Tru Ruts kicks off another music series, this time from hip hop and spoken word stalwart, Truthmaze. The new series, The Truthmaze Experience, will be a musical potluck of unreleased tracks, new mixes, collaborations and more. Though known primarily as a hip hop and spoken word artist, Truthmaze’s work as a whole defies categorization. He has worked with numerous musical projects, bands and ensembles, and has been a part of countless collaborations, nationally and internationally. A beatboxer, emcee, percussionist and poet, he often leaps across genres, and has the ingenuity to fuse these genres into something new, original and unexpected. This free-wheeling spirit and eclecticism will be highlighted on this new series. You can listen to the first track from ‘The Truthmaze Experience’ here.
Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents CONSCIOUS IS NOT ENOUGH 2011
Twin Cities hip hop artist’s new mixtape is backed up by real activist work
In 2008, Guante released “Conscious is Not Enough,” a collection of songs written around the idea that while voting in the 2008 election was important, coming together as a community and organizing for change was more important. While hip hop albums—much less mixtapes—don’t generally have thesis statements, CINE was a progressive call-to-arms, a rallying cry for those who believe that hope and change aren’t things you vote for—they’re things you work for.
With the recent turmoil in Guante’s home-state of Wisconsin, revolutions sweeping the Middle East and an assortment of battles taking place in Guante’s current home, the Twin Cities, indie label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records is releasing an updated, re-recorded and re-mixed version of the mixtape. It will be available as a free download from www.truruts.bandcamp.com on March 29.
Featuring original production from the likes of Big Cats! (Sage Francis, the Tribe), DJ Pain 1 (Young Jeezy, Chuck D), Calvin Valentine (Planet Asia, Phil da Agony) and others, plus a few jacked beats (including the crowd-favorite “Your Boyfriend’s a Republican” performed over the instrumental to Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”), the mixtape is tied together by Guante’s relentless wit, political insight, technical virtuosity and pure, uncut passion for the subject matter. It’s also proof positive that political hip hop can have a sense of humor, and that smart rappers can also be entertaining.
The mixtape also serves as the official announcement of the MN Activist Project, a database of progressive activist organizations that Guante has pulled together. That database (www.mnactivist.com) will be tied to a promotional campaign aimed at getting more people involved in activism and organizing. The site also includes toolkits and resources for young activists.
“There’s a natural connection between art, media, education and activism,” Guante says. “This mixtape, along with the MN Activist Project, is about drawing attention to that connection and to the overlap that’s already there. Hip hop can put 300 people in the same room who would otherwise never be together; that’s a powerful thing. The website is partly about trying to focus that power.”
Guante, a two-time National Poetry Slam champion, former City Pages’ “Best of the Twin Cities” artist and URB Magazine “Next 1000” artist, is a long-time social justice advocate. His work includes curating the “Hip Hop Against Homophobia” concert series, leading writing and social justice workshops in schools throughout the Midwest and serving as arts coordinator of the Canvas, a teen art center in St. Paul.
Guante will be celebrating the new mixtape at two upcoming shows. The first, on April 4 at the Whole Music Club at the University of Minnesota (8pm, all ages, free), happens to be the next Hip Hop Against Homophobia concert. The second will be at Cause in Uptown Minneapolis, on April 7 (21+, 9pm, $5).
For more information, interview requests contact Guante (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tru Ruts (email@example.com) or check out www.guante.info or www.twitter.com/elguante.
SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE moved back to the Twin Cities after an eight-year stint in Chicago as a youth organizer, hip hop artist and all-around troublemaker in 2007. Since then, he’s played the shadows of the TC hip hop scene, emerging here and there to perform with label-mate Guante at the Soundset Festival, produce and record tracks for some of the scene’s top artists, release an indie-pop Halloween album as one half of Strange Perspective, beatbox for KRS-ONE and take part in countless other traditional and not-so-traditional events.
He also worked on his debut full-length, ARCHITEXTUAL DESIGN, a sprawling, ambitious concept album featuring Chicago’s broad-shouldered swagger, St. Paul’s down-home realness and Minneapolis’ forward-thinking drive. Three years plus in the making, that album is set to be released on November 30th, on rising label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records’ Bandcamp page and in record stores after December 3rd.
