The Unknown Prophets have been a notable part of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene since the late '90s, bringing their thoughtful rhymes and lofty instrumentation to countless sets since the Bon Appetit days of Dinkytown -- but we came to a realization recently that we don't know nearly enough about them (thanks to Slug for pointing this out in an interview months ago). To start, we hit UPs producer/lyricist Big Jess with 5 questions before his appearance at Soundset this Sunday.
What's new with the UP's right now? We heard you're forming a band?
Big Jess: We are putting the finishing touches on our new album, Le System D, which is free of samples. Mike (Mad Son) came up with the melodies on his guitar, most of the concepts and choruses, and I laid the drums (MPC 1000). We took turns adding keyboard parts and have a few guest spots from local musicians. It's nothing like anything we've done before. We are extremely excited. Mike has assembled local musicians to replicate what we've done on the record at live shows, and at the same time add their special touch to the songs.
GN: What's the story beind your nickname Big Jess?
Big Jess: Big Jess comes from me not being clever enough to find a better name in high school. I guess in hindsight, Jess is me. I've never had to turn on some switch to become the "rapper". What you get from Big Jess is really how I am.
GN: What are you looking forward to about Soundset this year?
Big Jess: Soundset is a HUGE opportunity for artists like Unknown Prophets. We are looking forward to everything. We will be taking advantage of the exposure in every way possible. Big ups to Rhymesayers.
GN: What is the most overlooked or underestimated thing about Minneapolis hip-hop?
Big Jess: I think that since Rhymesayers are the most dominant indie hip hop label in MN, people tend to think if you're not one of their artists, you must not be that good. Truth is, there is a ton of talent doing their thing in the Twin Cities. We just have to work harder to attract attention.
GN: What is your favorite summertime jam?
Big Jess: Summertime by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince!