Twin Cities hip hop
Hip hop culture in the Twin Cities can be traced as far back as 1981. Similar to the development of hip hop in the South Bronx, Twin Cities rap started as humble parties with a DJ and an emcee.. A DJ named Travitron was considered the "godfather" of hip hop in the Twin Cities, and began hosting Hip Hop Shop, on 89.9 KMOJ, the first hip hop radio station in the Twin Cities.
Freddy Fresh used to mix on Travitron's Hip Hop Shop 89.9FM KMOJ. Street DJs included Bill Blass from AVLN, Cuttin Cal from IRM. Shows took place at house parties on the North Side of Minneapolis, and Club Hip Hop on Selby Avenue in Saint Paul. Other artists and DJs include Disco T, Polaris aka tha North $tar, Verb X, Brother Jules, Derrick Delite Stevens aka Skat Kat, Madskills aka DJ Cyrus, and Truth Maze.
The first real album to come out of the Twin Cities was called The I.R.M. Crew, released in 1985. Graffiti and b-boy crews existed in the city. However the first verifiable rap record to be released in Minnesota was Drop Funkin', a 12" dance single on Wide ange Records released in 1984. It was produced by David Z Rivkin and Bill Blow.
The Jukebox and Sugarfree team made notable contributions. Having grown up in North Minneapolis, they began participating in talent shows and freestyle battles in 1983. Sugarfree is featured on Sue Anne's "Rock Steady" Blue Velvet Album (Blue Velvet, Rock Steady, Sue Anne (1986)).
In 1996, DJ Madskills revived the Hip Hop scene in Minneapolis, MN. After spending time in NYC in 1995, Madskills returned to the Twin Cities with an abundance of underground Hip Hop that received almost no attention outside of New York. A talented mixologist, DJ Madskills show on 89.9FM KMOJ was popular. It was the only time since Travitron's Hip Hop Shop that live mixes and freestyles combined to create on air Hip Hop in the Twin Cities.
Polaris aka tha North $tar grew out of the suburbs of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, near North Minneapolis. Tha North $tar made several appearances on 89.9FM KMOJ in the mid 1990s on the Otis the Entertainer's shows during a time when the city of Minneapolis was known as Murderapolis. Polaris has worked with Angel Beach studios, along with other many local acts including Disorderly Konduct. Tha North $tar is President of Aryell Records and has recently opended his website www.thaNorthStar.com for his music and to help other local artists. Polaris' performances have included the Mall Of America, the Minnesota State Fair, First Avenue, and the Red Sea.
During this same period, an artist who would eventually become known as Brother Ali, was being schooled on politics by DJ Madskills. This influence later became evident in Brother Ali's lyrics. Prior to the awareness raised by DJ Madskills, Brother Ali had all but given up on Hip Hop.
During the mixshow, a segment called 'Blackwatch' raised the political awareness of KMOJ's Hip Hop audience. DJ Madskills mix shows saw some of the highest ratings in the history of KMOJ, but the show was forced off the air. Madskills moved back to NYC in 1997, and continues in mixology under the name of DJ Cyrus. Some of DJ Cyrus's (Madskills) podcasts can be downloaded at undergroundhiphop.com under the title of B-Boy Classics & Battle Mixes.
As for rap music, the main movers of Twin Cities hip hop came together to form the group Headshots, a precursor to the Rhymesayers Entertainment label. Members of this group included Slug, I Self Devine, Micranots, Musab, Siddiq, and Ant.
Twin Cities hip hop is characterized best by the alternative rap, underground rap, conscious hip hop, popularized by Atmosphere. Another style category includes Midwest hip hop, heavily influenced by the Chicago mainstream and underground. The content of music speaks about, political, economic, and social issues. The beats use influences from jazz, soul and classic rock. Many rap songs from the Twin Cities speak on social and political issues, and also involve personal stories. More recently[when?], in the post-2000 years, the Midwest universal sound, including heavy Chicago underground and mainstream influences have arisen in the young hip hop movement in the Twin Cities, embracing the sounds of soul sampling and epic drum kits, as made by popular by producers such as Kanye West, No I.D and the Heatmakerz.
Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop Festival
The annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop, also known as The Hip Hop Fest, was cofounded by Larry Lucio, Jr. and Toki Wright of Amplified Life in 2002. It is hosted by YO! The Movement and brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate the power of community through hip-hop culture. In addition to featured performances from National Headlining artists and local acts, The Hip Hop Fest includes Battles in the following Categories: MC Battle, DJ Battle, B-Boy/B-Girl Battle, Beatbox Battle, and Production Battle.
In the first five years alone, nearly 20,000 people from around the world had taken part in the festival and conference. Past participants include Slick Rick, MC Lyte, Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley, Clipse, Camp Lo, Crazy Legs, Slug of Atmosphere, Studio The Kid, Jean Grae, Asia-One, EWOK (HM Crew), Brother Ali, I.L.I.C.I.T. and many others.
- 2007 (6th): Naughty By Nature and Eyedea & Abilities
- 2006 (5th): MC Lyte, Brother Ali & The Chosen Few
- 2005 (4th): Slick Rick, Slum Village & I Self Devine
- 2004 (3rd): Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley & Goodie Mob, Clipse, & Jean Grae
- 2003 (2nd): Camp Lo
- 2002 (1st): The C.O.R.E
- Brother Ali
- Carnage The Executioner
- Studio The Kid
- Eyedea & Abilities
- I Self Devine
The well known Minneapolis venue First Avenue has been a typical location for major performances of Twin Cities hip hop, including the annual Twin Cities Hip Hop Festival. Other common places for shows around the cities include Dinkytown (in venues such as the Varsity Theater and the Dinkytowner), The Red Sea and the Cedar/Riverside area, and downtown Saint Paul.
Other Locations include
- Duke's Lounge
- Fine Line Cafe
- Fifth Element
- Epic Nightclub
- Red Sea
- KCMP 89.3 (The Current) - Plays Twin Cities hip hop in regular rotation, as well as the weekly show Redefinition Radio
- KFAI 90.3/106.7 FM - Produces the weekly show RSE Radio, short for Rhymesayers Entertainment Radio.
- KMOJ 89.9 FM
- KUOM 770 AM (Radio K) - University of Minnesota College Radio. Home of the Beatbox show.
- WMCN 91.7 FM - Macalester College Radio - weekly hip hop radio shows featuring live performances and interviews with many local artists.