Tag Archives: Music

Hip-Hop in the Heartland

Minneapolis has long been known for its rich music scene, we can claim some of the most well-known musicians of the 20th century for our own. From Bob Dylan to Prince to The Replacements the Minneapolis area is home to an eclectic mix of talented artists.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, and really stretching further back than that, Minneapolis has been able to boost about a new slew of other artists, all coming out of its independent hip-hop scene.

Atmosphere is the most popular group out of this scene, a duo made up of MC Slug and DJ Ant , the group has been churning out music for nearly 20 years. Their following in the area is nothing short of fanatic with the duo consistently selling out the historic First Avenue Main room, their tracks spun on local radio and their new albums hotly anticipated and written about in local publications. Their fan base has reached a national and even international audience with their act hitting Europe this past winter and heading to Australia/New Zealand this spring.

Atmosphere is the headline act on the Rhymesayers label which hosts other, equally talented acts such as; Brother Ali, Grieves, Blueprint and Felt amongst many MCs. Every Memorial Day weekend the label throws the annual Soundset , which is an all day hip-hop festival in Shakopee Minnesota. The concert showcases much of the Rhymesayers label as well as other members of the local hip-hop community such as Heiruspecs and the critically acclaimed Doomtree. The festival drew 20,000 attendees last year and that is projected to grow this year as national acts Lupe Fiasco as well as Ghostface Killah & Raekwon are slated to headline along with Atmosphere.

The hip-hop coming out of Minneapolis is unlike anything you will hear on mainstream radio. There is an overall “consciousness” to it, and frequent themes go deeper than cars and money and tend to focus on frequent allegories to tell stories of life and love. Check out a video from Atmosphere below to get a taste of what makes Minneapolis hip-hop so unique.

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Cheat sheet for new music

Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Z...
Image via Wikipedia

We understand that it’s hard to keep up with all of the new music put out these days. Don’t worry, we are here to help you sort through the clutter. Based on your current musical tastes, we offer up some suggestions on which new artists are worth checking out.

If you like Passion Pit….Check out Naked and Famous. New Zealand band Naked and Famous could easily be mistaken for Passion Pit, with the high pitched vocals and electro-pop beats. The song “Young Blood” has reached #1 in their native country and the band was listed as one to watch in 2011 by BBC News, a distinction that went to Passion Pit themselves in 2009.

If you like Oracular Spectacular era MGMT….Check out Foster the People. The LA band’s “Pumped Up Kicks” was a perfect summer jam that carried me right through fall in 2010. And with hints of a full album to come, we finally have a few new tracks from Foster the People. Songs “Helena Beat” and “Houdini” both evoke the danceable, psychedelic pop of MGMT’s first album (and the side I miss most from Congratulations).

If you like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros….Check out Alexander. Even if you don’t know the name Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros , you’ve surely heard their hit song “Home” dozens of times. The lead singer of the hippie collective band, Alex Ebert, has a solo album due out March 1st under the moniker Alexander. The laidback, folky “Truth” offers us a glimpse at what’s to come. Don’t worry, all you fans of “Home” – he hasn’t ditched the whistling.


Young the Giant
Young the Giant

If you like Kings of Leon….Check out Young the Giant. This So-Cal band created buzz when they (then called the Jakes) won an online contest in 2009 to open for Kings of Leon at the House of Blues in Chicago. The renamed Young the Giant is less Southern-rock influenced than KoL, but they have an arena rock ambition about them that could put them into the same category. Lead single “My Body” is a fun, high energy example of their sound. Added bonus – they don’t seem like as big of tools as the Followill’s.

If you like Coldplay….Check out A Silent Film. Though they already have some notoriety overseas, A Silent Film are just now starting to get attention in the US. With the earnest nature of the songwriting and the texture of the songs’ production, fans of Coldplay are sure to appreciate what this band has to offer. Singles “You Will Leave a Mark” and “Driven by Their Beating Hearts” are both worth a listen.

If you like pop music with neo-soul influence….Check out Graffiti6 and Fitz and the Tantrums. If there’s anyone out there still holding their breath waiting for the return of Amy Winehouse, then Fitz and the Tantrums just may give you a reason to exhale. Songs “Moneygrabber” and “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” would be right at home in Motown of the 60s, yet still sound relevant on the charts today. And with their electro-soul sound, duo Graffiti6 are nipping on Cee-Lo’s heels with songs like “Stare Into the Sun” and “Stop Mary”.

Graffiti6 and Fitz and the Tantrums
Graffiti6 and Fitz and the Tantrums
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Ruby Isle – Appetite for Destruction

GnR Cover

Here’s a link to the free download of Ruby Isle cover album Appetite for Destruction. The synth-tastic rendition of the dirty Guns n’ Roses classic bangs and pops under the direction of Mallman, Dan Geller and drummer Aaron Lemay, achieving the rare balance of faithful enough for recognition and unique enough to stand alone. The record has been floating around in performance and leaked tracks for about a year now, picking up positive reviews and is finally getting a proper CD release on Saturday, 1/29 at the Triple Rock. Also on that bill are Me and My Arrow, New Century Masters and Total Babe, so it’s going to cover a lot of musical ground and tick off a lot of decades.


If you are a Guns fan, or an electronica geek with a flavor for some 80’s nostalgia, I recommend this album. Oh, and the Sweet Child cover features Har Mar Superstar.

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