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.