Twin Cities hip hop

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Minneapolis hip hop is hip hop or rap music that originates from the Minneapolis metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Minnesota.


Hip hop culture in the Twin Cities can be traced as far back as 1981.[1]:xvi, xxxv Similar to the development of hip hop in the South Bronx, Twin Cities rap started as humble parties with a DJ and an emcee.[2]. A DJ named Travitron was considered the "godfather" of hip hop in the Twin Cities,[1]:xi and began hosting Hip Hop Shop on 89.9 KMOJ, the first radio station to play Hip Hop in the Twin Cities.[1]:xxxvi Freddy Fresh used to mix on Travitron's Hip Hop Shop 89.9FM KMOJ on Sunday afternoons in the mid 1980s.

The first Twin Cities hip hop vinyl record released was from the rap group, “I.R.M. Crew” led by rapper Kelly Crockett, aka “Kel-C.” from North Minneapolis. Members were Devastating Dee, TLC, Kel-C, IBM and Cuttin' Kal. (I.R.M.= Immortal Rap Masters). “I Dream of DJ’s” (12” vinyl) was released in 1986, followed by “Baseball” (12”) in 1987, & “R U Ready To Change The World” (12” vinyl) released in 1988 on the indie label Cold Chill/Wide Angle Records respectively. Located on Nicollet ave & 26th street south Minneapolis, Wide Angle, which also doubled as a record store, is arguably the first twin cities independent hip-hop label, with releases on vinyl from Shampayle, the twin cities first female rapper released on vinyl.

David Ellis, better known by his nickname “T.C.” is known to Prince fans for his featured role in “Graffiti Bridge” in 1990 and his album “True Confessions,” the first rap album released on the Paisley Park label in 1991. Before that he had experienced some regional success as part of the burgeoning Twin Cities rap scene in the mid-to-late 1980s with two singles he independently released: "Twin City Rapp," his homage to Prince and the Minneapolis Sound and "Bat Rap," based on scenes from Tim Burton's 1989 movie.

Then, in the early 90s, DJ Travitron, a Brooklyn native, formed a hip hop collective called "Headshots." Among the more notable artists in the group were "Slug" and "Ant," a producer/rapper duo that went on to become the hip hop group known as "Atmosphere." [2]

DJ Madskills aka DJ Cyrus, along with Paris Tylor, revived the Twin Cities Hip Hop culture in the mid 90's golden era. From 1996- 1997 they cut, scratched, and mixed live on FM 89.9 KMOJ's Friday and Saturday Night mixshows. Their show, the Tylor Express, introduced Hip Hop to new generation at prime time. The Taylor Express provided local artists the opportunity call in or visit the radio station and rap live on air, with a live DJ (Madskills) cutting for them in the background. It was the beginning of Minnesota's Rap Battle sub-culture, as several local Hip Hop crews where inspired to participate in the Tylor Express, hoping to be make a name for their selves. Celebrity rappers like Brother Ali evolved from the foundation laid down in the 90's golden era, whereas Hip Hop had remained dormant in Twin Cities since Travitron's Hop Hop Shop stopped airing ten years prior.

Street DJ's included Sugar Tee, 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, and Truth Maze.

Graffiti and B-boy crews existed in the city. However, the first verifiable rap record to be released in Minnesota was "The Twin City Rapp," a 12" single on TwinTown Records released in 1985. It was produced and performed by David "T.C." Ellis and C.T., and released by the Twin City Rappers.

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 Ann's "Rock Steady" Blue Velvet album (Blue Velvet, "Rock Steady," Sue Ann (1986)).

Notable artists[edit]


Twin Cities hip hop is characterized best by the alternative hip hop, underground hip hop, 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[edit]

(Now Defunct) 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 was hosted by YO! The Movement. The event featured performances from National headlining artists and local acts, The Hip Hop Fest included Battles in the following Categories: MC Battle, DJ Battle, B-Boy/B-Girl Battle, Beatbox Battle, and Production Battle.[citation needed]

In the first five years alone, nearly 20,000 people from around the world had taken part in the festival and conference.[citation needed] Past participants include Slick Rick, MC Lyte, Cee-Lo Green of Gnarls Barkley, Clipse, Camp Lo, Crazy Legs, Slug of Atmosphere, Jean Grae, Asia-One, Orikal Uno, EWOK (HM Crew), and Brother Ali and many others.

Headline performers:


Beginning in 2008, Rhymesayers Entertainment started sponsoring the annual Soundset Music Festival, a popular attraction that takes place over Memorial Day weekend in Saint Paul, MN.[3]


The well known Minneapolis venue First Avenue has been a typical location for major performances of Twin Cities hip hop. Other common places for shows around the cities include Honey Lounge, Nomad World Pub, Triple Rock, Blue Nile, Myth and the Fine Line. The Dinkytowner was a common place for smaller shows until its closing in 2009.[4]

Fifth Element was home to Last of the Record Buyer's showcase, which provided a platform for producers to show their skills.[5]

Graffiti can be found throughout the twin cities, sanctioned and not. One popular place for writers to write legally was known as the Bomb Shelter.[6]

Hope Community is home to Graffiti and hip hop production classes, many active artists in the community have passed through its doors.[7][8]

Intermedia Arts is a nonprofit in Uptown Minneapolis who allow public art and offer workshops/programs/ grant opportunities for artists in the cities.[9]


  • KCMP 89.3 (The Current) - Home of Rhymesayer's H2 Radio[10] as well as The Local Show[11] which plays some popular local hip hop
  • KFAI 90.3/106.7 FM - Hosts Soul Tools Radio every Saturday hosted by local Hip Hop artists Toki Wright.[12]
  • KMOJ 89.9 FM - Home of popular show "Rush it or Flush it"[13] where artists submit music to be voted on by the audience
  • KUOM 770 AM (Radio K) - University of Minnesota College Radio. They feature a "Track of the Day" from local artists.[14]
  • WMCN 91.7 FM - Macalester College Radio - weekly hip hop radio shows featuring live performances and interviews with many local artists.

See also[edit]