Local Current Blog

The Current and MN Original’s hip-hop show at the Fitzgerald Theater postponed

After a series of discussions with the hip-hop community at large, with the president and CEO of Minnesota Public Radio, and with the planning team behind the upcoming hip-hop show at the Fitzgerald Theater, a decision has been reached by all parties to postpone the event indefinitely while continuing a dialogue between the institution, the organizers, and the community.

This is not a decision that was taken lightly by anyone involved, but I think I can speak for my colleagues here at the Current when I say that this as an opportunity and a positive step forward. If we’re going to put on a show of this scale and make it something that the community can be proud of, then we need the time and the breathing room to do it right.

One thing I’ve realized in this process (which, for me personally, started six months ago and has involved countless phone calls, emails, and cups of coffee with artists from across the community), is that it’s difficult to separate the culture of hip-hop from the larger issues that we face as a society. Dating back to the birth of the genre, hip-hop has served as an outlet and a voice for the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the poor, and the struggling, and here in Minnesota especially we have a gigantic pool of civically engaged and socially conscious artists whose work hinges on their ability to question things from every angle.

Of the many poignant things I have read and heard over the past few weeks, a comment from an MC named Chantz Erolin has lingered in my mind: “I think one of the biggest truths of hip hop is that you can’t have the mural without the tag,” he wrote. Meaning that we can’t celebrate hip-hop without also embracing and examining the tension and passion and ugliness that exists underneath the surface. And what I’ve also realized is that while I’m in a position as a journalist to ask certain questions, there are deeper issues that have persisted within the community—and have thrown up barriers between artists and the press—that will take more than one hip-hop show or one panel discussion to dismantle. But what I hope is that simply identifying and acknowledging some of these barriers has been an important first step.

When I was first asked to help plan this event, I had all kinds of ideas. I actually went back recently and dug out the very first email I wrote when I was asked what I thought about the idea of showcasing hip-hop at the Fitz last fall. “I think that now is a great time to pursue something like this,” I wrote. “Our hip-hop scene has expanded and produced some really compelling acts over the past two years, and it reaches far beyond the Rhymesayers and Doomtree artists who get the lion’s share of the media attention.” The email went on and on (and on), but for the most part I still agree with most of the ideas that I had when I was first presented with the idea. And in the months that followed, my conversations with the artists in my Rolodex, the artists in their Rolodexes, and the artists who I have only just discovered recently further cemented my belief that if this show is truly going to represent the Minnesota hip-hop scene, it’s going to require input and appearances by a lot of passionate people from all kinds of different backgrounds—and it’s going to require us to find some common ground and some kind of mutual understanding before we can inch it all forward.

I don’t know exactly what the next steps will be, or what this event (or events?) will look like after working more closely with the community. But I do know that I am eager, open, and curious to see what we can build when we all work together.

In the interest of transparency, here is the letter that was sent to leaders in the hip-hop community this evening by me, the Current’s program director Jim McGuinn, and our CEO Jon McTaggart, which was written in response to an open letter received by MPR and TPT yesterday:

2014_04_01 Letter to hip hop community


  • Wowzer.

  • Mary

    That’s a very brave move by all parties: stand up for your ideals, and commit to enlightened cooperation. I am so happy to be a witness to this.

  • FULL DISCLOSURE: I am an employee of MPR in the commerce department. I don’t influence anything.

    It’ll be funny if any of the letter signees perform at Rock the Garden this year.

    Also, it’d be fun to see Kevin Beacham’s signature on both letters. Because, y’know

  • Jennifer Kensok Petoskey

    well done to the artists who want this show to happen in a way that truly benefits the work they do and the communities they come from and/or represent; well done to The Current and MPR for stepping back. Proud to continue to be a supporter of MPR.

  • John Munson

    Is the concern that The Current or FItz want to subvert hip hop or misrepresent it somehow? Or is it that, this show, happening where it might, and under the auspices of tpt and MPR somehow gives a stamp of approval that some artists don’t actually want? It’s all very interesting to watch from the sidelines. I guess my hope is that the good intentions of all parties will be revealed and something will happen. Or not. I myself am mystified. But I truly do hope a show happens. A performance space like The Fitz can be pretty magical. It will definitely cast a different light on the music than the usual club setting. But it may feel pretty strange for some of the performers to play to a seated house (if people can actually stay in their seats). Good luck reaching a resolution and thanks to all parties for having the vision to try something new.

