by Chris DeLine on March 30th, 2011 in Featured, Features, Twin Cities

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CB’s Influenza series looks to help dissect the influences that breathe life into music, and in the case of the latest release from Twin Cities-based MC Guante, he not only wears his influences on his sleeve, but has firmly affixed them to a flag which he proudly waves wherever he goes. While being creatively inspired by any number of artists ranging from Toki Wright to Saul Williams, musically the man’s style has developed out of his work as a spoken word performer: A two-time National Poetry Slam champion, he has also been honored by the likes of City Pages, which named him “Best Slam Poet” in 2009. This combination of external and internal inspiration has given him a unique voice that creatively addresses global matters while being respectful of his inner feelings and opinions.

In a time when the idea of a “socially conscious” MC seems to have completely lost its importance, the term largely watered down to a bastardized shell of its former meaning, Guante suggests that, as a matter of fact, simply being conscious is not enough. Sure, without first being informed it is impossible to plant the seed of personal and social growth, but that knowing is simply the starting point: it’s how you act on that knowledge that matters most; a point thoroughly emphasized in the title track of Guante’s new Conscious is Not Enough 2011 mixtape.

In part fueled by the burning dissent in his home-state of Wisconsin, with the release the MC found himself once again turning his attention to the idea that it’s entirely necessary to re-asses not only one’s perspective of the negative goings on in the world, but what can be done to combat any interpreted injustices. One track which confronts this idea head-on is “The Hero,” a song which twists the idea of the superhero in challenging societal ills; it asks us to not simply concentrate on addressing what’s “right” and “wrong,” but what’s causing such social maladjustment in the first place.

Not only does the album serve as a magnificent re-boot of his 2008 release of the same name, but it serves as the starting point for another undertaking which the MC is helping get off the ground: the MN Activist Project. In the album’s final track Guante relates the necessity for the resource, explaining the purpose of the new organization. “We need to return to a culture of organizing in this country, a country that says that when you see a problem you don’t just email the President, you don’t just post a link to that problem on your Facebook wall, and you certainly don’t just ignore it. You get together with some like minded people, formulate a plan and act on that plan.”

To learn more about the MN Activist Project or simply to see the MC live, he has two upcoming dates in the Twin Cities: April 4 at the University of Minnesota’s Whole Music Club and April 7 at Cause, where he’ll be performing as part of the latest installment in the Hip Hop Against Homophobia series. In the meantime, here’s a look into “The Hero” as explained by Guante, himself.

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This is one of the songs that I’m most proud of, honestly. I wrote a week ago that we, as rappers, often don’t give our audience much credit, that “political” songs are almost always insultingly simple—platitudes, vague notions of empowerment and empty rhetoric are the norm. But it IS possible to talk about deeper issues within a three or four-minute track. I wanted to write a song about the difference between face-to-face direct service work and the struggle for larger-scale, institutional change.

At the same time, I didn’t want to just shout at people. I like telling stories. I like crafting overarching metaphors and presenting my political views in a more creative way, whenever possible. And I think a lot of people have that conversation, when they’re kids, about what superpower they wish they had and what they would do with it. Would you be the hero, or the villain? Would you protect your city, or fly around the world fighting crime? And to me, that question was almost always about how one goes about fighting for real, lasting change. Batman can punch a mugger in the face, but there’s always another one right around the corner. Spider-Man stays webbing up bank robbers and people who are criminally insane, but no one ever seems to address the question: Where are all these criminals coming from? What is crime? How do we get at the roots of problems—and not just crime, but pollution, war, racism and everything—and not just treat the symptoms? That’s what this song is about—a superhero having that epiphany.

Another reference point for this track is another song about crime, Biggie’s “Gimme the Loot.” I’ve always loved how he plays two distinct characters in that song, just by subtly changing his tone. This song has the narrator, the thief and the superhero, and they each have different voices. I don’t think I did it as good as Biggie did it, but it’s an homage.

I should also mention that this is one of the first songs that me and producer Big Cats! did together (the outro is actually a live recording of our band). It originally appeared as an instrumental on his debut, Sleep Tapes. I had the song written already, heard that beat, and knew that they’d fit together perfectly. It sounds like a superhero song. I’m really happy with how it turned out. This song is a great encapsulation of what the whole mixtape, and really my whole career (haha) is about. It’s about asking deeper questions, using whatever power or privilege or talent we have to try to make a real difference and not settling for band-aids (in activism) and bullshit (in music).

