‘An Unwelcome Guest’ + Above Ground Magazine

The pre-sales promo video for ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ was posted on the always active Midwest hip hop blog, Above Ground Magazine. To check out the post, link here.

Top 10 Hip Hop Moments of 2009 by 612 to 651


Tru Ruts artists included in Justin Schell’s (612to651) highlights from 2009. Highlights include Hip Hop Against Homophobia, Maria Isa Street Politics release party, K’naan at Fine Line, Fong Lee Benefit and more. Link.

‘An Unwelcome Guest’ Release Party Video


Live version of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’
featuring Big Quarters + Truthbetold (of The Tribe).


Live version of ‘Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One’
featuring Eric Blair (of No Bird Sing).

[Courtesy of Culturebully.com]

Make your best “big cat” face

photo by B Fresh Photography

Guante & Big Cats at Bedlam: Make your best “big cat” face

We checked out the Guante and Big Cats release show for their new album, ” An Unwelcome Guest” over at the Bedlam Theater, and we asked you to give us your best “big cats” face. Here are our Top 10 as well as pics from the show. PHOTOS BY B FRESH PHOTOGRAPHY. To view the slideshow link to original post on City Pages on 13 December 2009.

Twin Cities Roll Call

Guante, yet another consciousness-raising rapper who calls the Twin Cities his home, commands center stage tonight at the Bedlam Theater alongside his producer Big Cats. They’ll be celebrating the release of “An Unwelcome Guest,” a 15-track concept album about—I kid you not—a zombie apocalypse. The disc features guest appearances by some of the Twin Cities’ finest (Haley Bonar, Big Quarters, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing), but the real star remains Guante’s endless repository of establishment-agitating lyrical insight (“This isn’t patriotism/This is the Stockholm syndrome”). (10 p.m., $5 adv/$7 door, 18+)

Originally posted on Metromix Twin Cities.

‘An Unwelcome Guest’ Honorable Mention in Culturebully Top Ten

Guante + Big Cats! ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ received an honorable mention as part of Culturebully’s Top Ten Twin Cities albums of 2009. Link here.

‘An Unwelcome Guest’ in Star Tribune

Wanna Guante?
Star Tribune

Another deep-voiced, grit-kicking MC in the style of Crescent Moon and No Bird Sing’s Joe Horton, Guante’s full-length debut, “An Unwelcome Guest,” is a concept album about a weary traveler walking through a land of zombies. No, it’s not about a recent trip to Uptown. The real-life Kyle Myhre, who got his start as a spoken-word poet, co-produced the album with wild-eyed beatmaker Big Cats!, with whom he’s performing at Saturday’s release party at Bedlam Theater, 1501 S. 6th St., Mpls., with openers No Bird Sing and Kristoff Krane (10 p.m., $5-$7). Guests include Haley Bonar, Big Quarters and Chastity Brown.

Original post on Star Tribune on 10 December 2009.

Memorable vocals, a concept album ‘with zombies’ and much, much more

Memorable vocals, a concept album ‘with zombies’ and much, much more
By Ross Raihala

Kyle “Guante” Myhre made a splash last year with his album, “El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment,” a disc that got him named an Artist of the Year by City Pages and landed him on URB magazine’s “Next 1,000” list. In addition to organizing the local Hip Hop Against Homophobia series, he’s also a local and national slam-poetry champion for two years running. He has followed up all that with “An Unwelcome Guest,” his new album recorded with producer Big Cats, whose resume includes work with Sage Francis and Jolie Holland. It’s a concept album, telling the story of “one man moving from east to west in the wake of man-made disaster and his own personal tragedy. Also, there are zombies.” Guante and Big Cats play a CD-release show Saturday at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis with support from No Bird Sing and Kristoff Krane.

Originally posted on Pioneer Press’ TwinCities.com by Ross Raihala on 10 December 2009.

Guante + Big Cats! roll out ambitious new concept album, “An Unwelcome Guest”

Guante and Big Cats! roll out ambitious new concept album, “An Unwelcome Guest”
By Justin Schell, TC Daily Planet

For you know, and I know, good horse ´mongst the rich ones
How oftimes we go there an unwelcome guest

-Woody Guthrie, “The Unwelcome Guest”

Earlier this year, Minneapolis MC and spoken word poet Guante told me that he was working on an album that was “about immigration.” This vague, yet full-of-potential germ has resulted in An Unwelcome Guest (Trú Rúts), the debut album from Guante and producer Big Cats!. The album is a follow up to the group’s Start a Fire EP, also on Trú Rúts, which was released in May of this year. The duo will celebrate its release Saturday, December 12th at Bedlam Theatre, with support from Kristoff Krane, No Bird Sing, and The Tribe.

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. When I spoke with them at their St. Paul rehearsal space, they were quick to emphasize how collaboratively they worked to create An Unwelcome Guest.

According to Big Cats!, “we would start with, ‘hey I have this beat, do you wanna use it?’ But then there was a process from there, ‘Can you change this part of it, can you rearrange this section, can this verse be 24 instead of 16?,’” he says. “It wasn’t just taking a verse and slapping it on a beat.”

“Each beat needed to fit a certain mood,” Guante adds, “to fit what was going on at the story at the time. They make the album as a whole more captivating.”

That attention to detail is evident throughout the album. Something that’s marked Big Cats!’s work since his first beat tapes is his vivid use of sonic color. Part of this comes from the producer’s multi-instrumental skills. “I have a musical background, I know how to play some instruments,” he says—including piano, guitar, and bass, along with the AKAI MPC1000 sampler. “I came up playing other people’s music, writing my own music.”