    • Pablo Miranda

      “….the auspices of tpt and MPR somehow gives a stamp of approval that some artists don’t actually want?”
      Or maybe they don’t need it. Their art has proven.

      “But it may feel pretty strange for some of the performers to play to a seated house..”
      I can’t comment on their feelings, only the artists themselves can. But I’ve seen these artists perform and they can work the house quite lovely.

      I don’t think this conversation is about approval or some weird form of stage fright. The letter that the artists made public asked for: “…an intentional, sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship”. When I read the letter from MPR I see that they just repeated the same statement. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, no pun intended here, but it feels a little bit like mocking.
      To me, the artists stated what they want, the question still in my mind is what does MPR want? And how come MPR couldn’t come up with a request of their own? Why the poker face?



    • DESSA


  • Brandon C. Toner

    MPR tried to do something in good faith and take some risk and and a small group of activist attributed to malice what could have been adequately explained by incompetence. Oh well…better luck next time.

    • Akiem

      I think its interesting the artist objecting were themselves the ones asked to participate. I would say that is different than “a small group of activists”. Malice or incompetence – good reason to take a step back, no?

  • Marion Dooley

    I hope there would be more than a few token local black hip hop artists.

  • Declan

    So, the artists questioned
    “…[MPR’S] understanding of urban hip-hop culture” and because of
    this wanted a discussion of urban hip-hop
    culture cancelled? Obviously there’s no better way to educate people (or
    MPR) than to simply avoid having the discussion altogether. Well played hip-hop
    culture, well played.

    • “So, the artists questioned
      “…[MPR’S] understanding of urban hip-hop culture””

      That quote is not in the artists’ letter. Where’s that quote come from?

      “Well played hip-hop culture, well played”.

      And who is “hip hop culture” that you refer to in the first person?. All the names of everybody involved are clearly spelled out in both letters…..

      Please explain Declan.

  • True Nahar

    she writes all of this and still refuses to say anything about BLACK PEOPLE. der. we turned it to “hip hop” cause ya’lls dominate culture couldn’t stomach “rap”! all in all…BLACK people are being left out of the proprietorship of the culture birthed from their very existence as the descendants of slaves. fuck.

  • bbAllen

    We see the posting of the “open letter” penned by the MN artist collective following the “State of Hip Hop” event, and the response written by MPR executives (minus employee, May 10th event organizer and panel member Kevin Beacham). Where is the press statement forwarded to the media the morning of 3/24/14, (including to MPR, TPT, and The Current), and read to the public on camera PRIOR to the “State of Hip HOP” event outside in front of Intermedia Arts?

    It seems as though the voice of the people who culturally own and authenticate “The State of Hip Hop”has been disrespectfully ignored, and dismissed from the conversation by the media although overt effort has been made to “speak to” the matter.

    Reports of an “original letter” being circulated by artist prompting the indefinite postponing of the MPR May 10th, event is merely a cover for the undercurrent of the “Real Story” buzzing beneath the surface. The “original letter” came from the community and was circulating in the room DURING the event. Another example of the “Elvis” syndrome!

    Below is the full statement sent to the press the morning of 3/24/14, and read on camera prior to the Intermedia Arts event. For those who absorb information better visually….below is a link to the multimedia presentation expressing the same perspective.


    (3/24/14)–List of things concerning the involvement of MPR, The Current and TPT associating any messaging around “HIP HOP” culture within the black ARTS community in Minnesota…

    1 The lack of a Black music format, d.j.’s, staff, producers, editors, writers, administration, executives or targeted programming directed to the public interest concerns of the Black Community. The Current and it’s parent organization of Minnesota Public Radio has less then 5 Black Staff out of an organization which employs over 100 people. TPT and it’s mission to serve the public interest of the Black Community via television has the same disappointing staffing/programming concerns.

