Twin Cities: Whitest hip hop scene you’ve ever heard of

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Minnesota is more than a thousand miles away from hip hop’s mainstays on either coast. Yet, Complex listed Minneapolis as one of the 15 best cities for hip hop fans in the United States, and Mic named the Twin Cities the “greatest hip-hop scene you’ve never heard of.”

Despite the geographical pull to mimic other regions, Twin Cities hip hop has managed to trademark its own experimental sound, humble aesthetic (most artists opt for toned down and muted attire), and, of course, the white supremacy that comes with our state’s infamous Minnesota Nice.

“The majority of the main faces that you see are white, leaving us [hip hop artists of color] to be in the minority while we’re the majority and the birth of the culture,” said local artist and activist Maria Isa. “Minnesota, as diverse as our cities are, it’s still very Minnesota nice, Minnesota safe and Minnesota white.”

 

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When out-of-state and mainstream media and fans refer to Twin Cities hip hop, independent hip hop label, Rhymesayers Entertainment, is often their point of reference. The common faces of Rhymesayers, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this fall, include Brother Ali, an albino Muslim rapper who identifies as white, and Atmosphere, a duo of racially ambiguous (arguably white-passing) hip hop artists.

However, to Toki Wright, a Black North Minneapolis rapper who released two albums with Rhymesayers, these are just a couple faces of the Twin Cities hip hop scene.

“I think the face of Twin Cities hip hop is a 14-year-old kid on the Northside of Minneapolis in his bedroom, making beats or writing rhymes,” he said. “The face of Twin Cities hip hop is the breakdancers at Henry High School doing their own b-boy events and traveling around the world. The face of Twin Cities hip hop is KMOJ and pockets of programming on KFAI. The face of Twin Cities hip hop is Lexii Alijai recording with Kehlani and doing 250,000 views on each one of her tracks and the local press turning a blind eye to it. That’s Twin Cities hip hop.”

 

White supremacy in Twin Cities hip hop

As in every corner of Minnesota (and the U.S., and the world), white supremacy prevails in Twin Cities hip hop. But, at its core, hip hop is an art and culture founded by Black artists and other artists of color in response to their racial oppression.

Each emcee has his/her own story about how racism and white supremacy have affected his/her career and experiences within the local hip hop scene. Wright told accounts of being carded at his own shows and of a drunk woman calling the police to report he stole her purse while his name was on the marquee. Maria Isa, who is Puerto Rican, described how a local entertainment paper incompetently referred to her as Afro-Cuban. Malik Watkins, known as Minneapolis rapper MaLLy, recalled a white manager calling him the N-word twice after a business meeting.

MaLLy said the incident made him question “how many other people, that I know, that support this artform, or eat off of this culture, this Black artform, really feel this way?” He said he sees this ability to both benefit from, and take over, a Black space and artform while holding racist attitudes as “one of the essences, or cornerstones, of white supremacy.”

There also exists a widespread inequity in how white artists and artists of color are received by tastemakers, venues and concertgoers.

MaLLy described how the tone of many audience members at the Rhymesayers 20th anniversary concert changed from supportive when white-identifying Brother Ali rapped a song like “Dear Black Son,” to apathetic when Toki Wright and I Self Devine, both Black rappers, proclaimed messages such as “F— the police” and “kill white supremacy” on stage.

 

 MaLLy performs for a mainly white audience at the Triple Rock Social Club on April 29. Photo by Kayla Steinberg.

MaLLy performs for a mainly white audience at the Triple Rock Social Club on April 29. Photo by Kayla Steinberg.

 

Jake Virden, a Minneapolis activist and rapper known as G.P. Jacob, connected instances like this to the underlying beliefs of white liberal Minnesota. “A liberal culture likes the idea of white rappers with quasi-political, quasi-emotional music, but really don’t want to deal with the reality of what Black Minnesotans live through, or poor people live through, or Native Minnesotans live through,” he said. “Minnesota is uncomfortable with the reality of murder and police brutality and white supremacy. A lot of times those tastemakers and cultural gatekeepers lift up people who look like them- their cousins and their kids- in their scenes.”

When white fans and media do seek out Black artists, both G.P. Jacob and MaLLy perceive some of them as searching for a fetishized, or minstrel experience. This fetishization without actual appreciation and respect for hip hop culture comes from the very roots of white supremacy and racism in the United States.

“It feels as if some fans that are white want you to dance, and make the songs they want, to make them comfortable,” said MaLLy. He goes on to describe the oppressive tone some white fans take towards Black artists: “fans say, ‘I don’t want to hear this Black people s—, I want you to give me the album I want. Like dance N—-, dance. I don’t want to hear your Black experience. I don’t want you to cut me off on 94,’” said MaLLy.