These details are not just present on drums that bump and hooks that grab, but also on elements like the constantly shifting sonic beds for verses, such as the hauntingly effective auto-tuned voices on “The Stockholm Syndrome.” Elsewhere there is the discordant harpsichord on “Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One.” This grating musical dissonance matches the social and emotional dissonance of the lyrics, which features a guest verse from No Bird Sing’s Eric Blair, as the two MCs explore the how the events of the album are “going according to plan/but whose plan?” This line is just one of many bursting with meaning, made all the stronger by their unified place in the album’s overarching story.

The idea of doing a concept album is nothing new to Guante. “I’ve been wanting to do a concept record for a long time, just as a challenge for myself. I think it makes interesting listening.” This emphasis on listening is key for Guante. “Music, and particularly hip-hop, has become a very passive listening experience,” he says. “It’s something you just nod and zone out to. We definitely wanted to have beats that anyone could appreciate and rhymes that flowed nicely, but it’s the idea that you could go deeper.”

The basic narrative of Guest, as I understand it and without giving too much away, revolves around a person is escaping some terrible event (although it’s never quite revealed what that event was), and while doing so, explores not just the physical landscapes he traverses on his post-apocalyptic journey, but also the emotions and meanings of that changed world and his place within it. “It’s not super abstract,” says Guante. “The language is very simple. I think where it gets complex is the subtext.”

The subtexts of Guest change with almost every song, invoking numerous interlocking themes. These include contemporary rhetoric about immigration; the reality and ideology of borders physical, national, and emotional; a biological plague; and governmental irresponsibility, conspiracy, and violence, as well as the insurrectionist response from the victims of these actions. There are two themes, however, that provide an inspiring and redemptive power in the midst of so much darkness and destruction. One is an insistent and unwavering emphasis on the power of aggressive social critique and the fight for social justice; the other is the power of love, a love that is neither hokey nor Hallmark, but one that persists and emboldens even through an apocalypse.

“Hopefully,” Guante says, “listening to the album is an experience that demands and rewards multiple listens.” Like the people whom Guante speaks about in “No Capes,” the everyday heroes that don’t need a costume or a mask to fight for what’s right, the messages of the tracks on An Unwelcome Guest possess more power together than they ever could alone, sounding a 21st century battle cry rooted in the righteous hoof beats of Woody Guthrie’s Black Bess.

Originally posted on TC Daily Planet on 8 December 2009.

Sha Cage chosen as Women’s Press Changemaker 2009

Changemaker 2009:
Shá Cage and Teen Summit

Youth event links art, activism, leadership
by Michele St. Martin

“We helped everyone remember that we are ALL living and breathing changemakers. We all possess the potential to be a leader.” – Shá Cage

It was girl-powered leadership that revolutionized the annual Teen Summit, said organizer Shá Cage. This noted local poet, actor and spoken-word artist is also the artistic director of the Minnesota Spoken Word Association (MNSWA), which sponsors the annual one-day event in partnership with a number of organizations. For the first two years of the four-year-old Teen Summit, attendance had been between 35 and 50.

The event, which links art, activism and leadership, mixed it up a bit last year. Working with MNSWA’s Youth Liberation Poets Ensemble (a youth board), Cage made a concerted effort to attract girls. The result? There were 160 participants. And, Cage said, “Usually, we have about one-third female attendees. [In 2008] 80 percent of our participants were female.” Participants attend at no cost.

Cage particularly wanted to focus on young women because of her experience working on issues of domestic violence and abuse of girls. The goal of the day is to help participants see themselves as leaders and to link art and activism in the budding leaders’ consciousness.

The day consists of games, listening exercises, presentations and performance. There are frequent check-ins and small-group discussions. “We start with the art,” Cage said, explaining that a self-affirming performance by the Youth Liberation Poets gets participants going; it’s key that they see youth artist/activists in action.

One of the day’s exercises: having all participants declare their own beauty. Cage explained, “We asked, for example: ‘How many of you can say you are beautiful?'” With the help of Cage and other adult and youth mentors, all attendees were able to claim their beauty.

About the 2008 and 2009 Summits, Cage said, “I believe we helped the youth to think about the world … not just through a new lens but through multiple ones. We were incredibly successful in cross-pollinating communities-those from the metro inner city with those from rural areas who don’t ordinarily have a lot of access [to each other].

“We helped everyone remember that we are ALL living and breathing changemakers,” Cage continued. “We all possess the potential to be a leader. The real difference is made in the nitty-gritty work … allow[ing] them to sit in a circle and encourag[ing] them to lead and drive the conversation. [We] nurture them to go … beyond identifying what’s wrong in the world … to designing corrective strategies.

“We communicated that young voices matter … that strong young women are important and that young men and boys are also part of the conversation.” Partnerships are key in putting together the event and in pulling it off, Cage said. One key partner has been the girl-led positive body-image group, Girls in Motion-Minnesota. Partners mainly contribute in-kind; the major challenge is financial. There’s been lots of planning and interest; the only thing lacking for the 2010 Summit is the money. Cage hopes to make it happen.

Be the change!
Come to a MNSWA “Literally Speaking” evening, a one-hour workshop led by leading spoken word artists, followed by a one-hour open mic for participants. First Thursday of each month from 5-7 p.m., MNSWA Youth Zone/offices at 1224 Quincy St. N.E., Suite 140, Minneapolis. There is no charge.

Drop a check in the mail: Donations are needed to make the 2010 Teen Summit a reality. Checks less than $50 should be made out to MNSWA; over $50 to Springboard. Put Teen Summit on the memo line. Send to MNSWA at the address shown above.

FFI: www.myspace.com/mnspokenwordassociation

Original post in Women’s Press on 6 December 2009.