The Truthmaze Experience

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.

Strange Perspective: ‘nobody sleeps tonight’

“A lot of incredible and horrifying things happen every day all around the world. So much change, catastrophe, epiphany, joy…and despite the lull of the daily trudge, people do feel it. We dream of it, daydream about it or just stay up at night, wondering why we can’t get to sleep. Maybe we get depressed and don’t know why, maybe we misplace our frustrations…Something’s wrong. Conversely, something electric is in the air. Excitement, wonder, nervous energy. There is opportunity; indeed, there is also despair. What will I focus on? how will I channel my feelings around it? How can I face tomorrow? How the hell am I going to get to sleep?” – See More Perspective

The latest from SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE’s collaboration with Dameun Strange, as Strange Perspective, doesn’t necessarily answer these questions, but swims in them, as we often do when disaster strikes or we feel the rift of some unknown revelation uncoil beneath the surface. This is electronic, bass heavy, jungle style hip hop. It’s hard and kinetic. It’s also smooth, melodic and catchy. The concept lives in every snare, high hat, rhythm and cadence. It’s frenetic and courses the listeners ears for answers, hope, a little peace and finds the people who give a damn.

Written and performed by Strange Perspective
recorded by and engineered by SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE
at Luv ‘n’ Dedication studio, Minneapolis

Free Music: ‘No Capes’ from Guante + Big Cats!

[Note: This promo has ended. But check the download category for other free downloads.]

For one week only, download “NO CAPES” by Guante & Big Cats! for free.  One of the standout tracks from the duo’s 2010 concept album, “An Unwelcome Guest,” the song takes a critical look at the mythology of the hero; can we look to one person– whether a superhero or an elected official– to save us, or are there real heroes in our midst?  This free download, courtesy of rising indie label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, is dedicated to those fighting for their basic rights in Wisconsin, as well as to those who will continue to fight tomorrow, wherever they are needed.

“NO CAPES” is also a prelude to Guante’s upcoming mixtape, “CONSCIOUS IS NOT ENOUGH 2011,” a collection of brand new songs, remixes and updated tracks based around the power of community and the importance of organizing.  Featuring Guante’s trademark blend of progressive lyrics, poetic storytelling and gallows humor, the full mixtape will be released in March.

‘Agnes Under the Big Top’

‘The Huddled Masses’
Immigrants cope with their
unrealized American dreams
By Ed Huyck, City Pages

Dying of cancer and lost in a country far from home, Agnes wants nothing more than to take flight like a bird and escape—to go home to Africa, to see her son grow up, to find a story with a happy ending. Reality, however, isn’t going to let that happen.

Staged with an inventive flair and well-acted by a veteran-packed cast, Agnes Under the Big Top presents a quick ride through the immigrant experience via the connected lives of four American newcomers. Creator Aditi Brennan Kapil crafts an imaginative space for the actors to play in, but her script doesn’t fly as high as the rest of the elements.

Agnes (Sha Cage) hails from Liberia and came to make life better for her family back in Africa. That gets derailed right at the top of the show, as she discovers she is suffering from terminal cancer. Roza (Virginia Burke) and Shipkov (Nathaniel Fuller) are former Bulgarian circus performers who won the green-card lottery but now no longer even talk to each other. Meanwhile, Happy (Ankit Dogra) has left India to make his fortune in America, though he seems to be having some troubles with his karma.

Other characters connect like the twisting lines of the trains that crisscross through the nameless city. One is Ella (Linda Kelsey), a bedridden woman who Agnes and Roza care for, while another is the Busker (Nick Demeris), who not only works in the stations the others inhabit but takes on the roles of friends from the old countries, which show us the happier times for each of the main characters before their move to the promised land.

That their warm expectations meet the cold reality of life in America is no surprise, but how they cope becomes the real drive of the show. Some retreat: Roza rarely speaks, except to the birds. Others, like Happy, pretend that everything is just as they had planned. Still, in a play packed with metaphor and stories, I needed to be taken further from the familiar, where the big-top dreams of the title can play themselves out for the audience.

Carrying the day are the performers, who fully sell themselves in each role. Cage is central to the play, and she turns in another terrific performance as the lost Agnes searching for whatever meaning she can find in her suddenly truncated life. She rarely rages outwardly; instead, her silence toward her employer or the tall tales she spins for her son say far more than outward anger. Fuller gives Shipkov a thick layer of cynical crust that, when peeled away, shows us another layer of crust, but one that has a bit more warmth.

The roles for Burke and Kelsey offer different challenges. Burke spends most of her time silent or speaking Bulgarian, but her performance tells us volumes about her lost and sad character. Kelsey spends the entire 90-minute play bedridden as Ella, with only her voice to carry the character. Like Shipkov, Ella’s hostility hides a lot of pain, and Kelsey nails all of it, creating sympathy for a character who is just as lost as the immigrants.

