In my blog last week I did a call for MN hip hop from the ’80s and ’90s, particularly releases that are scarcely available. This week I wanted to tackle a different challenge, the greater MN hip hop scene.
To be honest, the way I experienced my childhood as an Army Brat—moving around fairly regularly, I never really learned to get attached to any place. So at 15, when I experienced living a typical non-military lifestyle and went to a public school, it was difficult and strange for me to grasp the concept of hometown pride. Yet, directly related, that same attitude was also useful in never limiting myself into any coastal or regional preferences for music. I was able to easily embrace hip hop from all areas, and I suppose my time in Germany was helpful opening my ears to hip hop in different parts of the world, particularly in Europe. Furthermore, and most important to this point that I’m getting to, being that I never lived in a big city I wasn’t stuck on the idea that you had to come from one of the major markets to make quality music or be an impressive artist.
I recall going to New York as late as ’94, when hip hop culture was already about 20 years old, and New Yorkers being somewhat shocked that we had a hip hop scene in Chicago. We can rest assured, though uneasy, that they would have been even more flabbergasted if you told them about a Twin Cities hip hop scene because they had no point of reference; for Chicago they had Common and “the guy who took of his shirt in the NMS DJ Battle last year!” a.k.a Tone B Nimble of All Natural. In any event, that line of thinking always led to me wondering in the ’90s if there was some unknown and virtually unheard MC somewhere in the world that had the lyrical prowess of a young T La Rock, Chill Rob G, MC Shan, Redman, and so on? I would constantly think about that. It seemed completely plausible to me. I was living in North Chicago/Waukegan, IL and I thought my crew and myself were as good or comparable to most of the MCs with record deals, if we were doing it there It could be being done anywhere.
Of course, now I think there’s less emphasis on where people are from. Most people are getting their music online and it’s not always easily attached to a location. Of course, hometown pride is still very alive in hip hop, and people do claim their locations, but it doesn’t appear to be as prevalent as the pre-social media era and I think that is OK, for the most part. However, something occurred to me while developing the H2 Local Show. I realized that I had let my curiosity of the small town champion get away from and didn’t really think about it as much. The result is that while putting together a local MN hip hop show for a few weeks and digging through my years of collected MN music, it was virtually all (well, actually ALL) from the Twin Cities. Surely, there was something happening beyond the Twin Cities. To be fair, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know it was happening, as I had heard of groups. I have seen postings online and even meet some crews in other spots before, but I never really followed their music. Likely because I was always getting bombarded with so much from Twin Cities alone (not to mention the rest of the world) that it wasn’t something I had time to actively pursue. Making that discovery and the desire to correct it is one of the main reasons why I was excited to do this show. I know it was going to force Siddiq and I to be proactive in discovering new music and talent and reaching out from the normal pool of artists that we’re familiar with in an effort to keep it refreshing and diverse.
The day I made that discovery I did spent some time just scrolling thru my Facebook timeline. I figured I would eventually hit something and lo and behold I did. I came across the label Rez Rap Records and remember seeing them on Twitter and they had noted that they were a MN collective outside the Twin Cities scene. I peeped their page and listened to some tracks and downloaded the one that most caught my attention, Baby Shell & Garlic Brown’s “Someday Soon,” and reached out to them to email me another song that wasn’t downloadable that also sounded promising, NPC3’s “We At It.” Rez Rap Records is a label/collective based, as their website says, “in the heart of the motherland of Red Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota.” The collective is made of 100 Souls (Baby Shel, Wardog, Thomas X), Garlic Brown Beats, DJ Divewire and NPC3 (Big Mo-Berg, Demo, That Maniac Zac), all representing Red Lake, except NPC3 who are out of Bemidji.
Truth be told, I didn’t have a lot of time to dig into their catalog of music. I gave the tracks they had on their site what one might call an A&R listen, just checking out the first 30 seconds or so of the track and seeing if anything grabbed my attention. It just so happens the Baby Shel did and so I decided to give it a spin on this week’s H2 Local. I’ll be keeping my ear out for other Rez Rap projects in the future. However, that fairly easily acquired discovery has increased the intrigue on what else is out there outside the Twin Cities representing the MN Hip Hop scene. The search continues…
Catch Kevin Beacham and Siddiq’s hip-hop show H2 every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on 89.3 The Current. Their all-Minnesota hip-hop show, H2 Local, airs Tuesdays at noon and Wednesday nights at 11 p.m. on the Local Current stream. You can listen to the Local Current stream at thecurrent.org/local, on HD radio in the Twin Cities at 89.3 HD2, and via the MPR Radio app, which is available for iPhones and Androids.