I don’t know yet but once people read this it should be up and running. I have so many ideas for a clothing line, I just need to narrow it down to one.

Kandis: What’s your advice to young people interested in careers in the NBA and in Hip-Hop?

Hudson: Keep your dreams alive. Continue to work hard and don’t listen to people who tell you what you can’t do. I came from a small town and I was the first person in my town to ever make it to a professional sport. I was always told “Man, nobody has ever made it out of here.” Cause they had never seen that but I always knew I would make it. I worked hard and I never took no for an answer.

Kandis: What’s a lesson about the Hip-Hop business you wish you would have learned sooner?

Hudson: There are always things you wish you would have learned sooner. I’m still learning, I’m still going to make a lot of mistakes. I’m not going to look back on my mistakes and say I wish I wouldn’t of did that because if you didn’t make a mistake you wouldn’t have learned a lesson. There are always going to be things you can learn from. I’m just learning each step at a time. You never know when you are going to make the wrong decisions. I remember when I first came out I was pressing up posters and doing all types of things months before I knew when my album was going to be released. Not knowing that people are going to forget about that before the album was finally released. I learned lessons like that but you are always going to learn more as you go on.

2004 Client Roster: Contac

Contac (Minneapolis)
by Kandis Knight

“I don’t talk about no guns. You’ll never hear me saying I’ll shoot ya. I don’t talk about no dope slanging. I don’t got no keys. I don’t got no homies coming in from Guatemala. I don’t talk about none of that. I’m mostly a party oriented type of cat, I talk about a lot of kicking it,” said Contac, Minneapolis’ most nationally recognized “crunk-tified” emcee.

His style is definitely for those who love to party and get “crunk-alated” and I am sure we all have it in us from time to time to just scream out “Eeyeaya!”

“I’m still from the hood, you can’t take that from me,” says Contac, obviously already used to defending his style of music. “To me it’s not about being hard, it’s about being thorough and real with yours. I keep mines moving, I don’t judge people. Y’all might not like me telling a girl to shake her ass or telling the homies to hit that and pass it, you might not like the whole party thing, but everybody parties. I’m very open-minded from backpack rap to whatever, I did all of that.”

Contac was raised in Minneapolis, where he was break dancing in the streets at 4 years old. “I’ve been into Hip-Hop music since I was 4 or 5,” he claims. “I remember growing up on the Northside [Minneapolis]. You know what I’m saying? Break dancing in the hood, back when ‘Breakin’ was out and ‘Beatstreet’ was in. Back then they had the Minneapolis Body Breakers up here.”

Growing up in North Minneapolis was rough, but Contac had a support system and Hip-Hop became his outlet. “Moving in with my dad was something that really changed my life,” admits Contac. “I was 16 at the time and this was like after I got kicked out of Job Corp. I always had my dad in my life, I was fortunate to have a dad and a stepdad growing up. At the time I was experiencing a lot of grown-up things about life and the streets, just coming into being a young man. My dad was there to teach me a whole lot about life, the streets and getting an education. He was the main one that was always pushing me to finish school no matter what I really wanted to do with music or sports.”

Contac started out in Hip-Hop by freestyling around town. At 17 he got serious with his craft and began to record songs. “In 1999, I dropped a single called ‘I Can’t Talk.’ I used to be down with Cue Recording Studios over on 46th and Chicago. It was like a technical college learning experience about the music industry and everything. I did a lot of music over there. After that whole situation [ended], I was like real frustrated. I had enough hands-on experience in the studio to just say I’m going to go ahead and do my own beats. I came up with this song called ‘I Can’t Talk’ which proved to be an eye opener for a lot of people about me.”

Contac’s first solo project, What Dat’ Boy Name? released in 2001, was immediately followed up by a compilation CD. “In 2002, I released a compilation called Mayhemm with my partner Joe Thoven of Ground Control Records. My friend DBK did the beats for that album and some singing.” (DBK is currently in Atlanta recording with Goodie Mob).