 

How to be a white ally in the Twin Cities hip hop scene

The fact that hip hop is a Black artform does not mean white allies cannot listen to, appreciate, or even create hip hop music. However, we must always be conscious of the space we take up in the scene, as well as the political and social disadvantages of those who established the culture.

 

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Many white Minnesotan artists and fans ignore the roots of hip hop while profiting off the music, art and culture. Yet, white emcees who are intentional allies are visible around the Twin Cities.

Take, for example, G.P. Jacob, who recognizes the privileges of being white, and self identifies as European-American in order to reconcile his ancestry, honor his working class background and breakdown the hegemony of whiteness as a violent social construct. His goal in his music, along with his work as an organizer at Hope Community, is to radicalize working class white communities.

“I understood at a young age there was a sickness, a disease, with that white mentality that accepted racism, and turned a blind eye to the oppression we were seeing,” said G.P. Jacob, who grew up in a working class family in Northeast Minneapolis. “When I write, I’m conscious about not trying to be another white rapper that’s oblivious to the situation, and I’m also not trying to be another white rapper mimicking and performing minstrel.”

 

 

G.P. Jacob, who recently released an EP titled “The Longest Bridge,” referring to the Lowry Bridge that connects Northeast (predominantly Polish) and North (predominantly Black) Minneapolis, has three pieces of advice for white Twin Cities rappers.

First, “Be authentic to your language and your voice. Specifically, don’t put on a Black accent when you rap or don’t, all of a sudden, start talking about a street code lingo you don’t really know about.”

Second, “Talk about race…. Challenge the spaces you’re in. Respect and appreciate the architects- the Black people who created the artform. Keep that history alive. Spread that knowledge… If you want to really practice hip hop and not just be an appropriator or a vulture, you’ve got to be moving the movement forward. A lot of times it’s educating other white people. That’s our responsibility. Black people have known about racism. They don’t need us to tell them about it.”

Finally, “Be brave and try to add something to the mix… From the sounds you sample, to the production, to the stage performance, to the aesthetics. Do something that is going to be appreciated, and will be an addition to the culture, rather than just a poor rendition of something that’s already been done.”

 

Activism and the creation of new spaces in Twin Cities hip hop

G.P. Jacob also sees his racial justice organizing work as a way to earn his spot on the mic, a common theme among Twin Cities hip hop artists.

When asked about the relationship between hip hop and activism, Maria Isa poetically proclaimed, “I am who I am because of the movement. I do what I do for the movement. I don’t endorse anyone as an artist. I endorse it as a movement. Our leadership that surrounds us, if you want to talk about arts, you’re going to have to talk about the activism. If you want to talk about activism, it’s going to engage the arts. The arts is our messenger”

 

 

The faces in the wings of local hip hop concerts are the same ones that are on the front lines of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis demonstrations. Muja Messiah and I Self Devine’s 9th House album was a soundtrack of the Fourth Precinct occupation. Maria Isa, along with other artists and activists, including Muja, knocked on Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ door to ask her to tell the Minneapolis Police Department to cease the abuse of protesters at the occupation.

 

 

These links between music and movements travel through all of African American history. Leola Johnson, chair of the Macalester College media and cultural studies department, links contemporary hip hop activism to the participation of Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of legendary a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock, in civil rights demonstrations. And to jazz artists who raised money for the Scottsboro Boys’ defense in the 1930s. And all the way to the use of spirituals that spread solidarity and strategy throughout the South during African enslavement.

In addition to connections with past social and artistic movements, Twin Cities hip hop artists are also using the technologies available in the 21st century to advance their careers and creativity. With white media, venues and tastemakers blocking out local hip hop artists of color, artists are now creating their own spaces to thrive.

“In 2016, saying these platforms have never supported us, we’re not gonna give our energy to spaces and places that don’t care about us,” said Wright. “We’re not focusing on making other people happy, but making ourselves happy and respecting ourselves and holding ourselves to a higher standard. We can recognize ourselves. We have the internet, so we can make it global and not need the middle man, anymore.”

In this vein, Wright produces #MamaduMondays, in which he puts out new music every week and co-hosts Soul Tools Radio, Saturdays on KFAI, with Brittany Lynch, Reggie Henderson and others, giving rising artists a platform to further their careers.

Maria Isa attributes Intermedia Arts’ B-Girl Be festival as the first platform for women in global hip hop to be recognized and to unify, instead of being in direct competition with one another. She also started her own company as a 20-year-old to circumvent the male-dominance of the music industry and hosts a podcast, Latina Theory, with Chicana artist and organizer Arianna Genis.