    2. The historical symbolism and significance of denied access and unequal treatment of black hip hop artist/promoters of the culture within Minneapolis & Saint Paul Clubs and other performance venues.

    3. MPR and it’s other media partners selected ignorance regarding the cultural context and broader awareness of systemic challenges young black males face when demonstrating artistic excellence. (I.E. The Blues and the Elvis phenomena)

    4. A lack of cultural appreciation and proper documentation of the Black Community’s foundational development of Hip Hop within Minnesota’s musical and artistic community.

    5. The urgency to create specific platforms of recognition and opportunity for young Black Hip Hop artist to nurture exhibited talents and skills through the ARTS.

    6. A call to accountability in the African American community regarding media, organizational, political, social, educational and artistic support to keep our stories and issues of youth culture and it’s contributions ALIVE.

    7. Hip Hop is a black Art form that was birthed out of the necessities created by struggle and challenges of inner city Black Youth from the South Bronx, New York. It is a story and culture that has traveled, impacted and laid legacies in the state of Minnesota but also, continues to do so throughout the entire world. Hip Hop at it’s foundation and purpose has formed critical analysis of what artistic voices are in the ongoing self determination of African Americans dual reality to exist as equally human within an unequal unjust society.

    The purpose of our unified collective stand here today is to bring out the continued gentrified re narrative of what Hip Hop is within the years of stimulation of minds, ears and broader stimulus in the communities making up the state of Minnesota, it’s main soundtrack being Minneapolis & Saint Paul.

    In the month of February last year at Hopkins High School, a small group of black students faced a violation in their identified rights of having equal access and a safe school educational climate. A school endorsed athletic theme known as “Ghetto Spirit Day” was allowed to function as an all day celebration in the suburban mostly white school. “Ghetto Spirit Day” was an activity where white students dressed up in the most stereotypical images of a fictional “Rapper” evoking additional overtly racist conversations that served as a disrespect of Hip Hop culture. “Ghetto Spirit Day” was a tremendous emotional attack on young black males trying to safely function in a school and a state where their Educational experiences has been documented as failing African American students and families.

    This specific situation at Hopkins High School influenced a very small group of black male students to protest their denied dignity and lack of protected school rights. The group of students organized a peaceful non violent demonstration of the disrespect to “Hip Hop” culture and it’s negative influenced imagery of young black males, (ironically the same group who laid the foundation of the culture). A decision was made to hang posters to reinforce positive messaging of black male identity on the walls next to other posters of the school spirit week.

    As a result of this incident, a local radio station that covered some of the initial news of Hopkins High School’s “Ghetto Spirit Day” participated in a form of irresponsible and unethical journalism. The young black male students were unfairly identified as participating in negative behavior and noted without proper investigation that the black male students did something criminally wrong.

    That radio station was MPR, the Current is a media outlet of MPR. This same organization is now positioning itself as a communications outlet to authenticate Hip Hop and it’s contributions created in Minnesota?

    This is a call to accountability for all of us who profess to appreciate HIP HOP culture and specifically the ongoing struggle of young black males not only in the collective ARTS, but also including the conditions that create artistic expressions

    based on the real life experiences of:

    Broken education systems, juvenile incarceration, drug infested neighborhoods, youth violence, broken families, job/education/home ownership disparities, homelessness, political/social/organizational exploitation, and the promising intellectual genius of our young black youth that can still excel within these conditions and make music for Minnesota and beyond….

    With that we are organizing a collaborative community based effort to highlight our stories, our culture, and our youth to be enjoyed by all. We acknowledge MPR, the Current and TPT’s right to tell their story but we question the sincere understanding and attention to the details of the many lives that have been cut short or ignored in the pursuit of Hip Hop’s collective contributions. Minnesota’s Black Community has shared it’s culture for years it should be visibly included if not told and documented by those who authored it. It is a shame to all that it (Hip Hop) recently has been accepted by the identified Public Institutions of communications when it has become acceptable to the majority white youth who participate in it.

    The power of definition is in those who write the word!!!

    Media Contact 612.460.1772