Am I black or white?

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Minneapolis features prominently in this Village Voice examination of why underground hip hop is so white. It's both interesting and refreshing that the article doesn't once bring up Brother Ali's race. (I used to get calls all the time from national journalists asking, "Is Slug black?" I'd be like, "What am I, 'Plessy versus Ferguson'?" Now I get similar questions about Ali. Sometimes, in the name of fighting racism, we forget that race doesn't exist.)

The only place on the net I've seen Ali discuss his identity is here, in the following interview exchange:

If you look at the media, they market things and exploit the product. If Rhymesayers or another label was to try and take your ethnicity and do something with that, would you try and support that because you want your music to be heard, or would you oppose it, and why?

First of all, I bet $150 million that can�t none of y�all accurately judge what my ethnicity is. The marketing would be a bitch. Second of all, no. We don�t want to use that as the main thing to market our music. It seems that a lot of people that interview me end up with that being their whole motherfucking piece. Like I had one [interviewer] at home in Minneapolis do that to me just recently. Actually, he did the whole thing on me being albino. So we talked about that for the first three minutes of the interview and then for the rest of the interview we talked about real shit. And so basically he used quotes from those first three minutes for the whole motherfucking article. I think the reason is that with the advanced racism we have in the world - especially the United States - people are still so much trained to view people by race, which is different from ethnicity. Race is a made-up thing. I think a lot of times people - they understand a lot better, it�s a lot easier for them, if they can put somebody in a racial background. We like to think about things in categories because it takes out a lot of the mental work. If you can put something in a category, and you know where it is, you leave it there, and that�s where you want it to be. It makes it easier for you to relate to it. When you can�t do that, it requires a lot more thought; you have to be a lot more objective. You have to think a lot more about how you�re going to relate to this thing, how you�re going to view it, and how you�re going to perceive it. So I think because of that, a lot of people struggle with me, to try to nail me down racially, or try to understand the albino thing more, but the reality is� I think me as a musician speaks a lot more than just that. So to try to use that as a gimmick you would pigeon-hole me into just that. It would make my shit a lot shorter. It might make it quicker, you know, if we really pushed that and played that up, you know, it might get me a lot of [snapping fingers] quick attention, but there�s no long life in that. After the novelty wears off, all you have left is songs. And all you have left is albums. And all you have left is live performances, which is really what we�re more about.

Yeah we asked Slug about that, who�s actually light-skinned black -

Slug is what almost all of us on Rhymesayers are, which is a mixture of different shit, including black, including white, including Native American. Almost everybody on Rhymesayers is a mixture of some different shit, and a lot of times we�re seen by white people as white rappers.

Puts you in a bit of a stereotype, doesn�t it.

It�s something we have to work with, but I mean, I�m not white.

More discussion of the article here.

Bob Mould spinning at the Eagle Sunday

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According to his blog, the former Hüsker Dü guitarist (who currently lives in D.C.) will wind up Pride Weekend in Minneapolis by bringing his Blowoff DJ set to the Bolt, next to the Eagle on Washington Avenue, home to hip-hop DJ/producer Tori Fixx. (Here's one of Mould's previous sets.) Anxious to hear Mould's forthcoming full-band recording, with Fugazi's Brendan Canty on drums? The album is now available for pre-order from Yep Roc. Mould also plays Taste of Minnesota on July 3.

People I met at Saturday's garage sale

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Jim, the guy who plays beautiful piano across the street--makes me feel like I'm in Rear Window.

Jean, from Guinea, whom I lent a couple of my favorite Guinean music CDs, and who is applying for political asylum here in the U.S.

Crazy Amy, local MC from Madison whom I've seen battle, and seen in a documentary, and who wrote a letter criticizing something I'd written in City Pages, but had never met. About my "slacker MCs" comment, Sims ended up answering it on a track on his excellent new album:

A hipster couple from down the block, really nice.

Another nice hipster couple from the neighborhood.

A really cool black guy who bought all my DVDs.

A white girl who bought all my books, practically.

An old man who bought.



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Minneapolis Artist Featured on MTV


Minneapolis based artist Toki Wright of The C.O.R.E. and APHRILL makes a major leap this June.  Over the last year as an mc/poet, and community organizer Wright has performed across the United States as well as Brazil and Portugal.  In the new season of MTV's "Made" Toki Wright coaches an aspiring Minneapolis youth with Bronx, NY based Definitive Jux rapper C-Rayz Walz.  The episode also features The Game, Ghostface, and Snoop Dogg.  The new season begins June 15th.


In other news The C.O.R.E. ( readies for their first video shoot for the new single "Northern Exposure (Tease Me)" June 25th.  The single will be featured on their new album "Before You Dig" due out this fall.  Also Toki Wright's side project APHRILL called "Home" with San Francisco based MC Nomi and production by Medium Zach is due nationally this summer.  Toki is also in the studio working on his first solo project entitled "A Different Mirror."  


For more info contact 612-874-9696 or, coming soon.  

**4th Annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop: Be Healthy Aug 19, 20, 21

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My high school is now a pop icon for oppression

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Jimmy Eat World's "Work" Windows Media/Real Media

This 2004 video by Jimmy Eat World was shot at Madison West High School, where I went from 1985 to 1988. The video alters the song's meaning with snippets of real interviews, including a girl who calls high school a "beautiful prison." It reminds me of Hüsker Dü's "These Important Years," a tune that came out when I was a senior. I was pretty depressed then, skipping classes for weeks, and mostly hanging out in the library. I even started answering the phone at home to catch the automated skip notices. (Back when West High School merely mailed them out, my fellow freak Nick Andreano used to re-send the postage-paid cards to his friends with little notes on them. Somebody must have caught on, eventually.)

Turns out the video's director, Marc Webb, got his diploma at West four years after me, and based the video on his own experience. (Sole complaint: He didn't get Liz Phair to lip-synch her backup vocals.) The only reason I saw the video at all was that an old classmate emailed to say West is holding its 75th anniversary celebration and alumni reunion August 5-7. The school proudly displays the rock video on its web site. Well, this was the building where I learned the meaning of the word "irony."

Happiest memory: During class on the last day of school, somebody left a boombox in her padlocked locker, blasting a looped tape of nothing but Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." The "we don't need no education" chorus echoed through the halls for a solid half hour. They must have had trouble getting the locks off.

I'm grateful for the good teachers I had, but really, I should have been at Shabazz, the alternative school. Reunion weirdness, here I come. (Here's a page of links for things to do in Madison, Wisconsin, if you end up going to this.)

Also check out: Kulturblog's "Ten Reasons I Love Hüsker Dü"

Local Hip-Hip Links

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The TC Hip-Hop Links Page at has doubled in size for 2005. You'll find dance studios, an out-and-proud gay hip-hop DJ/producer, Miranda Jane's amazing blog, and plenty of Myspace pages added. I've never tried to be comprehensive with other local genres, but linking every Minnesota hip-hopper is both feasible and hugely entertaining. Click that last link above to hear a 1998 freestyle battle between Slug and Budah Tye: Check the Rich Best reference!

Yeah, we tease him a lot 'cause we got him on the spot

Thanks for the "Welcome back, blogger" shouts from from Christine, Aaron, Mark, John Evans, and Brad Zellar. It means a lot.

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