Moodie Black: "For a culture that prides itself on being hard, they're so scared"

Honey plays host to a fundraising rap show on Wednesday with all proceeds benefitting the Minnesota Autism Center. Rapfam's Christopher Michael Jensen, who has spearheaded benefit shows for suicide prevention and Oxfam, among others, was approached by Hecatomb's Capaciti to help run a show devoted to raising money and awareness for autism and MAC's schools and centers after his son was diagnosed and began attending the nonprofit's special-needs kindergarten.

The pair came up with a diverse range of acts to perform at the show, including the noise-rap group Moodie Black, who also happen to work at MAC. Gimme Noise sat with Moodie Black, Christopher Michael Jensen, and Capaciti for an interview about the upcoming event.

Gimme Noise: You've put together a pretty interesting lineup for the show; a lot of different sounds are coming together at once.

CMJ: When me and Capaciti were planning it, we did that by design. We wanted to make it really diverse and interesting. People will hopefully catch something they're not used to. You have a lot of live band hip-hop, even somebody like Lydia Hogland [of Bomba de Luz] who isn't hip-hop but is making an album with P.O.S., there's all these things in the hip-hop scene from people that aren't even technically hip-hop. It really is top to bottom, young and old. Minneapolis is known for unique shows, but this show especially. It's the definition of a unique show. 

Capaciti: I haven't played in a year and a half, and I haven't played with my band in like five years. I'm just ready to go crazy. I kind of wanted to bring some older cats from the scene back, Big Jess, Truth Maze hosting, people like that, and hook up with Chris and bring some younger acts in too. It's kind of all across the board. 

Definitely with Moodie Black involved. Your sound is really left-field.

Jamee Varda (live painter and graphic designer for Moodie Black): We've been on the outside. 



K. (rapper for Moodie Black): It's always been hip-hop and rap-based, it'll always be that way, but we're gonna do it completely different. It came out of a disconnect with my peers and my people and humans. I started making really messed up stuff at first, I didn't want anything to sound like anything because I didn't like anything. The first record was supposed to be unmixed but mixed, sound terrible, because I didn't want it to sound clean. For a while we'd do shows, and we'd clear that room. Everyone would leave, because they were afraid, turned off by the noise, or they didn't quite get me. I'd get comments like, "We're scared of you!" I'm a little crazy, but it's in the context of performance, and I don't think people see that. When we play hip-hop shows certain places in the country, they're a little apprehensive. For a culture that prides itself on being so hard, they're so scared. After learning how to give and take a little bit and show my comedic side and then be intense, people started staying. 

Jamee Varda: Now people go to see a crazy show. A lot of people at first glance think it's just about anger, but so much more of it is just about the human condition. Being present and relating to our fellow human, the environment and what we're doing to our food, our relationships with each other, what we're doing as a society, all of that. It's just about humans, the most basic form, what you're born as. This stripped-down, naked version of yourself. 

K.: Being an authentic human being is what we're all about. Another reason why I wanted to do this fundraiser is I've been more interested recently in letting people know more about me.
I'm involved with autism because it's part of our message as a whole with our band. Being with those kids every day, they're like the most authentic.

How long have the two of you work for the Minnesota Autism Center?

Jamee: We've both been in the field eight years. Autism has been a big part of our lives.

K.: It's behavior therapy. There's centers and schools, we work at the school. It's just like a regular school for kids that have special needs, specifically autism. They have daily school routines, and we're just there to assist them and run programs with them. 

Jamee: We help with everything that a lot of people take for granted, like eye contact, talking, walking, gross motor, fine motor, how to play games with each other, how to interact with each other, how to answer questions, how to look people in the eye, all the things that so many people assume is just normal. So many things we take for granted that kids pick up just because they observe their parents and their peers; kids with autism don't really have those tools and don't know how to use them. We teach them how to live in their bodies, how to relate to each other, how to ask questions and understand the world. It's really fascinating and really rewarding.

Sean Lindahl (guitarist for Moodie Black): It's something I'm pretty envious of, that these two can have that kind of focus to have a job like that. 

K.: It's been cool to raise awareness for it, because people still don't know very much. They don't know much about autism. It's all over the place and people don't know. I've had conversations with people, and their perception of it -- I didn't realize it, because I'm in the field -- they just don't know what it is or what it's about. They don't know that kids can come in and change their lives completely.

Capaciti: The biggest thing about MAC is the family skills. You have to do so much family skills, the teachers will come to our house and we'll work and learn. As a parent you're learning to be an advocate for your child. 

Jamee: That's something I hope can happen from this show too, and further shows and advocacy, is that parents that aren't parents of kids with autism can go home and tell their kids how to relate to these kids. How to not label, how to not isolate and treat these kids differently. They have so many beautiful qualities to them and they're so awesome, and these parents are the biggest influence to their own kids. They're the ones teaching their kids how to relate to the world and how to treat their peers.

If they have no awareness of autism and no awareness of how that works, then their kids aren't gonna know, and so those kids get picked on and treated poorly. We're both in the same field and experience a lot of the same things, we're both really passionate and deep-feeling people. It translates really well. I have a super personal connection to the show; today I just spent eight hours doing that job, trying to help these kids. I'm excited to be painting for the show.

Autism Hip-Hop Fundraiser at Honey (205 E. Hennepin Ave.), $5, 18+, doors at 7, show at 8 sharp. With Moodie Black, Capaciti and Project 13, Christopher Michael Jensen, Big Jess (of Unknown Prophets), Lydia Hoglund (of Bomba de Luz), Knonam, Purgatory Amos (Mike Schank, Dem Atlas, & DJ Adatrak), John Dungey, Spoken Nerd, and Phingaz; hosted by Truth Maze. With DJs A-Scratch, J Love The Soundsmith, and DJ Adatrak. Live art by IRISandALICE, Katina Elizabeth, Rhia Brutger, Irenic, and Crimson. All proceeds go to the Minnesota Autism Center.

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