Beyond all that, I just love mixing science fiction, social justice and beats that bang. You can see how this song really sets the stage for the Guante & Big Cats! full-length, An Unwelcome Guest, which really dives into the superhero mythology and radical politics stuff even further. It’s weird, but I think it works.

MP3 Guante “The Hero (Produced by Big Cats!)”

by Chris DeLine on December 4th, 2010 in New Music

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“Bangin’ Ya Head” appears on the Tribe & Big Cats!’s new album FTMS (Forward Thinking Movers Shakers).

The Tribe & Big Cats! feat. Planet Asia and Phil Da Agony “Bangin’ Ya Head” (mp3)

by Chris DeLine on November 27th, 2010 in Twin Cities, Videos

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“A Hug from a Stranger” appears on Guante & Big Cats!‘s debut release, An Unwelcome Guest. (source: Midwest Broadcast)

by Chris DeLine on March 22nd, 2010 in Twin Cities, Videos

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“Red States”, the first video to be released from last year’s An Unwelcome Guest, combines a series of studio shots with live footage captured at Guante & Big Cats!‘s record release party this past December. For additional footage from the show, including guest spots by Big Quarters, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing, and Truthbetold of the Tribe, check out Culture Bully’s videos from the performance. [via Reviler]

by Chris DeLine on December 14th, 2009 in Twin Cities, Videos

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Guante & Big Cats! feat. Big Quarters & Truthbetold of the Tribe “Stockholm Syndrome”

Guante & Big Cats! feat. Eric Blair of No Bird Sing and Truthbetold of the Tribe “Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One”

by Guest Contributor on December 9th, 2009 in Features

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These albums aren’t necessarily what I consider to be the best five albums of the decade, because that’s damn near impossible to figure out. I’ve just come up with the five records that hit me the hardest over the last 10 years, which in my case, takes me back to age 13, and covers most of my music listening career. There are many great, influential albums that I had to leave off that I’ll list at the end.

Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Kid Koala, and this record in particular, was one of the main reasons I wanted to get into DJing. Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to make it as a scratch DJ, I started making beats. Aside from being really personally influential, this is a dope record. Kid Koala can scratch with the best of ‘em, but his records are about more than that. At a time when most scratch DJs were making records about outer space and scratching the same three noises, Kid Koala took it in a totally different direction. This record is funny, melodic and oddly down to earth. [Purchase]

Non-Prophets Hope: After Sage (Francis) got Personal Journals out of the way, he made a straight up rap record. A “kick you in the face, I can rap better than any of you without even trying” rap record. Joe Beats produced the whole thing, and it bangs. 1990s style filtered loops and drum breaks banging, but banging nonetheless. This is the only Sage release that doesn’t get too weird for me. Or maybe it does, and I can just ignore it because of the more straight forward production. Full of wordplay, rap references and flexing, this record still gets better the more I listen to it. [Purchase]

Deltron 3030 Deltron 3030: This album made my list, and I don’t even like Del. Haha, that’s how much Dan The Automator brought it. Plus you have Kid Koala on the cuts? Dang. The production on this record is just out of this world, especially considering it came out nearly 10 years ago. Del gets old at times, as do the interludes, but you can’t aruge with beats like “3030,” “Mastermind,” “Madness,” “Time Keeps On Slipping,” and “Memory Loss.” Time hasn’t been very kind to Del on this album, but the beats have held up amazingly well as they age. [Purchase]

D-Styles Phantazmagorea: This album alone pulled scratch DJing out of the past and created new, incredibly lofty standards for DJ records. No programming, no live instruments, even the drums are scratched. D-Styles brings it funky and musical as hell for an hour plus. I catch myself listening to it now and thinking, “Damn, that bassline is nice,” or “I wonder who played keys on this,” before I remember that it’s only D, a turntable, and a mixer. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around just how good this album is. It’s one of my goals in life to collaborate with this dude. [Purchase]

J Dilla Donuts: This album gets a lot of love, and I know some people think it’s overrated, but this record deserves every bit of that love. This record is the exact opposite of a record like Phantazmagorea or 3030 in that most of the music is very simple. The record is basically a beat tape, but as a producer, 31 vocal free Dilla beats makes it on my “best of the decade” list, haha. On the surface, there are plenty of dope, head nodding beats on here. At the same time though, I’ve learned a lot as a producer just from listening to how Dilla put everything together. [Purchase]

Narrowly Missed: Jel 10 Seconds, Elliott Smith Figure 8, Oddjobs Drums, DJ Shadow The Private Press, Sage Francis Personal Journals, El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere, Rage Against The Machine The Battle Of Los Angeles, Guante and Big Cats! An Unwelcome Guest.

