Up in the air: How Minneapolis became a flyover city for major rap artists

Categories: Rap/Hip Hop
It was 1998, the Smokin Grooves Tour was in its second year, and a group of friends and I were geeked out about going to the show. Public Enemy, Gang Starr, Wyclef Jean, Cypress Hill and others were booked, but everyone was waiting and most excited for Busta Rhymes, known for his killer live shows full of energy and stage outfits that would make Liberace blush.

Word got around that Wyclef Jean wasn't going to make our stop on the tour, so we were already pre-prepared for that disappointment. But not this. As we entered the Target Center, ushers were handing out little red coupons that apologized for Busta's absence; he couldn't make it because he was filming a music video. So, instead of getting to experience the roar of a dungeon dragon, we get to chomp on a free pretzel via a red coupon.

Yeah, that totally makes up for it.

Almost a year later, the Hard Knock Life Tour circled the country, hitting such hip-hop hotbeds like Albuquerque, NM, but skipping out on Minneapolis. The sold-out 52-city tour -- which featured Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man and Redman and Ja Rule  -- was then the biggest selling hip-hop tour of all time. It even spawned a behind the scenes movie titled "Backstage", so at least we here in gold country got to enjoy the tour via DVD (and, thankfully, got to fast forward the Ja Rule parts).

jayzdetroit.jpeg
Photo by Dan Dryden
Jay-Z groovin out on stage 690 miles away in Detroit.
 "Basically, Minneapolis is a B-list city," says Tim Wilson, owner of Urban Lights Music and former promoter with After 5 Entertainment and FGE. "No artist makes money on records anymore, they all make the big money on the road. So if an artist can go to Atlanta and make $75K and do great, why would they waste time on Minneapolis when they are getting pitched $20K with no guarantee to get paid?"

The buzz and demand is not big enough and we can't handle the major acts. We like to think we are equal to other major markets, but the truth is this city is an overpriced appetizer. Artists would rather perform two sold out shows in Chicago than risk a stop in Minneapolis. 

Another reason? Minneapolis has a bad history with its local promoters and shows. Too many small time promoters, with little money or hustle, mixed with little fan fare and support. It's no secret that it sometimes takes two or three promoters just to book one show, and that causes problems. Inflated guest lists, overcrowded backstages and unequal cuts end badly. 

The new scam is to charge local acts up to $2,500 a pop to open for a major label artist. Sure, the promoter got his costs cut in half before the door opens, but the downfall of pay-to-play is you have a showcase full of questionable local talent and 30 minutes of a headlining act. The audiences are not dumb, they see this and don't want to come back. Ticket sales fall, the buzz is gone, and no one goes to shows anymore.

bigboisoundset.jpg
Photo by Denis Jeong Platser
Big Boi performing for SoundSet in 2011

The worst case is local drug money being laundered by booking big-name acts and collecting the clean money on the back end. Booking agents saw this going unchecked and stopped putting Minneapolis on destination lists. Obviously, they don't want to be involved.

The city has a black eye and a bloody lip. 

But it's true that hip-hop as a whole is taking a beating on the road. According to Billboard, the highest grossing hip-hop tour ever was this past summer's "I Am Still Music Tour", which headlined Lil' Wayne, Rick Ross and featured the likes of Keri Hilson and Lloyd. Even with its $47 million purse, it didn't even crack the top 10 biggest gains for 2011 tours. The top spot was held by U2. Wayne's tour didn't touch Minnesota until they added a second leg. We couldn't even get front-end love, but he did attend some Lynx games. 

The good thing is that it's not all bad -- we still have Black and White Entertainment, Ray Seville and First Avenue, who can always be counted on for quality shows for the patrons and guarantees money in-hand for the artist. We might get Yelawolf and Method Man, but don't expect Drake anytime soon, who is asking at least $150K a show and getting it in major cities.


slugsoundset11.jpeg
Photo by Rhymesayers
Slug rocks 14,000 plus at Soundset in 2011.
On the up-side: We here at home have nursed our own local brand of hip-hop. Springing up a successful indie scene that has produced labels like Rhymesayers and Doomtree, building themselves a worldwide audience by using the simple formula of touring all the other forgotten cow towns spanning the globe. Rick Ross can have Houston, we'd rather rock Sioux Falls.

And in the ashes of Smokin' Groves, Minneapolis is now home to one of the biggest summer hip-hop showcases in the country, Soundset Festival. Headliners such as Big Boi, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Freeway, and Wiz Khalifa have all experienced the big love of a Minnesota audience at Soundset in the past four years. It's become a yearly destination for many young Midwesterners, bringing in much-needed dollars and tourism into the city.

