Ice-Rod is back
Ice-Rod (left) photographed by Tony Nelson, 2003
Minnesota hip-hop fans will remember Michael Gaughan of Brother and Sister (profiled in City Pages this week by Lindsey Thomas) as Ice-Rod, a rapper whose brief career was marked by subversive genius.
Since Ice-Rod's story has never been told, and since Brother and Sister are playing the Triple Rock on Sunday (a benefit for sustainable agriculture that costs only $5 and features Moist Host, the Retainers, and the Please Don't Hurt Me), I thought I'd collect some press clippings that begin to give you the bigger picture:
"When we perform we usually have good reactions from the crowds, lots of positivity. But one time, I was in a battle at the Pasta Bar and this cat Ice-Rod told me I should kill myself. Then he told me my whole family should get West Nile. I just brushed it off. Harsh stuff like that isn't worth worrying about; sticks and stones."
-- Ed Text of Minneapolis Junction in The Wake
Tales of Gaughan's MC Ice-Rod shows have become immediate legends in the local music scene. There's the time he brushed his teeth onstage and proceeded to chug orange juice. Or the time he handed out paper and rapped instructions on how to make paper airplanes.
A recent performance at the Entry saw the diminutive rapper in commanding control of the stage, despite the fact that he was hobbled by crutches and a CD player that routinely fucked up his backing tracks... On his best song, Ice-Rod hands out paper, tells you how to fold airplanes, then castigates you for wasting paper and demands that you place the planes in recycling bins.
Ice-Rod, who opened for Glass Candy, was standing there next to me in a "It's not a bald spot, it's a solar panel for a sex machine" t-shirt, and dancing his ass off. The guy is like a panic rock Har Mar Superstar. My friend Matt tells me that he's known for making routine visits to karaoke bars and accosting anyone who grabs the mic.
In October, absurdist rapper Ice-Rod covers the entire room [of the Babylon] in a plastic tarp and holds a concert/food fight. Hours are spent cleaning up the spaghetti, pudding, and cake.
[Fond memory:] Ice Rod covering the entire music room of the Babylon in plastic wrap and throwing various food items around to debut his new jam "You're Invited to My Place for Dinner." He threw pudding, cakes, juice, spaghetti, pizza, applesauce, fucking everything you could think of. I got smashed in the face with a banana cream pie.
-- post on the Modern Radio message board, January 16, 2004
With his mustache, rattail, and fluorescent pink running shorts, he may be the only MC alive who's not afraid to sell concert T-shirts adorned with puffy paint.
Probably one of the strangest performances you will ever see in your life. Period. Intelligent but strange. Known for his controversial tie battle with Sage Francis.
The last I talked to him he was changing styles to a 21st century rapper/ beastiality website designer. I am excited about his new direction.
-- post on the Modern Radio message board, August 17, 2003
There are rumors that the band's [Bridge Club's] frontman position may soon be filled by talented hip-hop absurdist Ice-Rod, a man known for rapping about slitting his wrists with a bus pass.
Sage Francis put on a dull show. I might as well have listened to his Personal Journals album from a jukebox. But I've never seen so many pretty girls in one room before. So that ended up a wash. That is, except for the opener, Ice Rod. Perhaps his "Your Body is a Skate Park" only entertained my friend and I, but it really entertained us.
-- from Blue Dark blog, 2003
Toki Wright of the C.O.R.E. is freestyling in front of the small crowd [at the Fifth Element], acknowledging the presence of one of the more popular battle MCs. "Ice-Rod's in the place! His legs are furry like Keith Murray." [photo here]
With his mullet and mustache, Ice-Rod makes an easy target. (As Wisconsin's Jack Cracker raps the following night at First Avenue, "I came to Minneapolis to battle Joe Dirt?") He got his start at this weekly open mic, now held Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. This is where wannabe MCs have come to prove themselves over the past year, often in battles...
[The following night at First Avenue,] Ice-Rod is clearly the local favorite, his name yelled the moment he hits the stage. He doesn't win over this audience with rhyme skills, exactly. His high-pitched shout and uncanny bluntness are just stone funny. When one of his opponents dusts off a cliché like "You don't know how to compete with me," Ice-Rod answers, "I don't know how to compete with you/I'll just get on stage and fucking defeat you."
[Classic battle:] Ice Rod vs Massive Python @ the Fifth where they dressed up as each other and battled themselves. That was fuckin hilarious!
-- post on D.U.Nation message board, October 12, 2003
I still remember the time Ice-Rod left a message for me on my cell phone, in which he claimed he'd made a guitar out of Rice Krispie treats: "I'm gonna play it... and then I'm gonna eat it!"
-- email from Melissa Maerz, August 5, 2005