It wasn’t until 2002, however, that Contac began to see big things happen with his career. “In 2002, I signed a one-album deal with Jesse Mendoza and Wildside Records based out of Minnesota. They gave me a budget, a pretty nice sized budget, to make things happen.”

With a new label backing him, Contac began work on his album Eeyeahya which was slated to be released in 2003. He has recorded 30 songs for the album and 15 made the final cut. “My new album, Eeyeaya (It has three syllables), is being mastered right now, and hopefully it will be released before June,” claims Contac. “I’m dealing with a couple extra-curricular issues with this album. Label issues but I won’t get too in depth on that. It’s all good, all I’m going to say is certain people need to handle their business, I handled mine. I am working at getting everything pressed up at once, the posters, CD, vinyl, T-shirts by summer.”

Contac’s Eeyeaya CD release party is planned for summer 2004 and promises to be big since the project has been delayed for over a year. “I want to try to bring a national group to town for the release party. I want it bigger and better than the average CD release party.”

When he says national he means it. “As far as getting up with the national acts, you know, money talks to a lot of them,” admits Contac. “I had that kind of backing and so they gave me the time of day just to do something with me. I had the budget, had the right people making the calls and connecting with the right people.”

Last year, Wildside paid Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boys an undisclosed amount of money to record with Contac at their studio.

“We caught up with them (Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boys) after the Ashanti, Snoop Dogg and Next concert at Xcel Energy. The label had been on the phone and the internet with them for about a week before they came up here and they negotiated a deal so that they could come to our studio after the concert and do something with me, and everything panned out, but the whole studio experience was it. It was just like a big ole’ party. The Eastside Boys are real cool. They are real down to earth. Lil’ Jon he’s the out front guy. He’s cool but the Eastside Boys kept it real cool.”
When reminiscing about the experience, Contac is frank in describing the emotions he encountered upon meeting some of his Hip-Hop idols. “Just the experience was really overwhelming, cause you know coming from the Northside, coming from where I’m at and the next thing I know I’m recording with these guys who you actually see on videos and making big things happen. Their albums are going platinum, it was way overwhelming. I woke up the next morning, first thing I thought was, ‘I got a song with Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boys.’”

The deal with Wildside also had Contac rubbing elbows with the Dogg Pound. “I also got Kurupt on my album. I went to California last year. He did four songs with me. Me and him kicked it the whole day. I did a song with him for his project. He is real. At the time he was dealing with the Death Row situation and he went back and signed with them, he was talking about how Snoop ain’t cool with them and all. I talked to him more about getting movie roles. How he went to these companies pitching high bids for movies. He worked on three films that came out last year. That situation was cool, it wasn’t rushed. I was able to relax, sit back and absorb everything.”

As for the future, Contac has set his goals high, and his experience networking with national recording artists will definitely help him go a long way. “I am trying to be on 106th and Park, I’m trying to have my wife and my two kids straight, she want to open a business, she can do that no problem, my son’s college funds, all of that. I know as far as this music goes in order for me to do that I got to come out commercial. That is one thing about these national emcees, they do less than one hour of studio work and leave out of there with all that money. Kurupt did his for five thousand dollars. The work he did on the song he got paid for took less than an hour. He came in, burned a song, wrote to it for 20 minutes, a half hour, went in there, laid his shit, boom. That is good arithmetic. I can’t wait to get on that status. Five thousand is not a lot of money, but if I can make five thousand dollars doing something I love, than everything is great.”

With all the excitement of 2003 behind him, Contac is now free to focus on all of the work he has to do in 2004. “As far as distribution, Wildside Records are negotiating all of that for me. If they can’t get the right distribution we will drop it anyway while we are shopping for the right distribution deal. I always feel that it doesn’t hurt you to go ahead and drop it, if a label wants to come and put a bigger budget behind it you can always re-master it or redo the whole thing.”