Armed with a raspy, Lyrics Born-style drawl capable of both rapping and singing, a quick-witted positivity that never comes off as sugar-coated or phony, and an unapologetic earnestness that’s so rare in indie hip hop today, See More has created an album that quite literally sounds like nothing else out there. The album flows from heartbreaking storytelling tracks with real lyrical depth to party songs that celebrate hip hop’s roots to Gnarls Barkley-esque pop songs to wildly funky instrumentals to much more. Featuring Chicago rappers and Twin Cities spoken word artists, ARCHITEXTUAL DESIGN is always anchored by See More’s voice—in both the literal and literary sense of the word.
And it’s that voice that makes the album so special. See More Perspective is attempting to bring sincerity back. This isn’t ironic dance pop, tongue-in-cheek underground rap or faux-European synth music; this is a statement about culture as communication—not just the background noise of our lives, but the real foundation and structure on which we stand.
‘ARCHITEXTUAL DESIGN’ is available for download at Tru Ruts’ Bandcamp.
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An otherworldly combination of hip hop, jazz, indie rock and geek-pop, Strange Perspective is a late-night séance of sound and spirit. The debut collaboration between MC/producer See More Perspective and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dameun Strange, THE LOST SOULS BOYS CHOIR IN JAZZ FUNERAL, plays out as a spooky suite of songs exploring death, remembrance and rebirth, with reference points in the New Orleans jazz funeral tradition, the spirit of Dia de los Muertos and the culture of Victorian spiritualism. The duo took first place at this year’s Spoutstock cover competition with their version of “Jack’s Lament” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which says quite a bit about their style and approach. This is quirky and fun, to be sure, but there’s also a sharp edge to the music that reminds the listener that fun and serious, escapism and meaning life and death themselves—they’re not as far apart as we’d often like to believe.
Two accomplished musicians in their own right, artists SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE and Dameun Strange join forces to create ‘Strange Perspective’. Born Adam Gabriel Rangel, SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE is a native of St. Paul, MN and son of Chicago. Having returned to his native Twin Cities roots from several years in Chi-town, he brings a unique aesthetic influenced by both communities. As a hip hop performer and recording artist, he captures and engages crowds of all generations through his energy and signature crowd interaction. As a lyricist poet, educator, self taught producer, actor, and visual artist his work carries revolutionary uplifting undertones known to motivate audiences across the Midwest and the South. As a producer, his music conveys a rawness of heart and soul that is effortlessly spiritual. Infused with traditions of jazz, funk and indigenous music, his sound is at times grainy and full – yet smooth and crisp.
Dameun Maurice Strange was born in Washington, DC. His interest in music began at an early age as he studied viola and clarinet in the DC Youth Orchestra program. At age 13, he began performing around the area as a saxophone soloist; writing music was his true passion. While at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN, he began explorations in electronic music. He seeks to create a rich audio tapestry that would be able to portray a beautiful vignette or illustrate a compelling story.
‘JAZZ FUNERAL’ is available as a free download for a limited time at Tru Ruts’ Bandcamp.
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On the heels of his beat tape release, ‘Breaks in the Clouds’, producer See More Perspective returns this time as an emcee. Initiating a new free music download series, ‘See More Perspective’s Boombox Emporium’, he collaborates with producer Julian Fairbanks, of Audio Perm, to bring you ‘Maintain/Transcend’, a laid-back track that makes for a perfect driving song. The silky, summertime groove feel of the track is balanced by a steady flow of engaged lyrics from See More. The partnership with Fairbanks helps create a musical soundscape that is easily intoxicating. A Twin Cities native with roots in Chicago, See More’s music embodies the best of both cities. He has released a series of EPs, including ‘First Impression’ and ‘Summertime Hip Hip BBQ Jam for the World’, in addition to his beat tape concept album. Julian Fairbanks ranks as one of the up-and-coming young producers that have been making waves in the Twin Cities. A member of the producer collective, Audio Perm, he has produced tracks for Big Quarters, Yakub, Bobby Richardson, Facade and others, along with a remix of Doomtree’s Mike Mictlan’s ‘Prizefight’.
See More will follow up the download series with one of his annual Halloween-themed projects. This year, he collaborates with musician Dameun Strange to create what they call an ‘ecstatic seance’ in the form of the project ‘Strange Perspective and The Lost Souls Boys Choir in JAZZ FUNERAL’, which will be released October 26th on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. The release party for ‘JAZZ FUNERAL’ will be on October 30th (10pm), at Hell’s Kitchen with Strange Perspective, plus Mayda, Guante and others.
‘See More Perspective’s Boombox Emporium’ is available for free download at www.truruts.bandcamp.com.
