When I first moved to Minneapolis one of my frequent hang out spots was the Dinkytowner. The Fifth Element had been hosting a monthly night called Essential Elements at the venue and I was being groomed to take it over so that’s how I originally found myself down there, but there was something special about it that kept me coming back. It wasn’t uncommon to find me there several times a week because it was a great spot to absorb what was happening on the local scene. I felt it was truly a great representation of various sides of the Twin Cities and beyond, and I imagine many others would share that theory.
One group I remember first seeing there were the Guardians Of Balance. Immediately, once they hit the stage I knew they were seasoned vets. They had this presence about them that was captivating and they were able to effectively and naturally communicate a range of emotional energy. There was a tough guy persona, but always intertwined with a stark sense of humor. There was an element of street ethics, but not without the inclusion of intelligence. I seem to recall St Paul Slim was generally the more vocal of the two. He had this certain charisma and carried himself in a unique manner…even the way he moved across the stage or stood firm in one spot, with mic in hand swaying back-n-forth, was very individualistic. Mastermind may not have been as participatory in the between-song banter, but his presence was still commanding. He was more like the silent thinker and often had this smirk on his face that suggested he was plotting something, perhaps even something slightly sinister, but entertaining nonetheless. His essence was reflective of his namesake.
Although I saw the G.O.B perform a few times, I didn’t get my hands on much music of theirs back then. The song I play on H2 Local this week, “Shots,” comes from a CD of theirs called Operation Clean Dirt: The Mission Brief from 2003, and I found a copy of it quite a while back in a box of promo CDs at Fifth Element. Ever since then it’s been in this stack of CDs that I put to the side to eventually listen to and I finally decided to pull that one out and was pleasantly entertained. There was a few directions I could have went in terms of song choices, but I decided on “Shots” because I think it’s probably the best example of the G.O.B essence. St Paul Slim does some singing on the hook and specifically at the song’s outro, something he’s learned to further develop on his string of successful solo albums. The hook, borrowing from the deep roots of P Funk, displays a slice of their sense of humor. As for the rhyming, they don’t need to rely on intricate deliveries or complex rhyme schemes; they demand attention and respect with traditional MC structure, bold vocal presence, and an expressed love for the culture of hip hop.
In more recent times, St Paul Slim has continued to grow his reputation on the local scene and reaching beyound with solo projects Bald Headed Sampson (2010) and Personal Holiday (2011), both of which showcase him keeping the G.O.B tradition alive and ever-evolving. Mastermind dropped a project not to long ago called Denmark Vesey, and while he hasn’t seemed to release as much solo music as Slim, he has definitely remained busy by working in the community on a variety of inspired projects. Directly related to his musical side, he’s working with some young and upcoming talent on a new label called Titan Administration. In fact, that’s where a few of the great songs and artists we’ve played on H2 Local recently came from: TryBiShop, Kaleem, and Lioness. I was really impressed with all the music Mastermind has sent me thus far, and am looking forward to what else is in store.
Lioness is set to release her Queen mixtape this weekend with a release party at the Fine Line. Mastermind also teamed up with Kaleem for the new music video “The Dawn,” a nice combination of a vet and a young voice who’s destined to be a strong voice on this scene.
If these first few sample are any indication of what we should continue to expect from Titan Administration, then they are off to a impressive start and I’ll be keeping an ear out. As for St Paul Slim, I ran into him a couple days ago on Record Store Day and he’s got some new things brewing as well. So, though they may be working on separate projects, the Guardians Of Balance are still holding it down for the Twin Cities.
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.