Muja Messiah: Angel Blood Soup
Although it doesn’t require a political agenda, art is a worthwhile platform for social commentary. Many progressive artists end up only skimming the surface, underwhelming the listener, and diminishing the issues at hand. On Muja Messiah’s latest effort, Angel Blood Soup, the rapper takes advantage of his spot on the mic and calls attention to a plethora of injustices. Muja Messiah puts an unapologetically brash spin on politically-charged rap, making his 12 new tracks feel all the more authentic.
Muja Messiah has bounced around the Twin Cities rap community for almost two decades, primarily working with producer and rapper Mike the Martyr to add beats to his words. The producer has a unique style—experimenting with instruments that are less threatening and more vivacious such as flutes (see “Crossfire” and “Double Dragon”), glockenspiels (see “The Rapture”), and pianos (see pretty much every song).
The album opens with a piano riff you might hear Ant give to Slug circa When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S–t Gold. On the opening track, “Flyanetics,” Muja Messiah raps, “I take offense to the way they cover Muslims in media/ Why you think my album cover look like Lawrence of Arabia?” Further into the record, the artist alludes to racism and rape culture in “Silk Road,” which has an impressive guest turn from Maseo of De La Soul (“Gandhi was a racist and Bill Cosby was a rapist”), police brutality in “Bulletproof” (“They ain’t on our side/ They don’t value our lives/ So why should we sympathize when a cop dies?”), and white male privilege in the title track (“The world is run by one million evil men/ 10 million stupid men/ and 100 million cowards”).
Although his lyrics occasionally play into tropes of drug prevalence and misogyny, Muja Messiah still remains analytical and radical with lyrics like “Most of my favorite rappers washed up, so what?/ I see ‘em and I still get star-struck so what?” (“Silk Road”) and “Evil plus wisdom equals women” (“Southpaw Outlaw [My Bad]”)—which I take as a compliment, but could go either way.
Muja Messiah has deep roots within the Twin Cities community, as evidenced by his many shout-outs to Minnesotan things throughout the record like Pointergate, Manny’s Steakhouse, Fridley, and the State Fair (see if you can hear them all). His collaborations with Metasota, Sophia Eris, and Greg Grease make his Midwest pride further evident, along with the interlude—a tribute to the late Minneapolis rapper Dodi Phy, a good friend of Muja’s.
On Angel Blood Soup, Muja Messiah is clever, conscious, funny (“Last night I almost killed my television/ I said f–k it, though, ‘cause I was watching Shark Tank”), and a voice and perspective the Twin Cities rap scene needs more of.
Grace Birnstengel is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is the editor-in-chief of The Wake Student Magazine and also contributes to The Riveter Magazine and Stereogum. Find her on Twitter @grace__.
Greg Grease: Motif EP
[bandcamp width=350 height=470 album=1233218789 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false]
Now a Twin Cities hip-hop heavyweight, Greg Grease is giving back to the people. That’s right, free music. Grease released the first in a series of free EPs last Thursday. Each is set to have a different producer and the first in the series, Motif, features South Minneapolis producer Javi Santiago. “I just wanted to give out some free music, there will be more to come,” said Grease. “Sailboats” is the biggest departure as far as production goes on the three-track EP. Featuring Proper-T, the track is wispy with its bright piano runs and a stuttering drum track.
Wild Colonial Bhoys: On Our Own
The Celtic rockers of the Twin Cities are back with a sixth album. Wild Colonial Bhoys will be sure to rock Irish festivals and fairs across the land with their new On Our Own release, dropping Thursday at the Irish Fair of Minnesota. They will be playing nightly through Saturday before heading out on tour. St. Patrick’s Day is never too far away on their “Falling Through The Cracks” single. It’s a Dropkick-Murphys-ish jam with boot-stompin fiddle alongside some bouncing guitar licks. This one might be the closing track all weekend. Pinch someone who’s not wearing green if you end up at Harriet Island for Irish Fest.
Men on Horseback: Beggars EP
Who are the Men on Horseback? You probably don’t know, and that’s totally fine because it’s not clear if they do either. The three-piece have crossed paths since 2012 working on their own projects until last August when they hunkered down in a Iowa house and recorded five songs. The recordings on the Beggars EP were not elaborate, the songs were not obsessed over—they’re raw. If you gave Charlie Parr a guitar, took Queens of the Stone Age’s bass tone and mixed in some psychedelia just because, you might come up with Men on Horseback. Even they will tell you in their bio they did this just for fun. “Who ever needed a reason to play, anyway? Isn’t that what playing is: doing something for no reason at all?” They’ll be at Sociable Cider Werks on Thursday for the release.
Bartell: E.P. One
[bandcamp width=350 height=470 album=1368864005 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false]
After years working as a producer at Pachyderm and his own Northpaw Studio, Jim Bartell jumped into his own work in 2013 with a debut self-titled LP. His alt-pop sensibilities are blooming further on his E.P. One. Less guitar-driven this time around, Bartell is making use of arrangements that are leaning towards funky electro-pop. He’ll be showing off the new tunes at the 331 on Friday. If you show your face, be on the lookout for “Catalyst.” The opening bassline is hard to resist, and the break beats are addictive.
Aaron Bolton is a senior at the University of Minnesota. Currently he is a co-host on Radio K’s Off The Record and is the music reporter at Radio K. He hopes to continue a career in music journalism.