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“Spitting classical flows with a quick angry tongue over crisp beats, it was hard to digest but I’d be ready to hear him again any day.” – City Pages
“Hip-hop and spooky graveyard fog find a surprisingly tight chemistry…” – A.V. Club Madison
“(See More Perspective) is a voice of this generation.” – Rich Albertoni (Madison’s Isthmus)
Like the other artists on the Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records roster (Sha Cage, e.g. bailey, Guante, Truthmaze, etc.) See More Perspective wears a lot of hats. A teacher, a rapper, a drummer, a beatboxer and even a cook, See More is ready to show the world his talent as a producer with his first full-length beat tape, BREAKS IN THE CLOUDS.
Winner of the “Best Producer” award at the 2009 Urban Griots Awards, See More has worked with some of the brightest talents from the Twin Cities, Chicago (his home for nearly a decade) and beyond. This beat compilation collects some of his favorite productions—some full-on instrumental arrangements, some rap songs stripped of their vocals, and some wild experiments thrown in for good measure.
The result is a psychedelic gumbo of styles and flavors. These aren’t sped-up soul samples, generic club bangers or DJ Premier knock-off beats. These are the products of a producer who has developed a real musical personality of his own and isn’t afraid to let it shine through.
“This new collection of instrumentals is a series of moments that break through,” See More says. “Depending on the timing, these breaks can be both light and dark and you’ll find a mix of moody, dark pieces along with lighter and hopefully more inspiring pieces. The effect may be a sort of bi-polar track listing, but isn’t that just like life? The ebb and flow of our routine, struggle, progress and finally, breakthrough?”
See More Perspective will be releasing his debut full-length as a rapper, “Architextual Design,” later this year. And if this beat tape is any indication, it’s going to be something pretty special—fearless, progressive and forward-thinking.
“The break though,” See More says. “The moment of inspiration. Recognition. Fortification. Love. Light breaking through clouds at just the right time to speak to you, direct and anonymous, as you wake, drive, work, cook, clean or even dream. A moment of clarity as it were, over a break beat.”
‘Breaks in the Clouds’ is available as a free download for a limited time at Tru Ruts’ Bandcamp.
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“J. Otis Powell! spells his name with an exclamation point and demands truth, sincerity and accountability.” –Pulse of the Twin Cities
“Powell’s delivery is deeper, more measured, adding a gravity and weight to the words simply through his bass intonation alone.” –Justin Schell
“I live and work in an aesthetic informed by jazz principles and I practice true democracy as art and religion in a world resistant to all three.” –J. Otis Powell!
Noted Twin Cities writer and performance artist, J. Otis Powell’s first full album THEOLOGY: LOVE & REVOLUTION was a ground breaking work bringing together three of the Twin Cities finest musicians and five word performers in a cataclysmic word-funk-jazz-playground! The album, which was originally released in 1998, is reissued and re-mastered by Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records and available for download online beginning April 6, 2010. The re-mastered version breathes new life into the album illuminating the already rhythmic possibilities. The reissue attempts to expand this innovative work to a broader audience regionally and nationally.
The form of THEOLOGY defies convention. The music palette of the album almost evokes an outer-worldly audio response. Appearing like prose, its very genesis and thrust is poetry, and it must be read as such, the rhythms of the words contributing as much to the meaning of the piece as their literal definitions. Further, the plurality of voices heard in this recording is an integral part of the piece. While THEOLOGY purports to examine the different dimensions of self, in its larger context it is about community, and how the community of voices around us can inhabit beings, and help us to become ourselves. There is also a deliberate fluidity in its time frame, expressed through an ever-changing verb tense, that imitates the fluidity of the spirit in conversation with itself and the rest of the world: “I am ever-changing, liquid like time. I am not a destination but a journey. I am changing seasons, I am the reason I traveled such distance to love. I am at once my lover/myself, we are one with the theology of time, space, and an ancient dream coming true.” Be advised that this is not your typical spoken word. To be transported simultaneously through the musical and theatrically delicious way that Powell does is a delight!
His interdisciplinary background informed the selection of star talent. Word performers Lynette Rieni-Grandell, Venus De Mars of All The Pretty Horses, Dee Henry Williams, and Earcie Allen provide vocal layering that at times is threaded into a one voice harmony such as the opening track titled “So There I Was, Right?” Music is provided by musicians including Impulse label artist José James (UK), Rene Ford (TX) and Malina D. Rauschenfels (MN), who do a brilliant job constructing a landscape that is highly adaptable while never losing shape. Visual artist Jennifer Davis’ cover painting accompanied by Del Bey’s design accented the album with minimalist yet sensual imagery.