Rounding out the company are two local newcomers. In a cast of characters hiding their true selves, Happy has pushed his reality the deepest, retaining his cheerful optimism from his life in India to the United States. It isn’t until deep into the play that his troubles come into focus. At that point, Dogra reaches far into the superficial character we’ve seen up to this point and gives Happy the extra dimensions he needs. Demeris by himself rounds out the cast, as he plays the rest of the world, from the silent subway busker in America to key characters in each of the homelands, from a silent Bulgarian clown to an overactive Indian friend to a laid-back listener gently playing a beat on a plastic gas can while Agnes shares her great dreams.

All of this is unified by a clever circus-like staging and a set (by Andrea Heilman) that connects the various worlds our characters inhabit by way of a train car and track. All of the elements are there in Agnes Under the Big Top—it just needs a little push for it to take full flight.

Originally posted on City Pages, 23 February 2001.

E.G. Bailey nominated for the Independent Music Award

E.G. Bailey’s ‘American Afrikan’ album nominated
for the Independent Music Award’s Eclectic Album category

Congratulations to E.G. Bailey on his nomination. Presented by the Music Resource Group, with judges including Tom Waits, Seal, Suzanne Vega, Adam Duritz, Gavin Rossdale, Aimee Mann, Andraé Crouch, Toots Hibbert, Vijay Iyer, McCoy Tyner, AAnthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone), Kathleen Brennan, Pete Wentz, Bettye LaVette, Ozzy Osbourne, Arturo Sandoval, Martin Atkins, Andrew W. K., Shelby Lynne, Kevin Lyman (Warped Tour), Bill Bragin (Lincoln Center), Pat McGuire (Filter Magazine), the Independent Music Awards is an international program that honors top-ranked independent artists and releases. This year, E.G. Bailey’s critically acclaimed and genre-hopping spoken word opus, have been nominated for Eclectic Album category. More information about the Independent Music Awards is located at www.independentmusicawards.com. Fans can also vote here – http://bit.ly/h7M58z. You can listen to the album at Tru Ruts’ Bandcamp page.

Known for celebrating artists that follow their own muse, The 10th IMA Nominees are an eclectic mix of rising stars including Strawfoot (Alt. Country Song), Hemoptysis (Metal/Hardcore Song), and Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three (Amerciana Album) and established talent including telecaster virtuoso, Jim Campilongo (Instrumental Album), experimental multi-genre artist, Flying Lotus (Music Video and Dance/Electronica Song), and indie rockers, Ra Ra Riot (Pop/Rock Album). Perhaps better known as major label acts, this year’s Nominees strutting their independence include former Hole bassist, Melissa Auf der Maur (Indie/Alt./Hard Rock Album), and songwriting legend Jackson Browne with David Lindley (Live Performance Album).

Winners will be determined by a panel of 62 influential artist and industry judges and will be announced in mid-March 2011. Music fans have until July 11 to cast their votes at The IMA Vox Pop Jukebox to determine the fan-selected IMA Winners. Past winners and nominees include: And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Cursive, fun., The Flatlanders, Spinerrette, Holly GoLightly & The Brokeoffs, Vienna Teng, The So So Glos, Cephas & Wiggins, The Matches, All That Remains, The Cliks, Oran Etkin, State Radio, Lee “Scratch Perry, The Very Best, Tim Easton, Marco Benevento, Kes The Band, Jamie Lidell, Lacuna Coil, The Trews, Joan As Police Woman; Koko Taylor, Miguel Migs; Speech, God Forbid, Lionel Louekee; Jeff Healey, Johnny Dowd, Chris Whitley, Ike Turner, The Apples in stereo, Mary Gauthier, Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland), The Mooney Suzuki, and Denque Fever among many others.

“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.

The project features contributions from Katrah-Quey, hipgnosis, Ben Durrant, Mankwe Ndosi, Ibe Kaba,  Sankaradjeki, Assaad Lakkis + Abstrakt Collision, Aimee Bryant, DJ Limbs, Idris Goodwin, M.anifest, Starskie, DJ Stage One, Sha Cage, Walter ‘Q-Bear’ Banks, Jerry Stearns, Simon Husbands, Andy Shaffer, Karin Odell, Elliot Looney, Uche, Matt Wood, Julian Murray and others.

Sha Cage stars in ‘Agnes Under the Big Top’

Sha Cage starring in ‘Agnes Under the Big Top, a tall tale’
A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
written & directed by Aditi Brennan Kapil
featuring Virginia Burke, Nick Demeris, Ankit Dogra,
Nathaniel Fuller and Linda Kelsey

Mixed Blood Theatre
February 18 – March 6, 2011
Wednesdays – Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3:00 p.m.