To those hip-hop acts that do take risk and come to play for their Minneapolis fans, we at Gimme Noise would like to say a big "thank you". Ultimately, it's the cold shoulder from the Jay-Zs and Busta Rhymes of the rap world that we developed our own self-sustaining community. We overcame boredom and did our own thing, to the point we're now getting recognized for it. But we've still got that big stack of red coupons ready, and we baked extra pretzels for the future. Just think of that next time you see Drake flying over above.

Slideshow: Soundset 2011
Slideshow: Wu-Tang Clan at Epic
Slideshow: Yelawolf at First Avenue
Slideshow: Method Man at First Avenue




My Voice Nation Help
30 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Cass_37
Cass_37

I moved here from AZ, this saddens my heart :( I have not been impressed with the rap/hip-hop industry on MN's end of things from day 1. I often wondered why? I found the answer right here in this article: Minneapolis has a bad history with its local promoters and shows. Too many small time promoters, with little money or hustle, mixed with little fan fare and support. It's no secret that it sometimes takes two or three promoters just to book one show, and that causes problems. Inflated guest lists, overcrowded backstages and unequal cuts end badly. The new scam is to charge local acts up to $2,500 a pop to open for a major label artist. Sure, the promoter got his costs cut in half before the door opens, but the downfall of pay-to-play is you have a showcase full of questionable local talent and 30 minutes of a headlining act. The audiences are not dumb, they see this and don't want to come back. Ticket sales fall, the buzz is gone, and no one goes to shows anymore. Someone needs to step up the game and bring it back!! There is money to made for the artists and the city!!

Zach Pasdoe
Zach Pasdoe

BTW, I saw Busta Rhymes on Puff Daddy's 1997 tour stop in Minneapolis, which also featured Mase and Lil Kim.  All I have to say is that I've seen and heard better. 

Zach Pasdoe
Zach Pasdoe

Perhaps people throughout the Minneapolis metro area have better taste in music than Gang Starr, Wyclef Jean, Cypress Hill, DMX, Method Man, Redman, Ja Rule, and Busta Rhymes.

Sir Richard
Sir Richard

@9890208d92d92de7634c1ba2cc2b0d08:disqus im gonna refer to your quote "We don't need them, we know how to take care of our own and I'm perfectly fine with that" Im a local hip-hop artist in the city and I will be the first to tell you that isnt true. We do not take care of our own. We only have 1 true hip-hop station that supports local artist, and the rest are independent stations. The media (other than Gimme Noise, Vita.Mn,) do not support any other artist other than Rhymesayers, Doomtree; who in their own respects already have a fanbase. We do not allow other artist to be "Branded". As an artist in this city, one thing that is evident is that, I will not get a big event or accolades unless it is somewhat connect to those artists. We are not in he business of creating opportunities for all the many talented artists tht are not Rhymesayers, or Doomtree. There is such a disconnect that it makes me sick. People will not listen to your shit; not because its wack, but because its not Rhymesayers. I feel a lot of opportunity is here, but its only being enjoyed by a select few. If we support our talent in the cities, it will only strengthen the reputation of this town.

Used&AbusedFAN
Used&AbusedFAN

last year, Nas, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy, Gucci Maine, Waka Flocka all came to Minneapolis in some cases more than once. The only show that skipped us is the Jay-z/Kanye tour???? . LOL WTF This is such a sh!t article. and the people fall for this crap

used&abusedFAN
used&abusedFAN

more doom tree and rse dihc riding. thanks for always throwing that in, in your quote un quote ''hiphop'' articles. more tearing down our beloved city in the name of hiphop. may your job be givin to someone with some common sense please. instead of making a mockery of the hard work that goes into show promotion and concert booking. its alot easier to write an article bashing the scene. as we can tell.

Jason Dorweiler
Jason Dorweiler

Im glad these artists dont get sizeable income here. It seems they are all about the money and zero performance. Drake is the worst "rap" artist Ive heard in recent years and Jay-z fell off after....that one album. Turn off the radio.

Jason
Jason

Now, I love Jay-Z and want to go see him live once in my lifetime, that's about as far as I would venture into the world of mainstream hip-hop. Maybe Eminem, just to say I saw him live. The fact of the matter is, from what I gather, is that us Minnesotans are getting the "eff you" from "big time" artists. Now I'm okay with that, and that's because we have an amazing hip-hop scene and fans. We don't need them, we know how to take care of our own and I'm perfectly fine with that. Heck, I'll drive somewhere to see Jay-Z.