“…we jumped inside a freedom train to ride its rhythmic sound, we got aboard a love supreme to lay our burdens down.” (Powell!)
The album is a combination of stories, thoughts, dreams, and visceral–sometimes–spiritual statements centered around love. The titles of each of the 7 tracks are perhaps as provocative as the pieces themselves: Cliché, Disbelieving Hearts, Dancing Dead, Consequences, The Woman At The Well, Flow Ago and Tell. When the album was first released over 10 years ago, Powell! moved it into the realm of performance art, producing staged performances of “THEOLOGY: Love & Revolution” at Studio 6A in Hennepin Center for the Arts and at the Knitting Factory in New York.
“In linking the exploration of divine spirituality to the dialogues of love, J. Otis Powell! is furthering a longstanding tradition, heretofore more visible in music than in poetry, which now finds its expression in the music of this poetry. Listen, the voices of everylove can be heard in the study of THEOLOGY.” – Lynette Rieni-Grandell
In addition to the prose poem Theology this recording includes two bonus tracts recorded in Tucson AZ with tHE eDGE eNSEMBLE featuring Steve Roach, Linda Kohanov and J. Otis Powell!
You can listen to the album here.
“He makes language live!” – Amiri Baraka
“There is so much history, culture, and experience packed into American Afrikan that to summarize would be to attempt to summarize all of African American experience.” – Jon Behm (Reviler)
“A powerful testament of bailey’s skill of mobilizing poetry for contemplation, remembrance, and a subtle, but no less insistent, call to action.” –Justin Schell
“No matter how long it takes for bailey to drop ‘da proverbial bomb’, it will have been well worth the wait.” – Dwight Hobbes
With co-signs from Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets and the legendary Amiri Baraka, Twin Cities spoken word artist, poet, musician, organizer and educator, e.g. bailey, presents his first full-length album, AMERICAN AFRIKAN, a spoken word concept album that begins in Africa, crosses the Middle Passage, explores America and ends up somewhere that defies easy definition.
Part musical theater piece, part audio chapbook and part performance art experiment, AMERICAN AFRIKAN mixes the beat-influenced poetry of bailey with music that blends hip hop, funk, jazz, electronica and more, creating a sound that is at once progressive and challenging yet smooth and listenable.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that an hour-long spoken word album wouldn’t be much fun to listen to; many aren’t. But as Umar Bin Hassan says in the album’s liner notes, “The sounds on this album are just as important as the words.” Through bailey’s voice, through the Igbo nuns on ‘Oracles of Equiano’, through Aimee Bryant’s rendition of ‘Motherless Child’ and through the album’s diverse sonic palette, AMERICAN AFRIKAN succeeds not just as a piece of literature or poetry, but as a cohesive musical journey.
Producer Katrah Quey, perhaps best known for his work with TC wordsmith M.anifest (who shows up to drop a verse on the ‘American Afrikan’ remix), handles a majority of that music, though Hipgnosis and DJ Limbs shine on a couple of early tracks. The beats compliment the words; sometimes fun and funky, sometimes dark and meditative––but always engaging. The album also features appearances by Twin Cities-based African poets, Ibé Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Mankwe Ndosi, singer for Atmosphere; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstrakt Collision; Midwest emcee Idris Goodwin and others.
Though the music might be what draws people into this album, it’s bailey himself that will keep them there. Crafting a masterful narrative from the first track to the last, he explores identity, history, culture and all the places they intertwine in a way that is always meaningful but never preachy; always heart-felt but never melodramatic. As he says himself: “The project attempts to explore what it means to be an Afrikan today, an Afrikan in America, an American Afrikan. What is this journey historically, metaphorically, poetically? However, you can’t answer that question unless you explore what it means to be American, in post-9/11 America. And because America affects and infects us all, it is also about all of us.”
Deemed a true innovator of the spoken word art form, his charismatic yet rhythmic style dances words with sound in and out of synch with verbal play. One of the most prolific voices and talents in the Twin Cities, Bailey’s work has taken him on travels through the U.S., England, South Africa, France, Serbia and more. He has created spoken word work in film, theater, music and radio. Born in Saclepea, Liberia, and now based in the U.S., he is a founder of several foundational entitles in the local and national community including: MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors, the Urban Griots Spoken Word Awards, The Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of MN. He has appeared in spoken word commercials including ‘Art Connects’, which premiered during the 2008 B.E.T. Hip Hop Awards, and was featured on the MTV, VH1, MTV Europe, CBS, NBC and other networks, in addition to being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame archived at the Modern Museum of Arts in New York. As he moves effortless between radio, film, theater, and producing, his live performances are always a treat.
Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents: AMERICAN AFRIKAN
The debut album from spoken word artist E.G. BAILEY
CD RELEASE PARTY: SAT FEB 20TH
@ THE BEDLAM THEATRE (1501 6th St S., Minneapolis, MN 55454)
Hosted by J. Otis Powell!. Featuring Guante, Mankwe Ndosi, Truthmaze, Sha Cage, See More Perspective, Chantz Erolin, Aimee Bryant, Ibé Kaba, Sankaradjeki, Dameun Strange, members of Junkyard Empire (Chris Cox + Bryan Berry), Kahlil Brewington, DJ Stage One + more.
10pm 18+ $5 advance
Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records releases “Good Company” EP
One of the freshest voices in Twin Cities hip hop gets a formal introduction
Yes, that’s his real name. And no, you don’t have to kick him out of the club; he’s on the bill. What Chantz Erolin lacks in age, he more than makes up for in experience. At just 18 years old, he’s been a part of the Twin Cities hip hop scene for a very long time, performing at Yo! The Movement events, winning battles, rocking the stage at Soundset 2009 with new label-mate Guante and playing alongside artists like MC Lyte, Naughty by Nature, I Self Devine, Brother Ali and many more. Over the past few years, you may have seen him sneaking into a 21+ Big Quarters show, ciphering outside South High or winning a youth poetry slam.
Wherever you saw him, though, the odds are good that he won you over. As an emcee, Chantz sticks out from the crowd with a biting, intelligent sense of humor, nuanced political savvy and songwriting skills that put most other punchline-oriented rappers to shame. Describing one of his performances, City Pages said: “[Chantz] gave off an infectious energy and suggested his age with goofy asides while belying it with noticeable displays of versatility.”
And nowhere is that energy, versatility and… goofiness more evident than on his debut EP, “Good Company.” Featuring production by one of the best young beat-makers in the country (Cory Grindberg of Audio Perm), the EP is a brief collection of guitar-driven hip hop tracks “about friends, fashion’s guts, hunger, home, race and family,” as Chantz says. Featuring laugh-out-loud punchlines, touching meditations on identity and relationships, and lots of poetic details, “Good Company” is the perfect introduction to one of the Twin Cities freshest voices. Rising indie label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records recognized this, and will be re-releasing the EP in preparation for a future full-length.
Though he was born in Los Angeles, Chantz is very much a product of the Twin Cities hip hop scene. At times, you can hear flashes of other artists in his flow: Big Zach’s drawl, Slug’s confidence, Big Quarters’ down-home realness. But Chantz also manages to transcend his peers and influences by focusing on his own story and offering something new. If “Good Company” is any indication, TC rap is in very good hands. ‘Good Company’ will be re-released on November 10th.
RETURN TO EL GUANTE’S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT
Remixed and Re-imagined (again) by See More Perspective
Just in time for Halloween, ‘Return to El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment’ is a Frankenstein’s monster of remixes, re-imaginings and brand new tracks from Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records artists Guante and See More Perspective. Loosely based around Guante’s critically-acclaimed 2008 release ‘El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment’, this album finds producer See More Perspective taking Guante’s sound into darker, funkier, weirder places. The Halloween theme ties everything together, but the real message is something deeper: respect for the spirits, remembrance for the dead and an appreciation of life while it lasts. It’s also funky, however, with See More Perspective’s organic, danceable beats a definite departure from the archetypal Twin Cities hip hop sound. Between the groove-oriented production, the melodic deliveries of both emcees and the flat-out uniqueness of songs like the ‘80s-synth pop tribute “The Fourth Wall (Cellar Door Remix)” and the dynamic yet bittersweet “Dia De Los Muertos,” RETURN TO EL GUANTE’S HAUNTED STUDIO APARTMENT is the perfect Halloween soundtrack, though it’s sure to remain in constant rotation long after that.
“We released a version of this last Halloween, but in the chaos of touring, working on other stuff and just being busy we were never really able to push it as hard as we wanted,” Guante says. “So we decided to add a few tracks and release it for free as a thank you to everyone who’s been so supportive this past year. (Evil laugh).”
‘Return to El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment’ will be released October 27th on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. It will be available for free download until Friday 13th, November 2009. To download the album link here.