Official | MySpace

Also: Guante & Big Cats! @ the Bedlam Theater

by Chris DeLine on October 14th, 2009 in New Music, Twin Cities

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guante big cats unwelcomed guestNoam the Drummer put together this megamix of our new album, An Unwelcome Guest, essentially condensing an hour-long zombie-superhero-love-story concept album into 15 crazy minutes. In it, you’ll hear some flashes of the story, a few of our guests (Haley Bonar, Chastity Brown, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing; the album also features Big Quarters and Prolyphic, though they’re not in this mix) and an idea of how the album as a whole sounds. We’ll be releasing the LP in December on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. Think of this as the trailer.” – Kyle “Guante” Myhre

by Chris DeLine on July 28th, 2009 in Features, Twin Cities

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Guante & Big Cats! “Bring Out Your Dead”

Guante & Big Cats! “Dragons”

Guante & Big Cats! “Old English Letters”

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retroselective-may-2009

While May’s high profile major label albums might’ve dominated sales charts (Eminem, Green Day, etc.), it was the month’s independent releases that were the most compelling. Add to that a series of fantastic concerts, the Twin Cities’ largest hip hop festival and a few solid music videos and May measures just as strong as any other this year. Above all however, these are Culture Bully’s favorite things from the month of May.

Art-A-Whirl weekend: Art-A-Whirl, the yearly festival in Northeast Minneapolis, is a once-a-year opportunity to bring together the best of the local art and music worlds in our massively talented Twin Cities scene. This year, in addition to getting a slight sun burn and sore legs from biking too much, I saw more amazing local bands than I can even remember. Highlights included a crazy late night set behind the 331 Club by Skoal Kodiak, Private Dancer blowing away an afternoon crowd at the Modern Cafe and seeing two great sets by Gay Witch Abortion (one of which had them floating down the Mississippi). In all, I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 sets (not including an amazing [non Art-A-Whirl] King Khan show Saturday night at the Triple Rock) that provided me with a great, but exhausting, weekend showing just how remarkable our scene really is. [Josh Keller]

Art-A-Whirl 2009 Report

King Khan and the Shrines @ Triple Rock Social Club: King Khan and the Shrines dropped by the Triple Rock this past month and delivered one of their signature no-holds barred performances. Though Peelander-Z is quickly gaining ground, these guys are still my favorite band to see live. Not only are the Shrines terrific musicians, they also know how to have a good time like no other. Their R&B boogie and garage rock never fails to get me moving and Khan’s stage antics are always fun to see. It was also great that I managed to avoid getting kicked out of the show this time… [Jon Behm]

King Khan and the Shrines, Mark Sultan & France Has the Bomb @ Triple Rock Social Club

Battle on the West Bank: OK, it wasn’t really a battle, but rather a pair of shows that CB helped present earlier this month that took place on the same night on Minneapolis’ West Bank. The first was Jeremy Messersmith & KaiserCartel’s performance at the Cedar Cultural Center, and the second was Guante & Big Cats!’s CD release show across the street at the Nomad World Pub. While both shows were fantastic, and still offer great memories when looking back on them, the highlight of the whole thing was having Messersmith, Guante & Big Cats! collaborate for a brief freestyle video beforehand. [Chris DeLine]

Jeremy Messersmith & KaiserCartel @ Cedar Cultural Center
Guante and Big Cats!, Chastity Brown, See More Perspective, the Tribe & Chantz @ Nomad World Pub

Toki Wright’s A Different Mirror: Rhymesayers will be releasing Wright’s album on June 9, but the title track was included on a free mixtape which was given out by McNally Smith college at Soundset. The mixtape, including songs from Doomtree, Hieruspecs, Invincible and many more (including myself; full disclosure) is full of gems, but Wright’s song is definitely the highlight. A terrifying journey through American history, an exploration of privilege and oppression, an emotionally-charged storytelling track—the song is one of the only truly exciting tracks I’ve heard all year (and it’s been a good year). If the rest of the album is this powerful, this innovative, or just this plain good, watch out. [Kyle "Guante" Myhre]

New releases from Big Quarters, Maria Isa, Toki Wright

Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest: Veckatimest is a supremely confident and composed record that is bound to wind up on many year-end best of lists (including mine). It’s a well-crafted album from start to finish, with every sound and nuance pondered and poured over for the best overall effect, with lush orchestration and arrangements buoying the songs’ already ethereal tone and mood. It’s truly an album that gets better with repeat listens. We are truly lucky to have them performing at the intimate, friendly confines of the Cedar Cultural Center and I, for one, cannot wait for to hear these beautiful songs live. [Erik Thompson]