You will want to see this funny and powerful new work! It’s the story of immigrants in America today, and how their lives intersect under the figurative Big Top. A city subway station is the central point for all the action. A Liberian home care worker, an itinerant busker, a Bulgarian ringmaster and his wife, along with an Indian call center escapee, discover and redefine themselves through the telling of this magical fable. For more information, you can link to Mixed Blood Theatre.

e.g. bailey + Sha Cage produce Liberian radio documentary

New Beginnings: The Story of  Liberians in Minnesota

For some time now, Minnesota has been a refuge for immigrant communities displaced from their homes due to a variety of circumstances. One of these communities is the Liberian community, which grew rapidly in the aftermath of a series of civil wars that ravished their country. However the story of Liberians in Minnesota does not begin with these civil wars but stretches back more than 50 years.

In this radio documentary, we look at this history, along with the growth and development of the community. In a series of conversations with a wide-range of Liberians in Minnesota including Wynfred Russell, Abdullai Kiatamba, Piso Tarr, Yeamah Brewer, Mameneh George, Charles Dennis and others, in addition to other prominent figures in the community including State Representative Keith Ellison, professor of history Peter Rachleff and theatre director Wendy Knox, this programs provides an overview of where the Liberian community in Minnesota stands today, the contributions it has made to the state and what the future holds.

The documentary is produced by Liberian-American artist e.g. bailey, and his partner Sha Cage. The three-part documentary will air on KFAI Fresh Air Radio (90.3fm Minneapolis/106.7fm St. Paul) on February 16th, 21st and 23rd at 7:30pm. It can also be streamed online at wwww.kfai.org.

New Music: ‘Quiet Love’ from See More Perspective + Nye

Happy Valentines Day, as only the Boombox Emporium could wish for you. The latest installment of the Emporium is yet another preview of great things to come. After peppering his debut solo album with beats from his brother, Nye, See More Perspective is preparing to bring that partnership to the foreground with the funky, hilarious and solid album, SEX TAPE––a mash up of sexuality, humor and hip hop. Producer Nye brings back boom bap with a vengeance through rugged, dynamic textures and bizarre vocal samples in the tradition of Handsome Boy Modeling School and Dr. Octogon. See More’s flows are as rhythmic, sharp and thoughtful as ever while juggling sexual overtones, romantic impulses, laugh out loud rhymes and socio-political commentary. The uniqueness of the project lies in its celebration of sexuality without using it for shock value. The humor of the the weird 70s porn samples is used to disarm the listener while interjecting potent points of view on love, sex, relationships and politics in the flow of fun-loving hip hop. ‘Quiet Love’ is the first step forward in this new collaboration between See More Perspective + Nye.

New Music from WAKE THE CITY (Guante + See More Perspective)

‘Shotgun Soliloquy (Ragga Remix)’ gives you yet another peek into WAKE THE CITY, the budding musical collaboration between Guante and SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE. This “premix” of sorts is a remix of a track that has yet to be released. That’s just how we get down at the Boombox Emporium. The Rube’s simultaneously throwback and forward-thinking production suits the rappers’ boombap tendencies perfectly. Expect to hear more funky concoctions from these three in the future, probably sooner than you think!

‘A Hug from a Stranger’ (Video) – Guante + Big Cats!

Check out the new video from Guante + Big Cats!. Directed by Tony Perkins, this video is for the song “A Hug From a Stranger” from their debut LP, “An Unwelcome Guest.” The song is a quiet moment in the narrative of the larger concept album, a story that deals with love, radical politics, superhero mythology and yes, zombies. Featuring Haley Bonar, Big Quarters, Chastity Brown, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing and Prolyphic of Strange Famous Records, the album was released in January of 2010 on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records and is available for purchase at guanteandbigcats.bandcamp.com or truruts.bandcamp.com. Video shot on location at E Squared Cafe in Brainerd, MN.

“Part Cormac McCarthy, part Woody Guthrie, and part Public Enemy, An Unwelcome Guest is an intricately woven poetic and sonic excursion through landscapes mental, emotional, and physical, cementing Guante and Big Cats!’s status as two of the best emerging artists within Twin Cities hip-hop.” – TC Daily Planet

“Guante could very well follow Atmosphere and P.O.S. in the long-line of outstanding rappers to break from the Midwest.” – CMJ

“Guante and Big Cats! create intelligent, political hip hop that mercifully doesn’t come off as preachy or self-righteous. It’s sobering, demanding your attention like a car crash, yet emotional and alarmingly intimate at times.” – City Pages