Jumpy
Jumpy

Most live hip hop sucks, and the only exceptions are small indie acts and legends that aren't huge right now. We get those so it's fine. I don't need to see Jggaman live.

Timaderhold
Timaderhold

Who wants shitty top 40 acts in mpls anyway? Major labels are dead, and Minneapolis has been an independent music stronghold since the beginning.

Jennifer Merchant
Jennifer Merchant

For the record, Busta Rhymes did play at Epic a couple years ago. Although he went on super late and only played about a 45 min set.

Sdfsa
Sdfsa

Rap/HipHop is crap anyways. Who the hell cares??

GO TO SHOWS!!!!
GO TO SHOWS!!!!

It's not just big names that pass over Minneapolis...I'm into smaller bands from all over the country that book their own tours - they do the same thing. Many of them say that they just can't make money here. People don't buy merch. People won't make the effort to go out to shows. One (underground, but still has a strong following) band said they didn't feel the love from the crowd. The local population is the problem.

If you want to see good acts come to town, go to shows, buy merch, and let the bands know that you appreciate them (that is, if you get a chance to talk to them). That band could return to their home state and network with other bands and let them know that this is a good place to tour to (or not tour to).

Having the attitude of "we didn't want you here anyway" is just sour grapes.

Jason Dorweiler
Jason Dorweiler

Whar do you mean? Mpls/Stpl is one of the top stops of the nation for smaller acts because they sell out venues. Our cities are all about art.

Zach Pasdoe
Zach Pasdoe

"Many of them say that they just can't make money here. People don't buy merch. People won't make the effort to go out to shows."  - GO TO SHOWS  Minneapolis - St. Paul does MUCH better when it comes to attracting shows than most cities / metros of similar size.  Sorry, but it's true.

Lars
Lars

Thanks for the comments, but I just wanted to note that I am the biggest Jay-Z fan. You know why? I always liked and respect him for his skill and business sense, but I got pushed into fandom mode when I saw him perform live here in Minneapolis back in 04. I saw him live. He is truly one of the great live performers in rap. I was lucky to see him in 04 and then again in Detroit in 10. But how are other people in Minneapolis going to see him if he never shows up? I wasn't trying to make this a backpack vs hood joint, which it seems like it's getting read as. Not the case. Basically, Minneapolis has had some real shady promoters in the past and it has given our city a bad name so stars like Jay-Z usually avoid us.

pizza
pizza

I wear a hood and a back pack and am still glad our promoters are "shady" and market small. Mpls is a little smarter than the average. I'm glad we have solid alternatives to listen to. MN is the envy of real people in music. Let's embrace the beauty we have instead of forcing ourselves to accept junk from entertainers, not musicians.

Bianca
Bianca

lol these comments are really proving how hipster MN is.

Personally, I'd love to see a Drake, the Throne tour, etc.. But it makes sense why they wouldn't want to come here.

BUT can we kick Wiz Khalifa out of MN.. for, like, ever?

Scoops
Scoops

I'll sacrifice the "big name" shows like lil wayne for a thriving underground scene any day. Rhymesayers!

Jen Boyles
Jen Boyles

For me this really came into light when Jay Z and Kanye scheduled and then canceled theiir Thrones tour stop here.  

I think the attitude of "hey, we don't want it anyway!" is fine, but I for one would like to see Beastie Boys more than once every six years.

If anything, the reasons behind it are interesting.  

Jthomps74
Jthomps74

artists themselves have virtually nothing to do with tour routing fwiw. Their booking agent and the promoter was to blame for that tour not coming here.

Waggz
Waggz

Maybe Minnesotans like their Home Grown Talent... Atmosphere... Trampled By Turtles... Who knew sections of the country arent about Bitches, Money, and Drugs....

Research
Research

If Jay Z, Wyclef, and those type of artist made appearances to Soundset,  I'd bet the attendance would drop. Soundset's about artist speaking from the heart, large and small acts, and not the club scene music.

Puckett
Puckett

I'm pretty sure if Jay-Z came it would not drop in attendance...

pizza
pizza

Mpls is cool for what it doesn't have. Keep that shit in Detroit.

Guest Person
Guest Person

How is this a bad thing? Everyone you mentioned is awful.

Wow
Wow

Don't generalize or anything.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Minnesota Event Tickets
Loading...