Four Takes on Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear

Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine: There’s a weird little cottage industry that’s been built up around hip hop philosophy, blogging, academia and other non-musical explorations of the music in the past decade; and a whole lot of people have no idea what they’re talking about. Jay Smooth, through his video blog Ill Doctrine, is one of the precious few talking heads who really “gets it.” His observations are short and straightforward, but often illuminate truths that various warring factions just don’t want to recognize. His blog is full of gems, and he’s been particularly busy this past May, including a great post on Asher Roth and why “post-racial America” isn’t quite here yet. [Kyle "Guante" Myhre]

St. Vincent’s Actor: I am very glad to finally understand all the hype surrounding St. Vincent. Though I never really got into 2007′s Marry Me, I am enjoying Actor immensely. Annie Clark’s experimental arrangements range from gut-kickingly abrasive to gorgeously sweet, and in such way that stitches the two sides of the coin together seamlessly. This will undoubtedly end up being one of my favorite records of the year, and “The Strangers”Âť is one of my favorite tracks. [Jon Behm]

Four Takes on Actor by St. Vincent

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ First Avenue: The band laid to waste any concerns their fans had about the rumored death of Nick Zinner’s guitar and a mellowing of the band’s intense live show by playing an absolutely storming set at First Avenue that completely slayed the sold out club. Mixing in a healthy dose of tracks, both new and old during their fiery and festive performance, the band seemed to be as happy to be in Minneapolis as the crowd was to have them here. And, on a Saturday night absolutely chock-full of great shows happening in Minneapolis, this proved to be the best of the bunch as it turned into one hell of a party. [Erik Thompson]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ First Avenue

Holy Fuck @ 7th Street Entry: I am a big fan of electronic music as a recording form, but have found that the genre’s artists can provide shows that are not always as memorizing as their studio recordings. While knob twisting and sonic musical thrusts can be scintillating in headphones, it sometimes leaves something to be lacked when presented in the live setting. Luckily Canadian duo Holy Fuck proved to be more than able to translate their music as such during their amazing show at the 7th Street Entry. Backed by live drums and bass, they played a tight and funky show that was able to show off their electronic wizardry (including some homemade machines) while still getting the crowd moving. It was a full-on dance party for much of the show and was one of the most engaging and entertaining performances I have seen all year. [Josh Keller]

Holy Fuck & Crocodiles @ 7th St. Entry

Moby’s Wait For Me & David Lynch: The soul of Moby’s new record is based off an experience the artist had listening to speech presented by David Lynch on art and commerce. And not unlike much of Lynch’s films, Wait For Me is dark and brooding throughout. The connection to the legendary director, screenwriter, producer (the list goes on and on) is one that is especially timely considering how many brilliant projects Lynch has his fingers in as of late. Aside from drawing the cartoon that was used as the video for Wait For Me‘s lead single, Lynch has taken to an undertaking developed in part by his son called Interview Project. The series documents Lynch’s son and a friend as they drove some 20,000 miles around the country taking short interviews of people they met along the way. There are 121 interviews in total, and Lynch introduces every one of them. Oh, and he’s on Twitter… the man is everywhere. [Chris DeLine]

Moby Wait For Me Review

Retroselective – The Best of January | February | March | April

by Chris DeLine on June 3rd, 2009 in Other

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hip-hop-against-homophobia-2

Following the success of this past January’s Hip Hop Against Homophobia event, organizers have announced a pair of new shows which will go to benefit a number of local foundations. The first event will be held at Minneapolis’ Bedlam Theater on June 13 and proceeds will go to the Color CoordiNATION, Reclaim and the GLBT Host Home Program. Featured on that bill will be “Queer-hip hop trailblazers Johnny Dangerous and Tori Fixx, as well as local artists (queers and allies alike) the Bottom Feeders, See More Perspective, EZRA, Lindsey of 2Flytz Up, the Poetic Assassins and DJ Blowtorch.” The Depot in Hopkins will host the second of this month’s shows on June 27 and will feature Guante & Big Cats!, Ill Chemistry, Phonetic One and Barton Stink. Proceeds from this show will benefit District 202, Minneapolis’ LGBTQ youth center. HHAH co-organizers and CB contributor Kyle Myhre spoke of the ongoing support behind the event earlier this week,

The first show exceeded all of our expectations. It felt good to see that many people so excited about this concept. This time, we’re having even more of a focus on education and action, with workshops and an ally-training leading up to the show. We’d like to see this as a model that other communities can use to collaborate.

Also: Hip Hop Against Homophobia @ the Nomad