Contac is outspoken when it comes to his thoughts on what can enrich the local Hip-Hop scene. “The local Hip-Hop scene is segregated,” he claims. “Being from here, a lot of people are stubborn. People use that term ‘hating’ but at the same time, how can you hate on someone when they’re trying to do the same thing as you? My whole philosophy is that people need to be more open-minded and realize that there are a whole lot of different vibes of music and backgrounds just in Minnesota in general. Imagine if Muja had his own following, I got mine,
Rhymesayers had theirs, Dead End had theirs and so on and so on and we chose to put on shows and put out projects together?"

We don’t got to do everything together but we got to break that barrier. All the other cities did it. That’s why they’re blowing up. That’s the bottom line—ain’t no way around it. If we started reaching out to each other and stopped talking drunk talk to each other out in the club, ‘Yeah I’m going to call you,’ (mockingly) and then you wake up the next day and you never make the call. Then you see that same person four months later and you do the same thing.

Next thing you know is four years went by. Me personally, I want to do a track with everybody in this town. I think there are a lot of cats who I know my style would complement and vice versa.”

Contac performs Fri., Apr. 23, at the Sabathani Community Center. 310 East 38th St., Mpls. Call 612-827-5981 for more info.

You can find out more about Contac on his record label’s official website http://www.wildsiderecords.us/ or by contacting Contac via e-mail at lazyeyeinc@yahoo.com

Interview: Eyedea & Abilities

Eyedea & Abilities (Minneapolis)
Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight

After playing with my cassette recorder for two minutes, a fidgety, pretour (50 cities) Eyedea and Abilities settled into the groove for our interview. The emcee, Eyedea, was very reflective and attentive to each question. Abilities, the DJ, provided a stark contrast—preferring to play his NBA Live videogame while chilling out with a cold Rolling Rock. Throughout the course of our hour-long interview Abilities alternated between being preoccupied and engaged, but was always full of humor.

Kandis: So you two work together a lot, what are your zodiac signs?

Eyedea: We’re both Scorpios.

The interview is off to a great start.

Kandis: Interesting, how does that come into play?

Eyedea: (Deepens his voice) From what I can tell we’re both just really tough (laughs).

Kandis: OK, do you guys live together?

(They both look at each other and emphatically respond “No!” in unison.)

Eyedea: (Trying to sound serious) We don’t like each other. (Everyone laughs)

Kandis: Ok, um....what kind of girls do you like?

Eyedea: I like all kinds of girls.

Abilities: I just like my girlfriend.

Eyedea: I like a girl who’s smart, they have to be able to grasp witty sarcasm.

Kandis: Let's change the subject, what stresses you guys out?

Eyedea: The stress that we always feel is trying to continue advancing with our music. That’s our plight, it’s ingrained in our personalities. We feel like we’re trying to race the world of music itself—just trying to create the best music, and as soon as we get done with one piece we’re trying to figure out how to top it. The technical stuff is easy to deal with, it’s just supplemental to the plight—it’s not a real thing, it’s just background to what we’re really trying to do.

Kandis: You guys are Radiohead fans. Does their music and the way it’s evolved influence you?

Eyedea: They exemplify true musicianship. They’re always growing and expanding. I think Outkast is the same way. I think Radiohead and Outkast are the two modern popular groups who you can actually say that about. We take inspiration from everywhere. We’re inspired by groups who always try to change and get better.

Kandis: What are your favorite songs on E &A (the groups newest album)?
Abilities: “Reintroducing,” “Now” and “Glass.” “Reintroducing” is my favorite because we cut the lyrics at the same time [as the music], that combination has never been done before. It’s just new and I think we do it well. “Now” and “Glass” production wise are my favorites and I do some of my favorite turntable work on those. They come together with the lyrics the best.

Eyedea: The other songs are good on different levels but those ones are what we feel work on all levels.

Kandis: As far as the business side of things goes, how is the publicity surrounding this project different than it was with your previous releases?

Eyedea: When we did the last record the publicity was not as strong. Motormouth who is doing our publicity now and the staff in house at Epitaph are doing great.

Kandis: What are your gripes with contemporary Hip-Hop or music in general?

Eyedea: Society has low standards for what is considered good or great music. What is great now is not even close to what Jimmy Hendrix was. We need to reevaluate the standards of what’s [labeled] great music.

Abilities: Think about it, nowadays you got Britany Spears, back then there was Aretha Franklin. Or now you got B2K, back then it was Earth Wind and Fire. (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: Music of today is not even in the same building as music from the ’70s.

Kandis: What happened?

Abilities: There’s a big difference between musicians wanting to be artists and musicians just wanting to be performers.

Eyedea: Yeah, artists are driven by creating something new. Look at this American Idol shit—they’re good singers but they’re always singing someone else’s songs, there’s nothing groundbreaking happening there. Like our album, it’s not typical, it’s not average. We want to create great, epic songs.

Abilities: When you say Epic I think of some huge giant war or something, I think of the movie “Braveheart.” Freedom! (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: When I say epic and great I’m not saying complex. I mean just important, a kick and a snare can be important but what you kinda touched upon is that people just do what they’re doing and no one is striving [to create something new]. Therefore musically we sit, we don’t go anywhere because people are just doing what they do. If we were just doing what we do we would never learn anything, our personalities would never develop. We would just be like, “this is it.” I think that’s the difference between a great artist and the average person.

Kandis: What music do you guys currently listen to on a regular basis?

Eyedea: We both listen to jazz.

Abilities: Coltrane is the greatest.

Eyedea: I listen to The Beatles, we both listen to everything. Kentucky Gag Order is a great band, there’s stuff here and there that you catch that is cool. We listen to the greats. I’m not going to listen to average rap when I can listen to an Outkast album. Why would I? There’s so much for my ear, brain and mind and body to gain. I like that Sleepy Brown guy who’s down with Andre. He’s so great. We listen to the early ’90s Hip-Hop that we were raised on. I still think that stuff is better than anything you hear nowadays. I have a lot of respect for Jay-Z, Eminem, Ludacris, Cee-Lo. They’re groundbreaking.

Kandis: How was the South by Southwest Conference? [Editor’s Note: The SXSW Conference is a yearly independent record industry showcase held in Austin, TX, featuring prominent up-and-comers in all styles of pop music. Artists who do well in their showcases and draw a strong buzz at the festival frequently end up signing with larger indie labels and, occasionally, a major label.]

Eyedea: It’s cool because all of the industry people are there and they all want to talk to you and you can treat them like shit. There are real musicians in the crowd also.

Abilities: Yeah, there was this girl who played violin in a symphony and she was like “you got me so open, your rhythm is so outstanding.” I didn’t marry her.

Kandis: What? (laughs).

Abilities: I’m just saying I am like Mozart in this bitch! (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: It was like a breeding ground for musicians at that conference. If you can’t get respect amongst your peers as a musician how good are you?

Abilities: Yeah, if nobody likes you then you’re just a sucky artist. (Everyone laughs)

Eyedea: I feel you on that, plus everyone went down there on the Rhymesayer’s Tour Bus. We all got to hang out together.

Abilities: Yeah I got to whup everyone’s ass on the Play Station!

Kandis: How do you guys prepare yourselves for a 50-city tour?

Abilities: Do as many drugs as you can do. Just kidding!

Eyedea: We’re ready to go. We want to get the show on the road. In the past it seemed like more of a task to go on the road but now we got the record, the distribution, and this is our first headlining tour so we’re ready to go.

Eyedea & Abilities perform Sat., May 29, at First Avenue. With Blueprint, Mass Hysteria and Grayskul. 5 p.m. $10 adv/ $12 door. All Ages. 327 14th Ave. SE, Mpls. 612-338-8388.
You can find out more about Eyedea & Abilities on Rhymesayers official website.