Furthermore, artists are reclaiming their music and lyrics from white supremacy. “When it comes to the demographics of Minnesota and many white fans, there was definitely a time I used to wonder if me telling who I am, my experiences or how I felt, if a person who was white listened to it, would they get turned off by me sharing my truths or my culture,” said MaLLy.

Now MaLLy, who is working on a new album titled “The Journey to a Smile,” only writes to reflect his own experiences and identity and does not aim to be “the Black dude white people are comfortable with.” He said, “I’ve experienced that people want you to be in a box, want you to make them feel good…You can limit yourself if you pay too much to what people want.”

 

 

Maria Isa added, “That’s the change I’ve seen, is that you don’t have to be told you should dress like this, or you should make your music sound like this. I think ‘you should’ in the Twin Cities is being limited, and it’s becoming ‘I am’ going to do this, and ‘I do’ do this.”

38 thoughts on “Twin Cities: Whitest hip hop scene you’ve ever heard of

  1. wow, talk about taking the “race conversation” (not to mention Rap Music) to another level. very interesting article. so interesting, i read it twice and will re-read. thank you. rarely do we read about race, class and titles with depth and gut honesty in the twin cities arts community and other communities too, beyond refreshing. thank you.

  2. I find this article to be a little all over the place. It’s also a little strange to be bringing up divides of race in Hip-Hop considering that Hip-Hop is pretty far removed from it’s roots. In other words, it’s become normal to find HipHop artists of every ethnicity. I also don’t understand why this article is calling the Minnesota Hip-Hop scene “the white supremacy”. Especially when St. Paul Slim, Muja Messiah, Toki Wright, Lizzo, I Self Devine, Slug, Mike Marquez, P.O.S., and Doom Tree are all multi-ethnic or Black Americans. These artists/groups travel the country and have a lot of influence everywhere, not just in Minnesota.

    Hip-Hop has been evolving for years. This article seems like it would have been more appropriate back in the late 90’s early 2000’s when Hip-Hop was really evolving outside of it’s stereotypical roots.

    The reason why the artists just mentioned have become successful is because they’ve connected to people outside of their communities. The more fans you have, the more likely those fans are going to be white. I respect that there is a large social activism movement in the Twin cities that often crosses paths with the Hip-Hop scene (and the music scene at large). I also understand that the minorities that live in the Twin cities have quite a bit of economic disparity in comparison to the white population. BUT, we’re also talking about two cities that have a very low population of minorities in general.

    So, what are we really saying in this article? The Hip Hop culture has changed to a more multi-ethnic culture about 16 years ago (and some say it was even earlier than that). If we’re saying that there is a thriving Hip-Hop scene in the Twin cities made up of mostly white people and white artists, I would say two things:

    1) Duh, because the Twin cities has an overwhelmingly white majority population and
    2) Hip Hop in general all over this country has been accepted as a more multi-ethnical genre of music

    AND, as far as white rappers not connecting to their black peers and vice vera (or any other racial peers for that matter), I would say that’s really NOT a Twin City thing. That’s an American thing. I respect some of the ideas in this article, but in general, this article is about 16 to 20 years too late to be relevant.

    • First. The term “minority” is a false geo-political term, and screams of “white power” ideology. And secondly your total dismissle of the larger issue of white dominance in general, as it relates to the media, and thus the “musack” industry, is all too indicative of affordable blindness. But….you’ll more than likely brush off what I’m saying, and continue loving your white male privilage.

      I am Hip Hop!
      Tc

      • Hey I liked the article and I agree the points you have made TC, but I don’t think that David was trying to hurt anyone, and he may just not know what he doesn’t know. Which is the same for everyone. For this problem of white artists being more popular than black artists who working just as hard, who are some Minnesota artists that are disrespecting the current scene? I do not know any that are doing so purposefully, and if what “hurting” means is just they are not saying anything about the issue, then what is there to be done? There are rappers all around the country, not only MN, who are avoiding this topic (at least in their music) so are they hurting hip hop culture then? I’m not brushing it off at all, I am just asking what would the right steps be? I completely agree that white people, no, any people using this art form as a money making use (which they won’t get very far doing so) and treating it like a trend only strays listeners away from real passion. I personally feel that if people say that they only listen to a certain race because they can relate the most to them, then they are blind to what this art form is. To quote Murs “Good music transcends all physical limits
        It’s more than something that you hear, it’s something that you feel
        When the author and experience and passion is real” Anyone respond to me if you can. Tell me what you think and where you think I may have messed up and point it out to me. Thanks!

        • What i got from David’s post was, “everybody is appropriating so why do you care about what my community is doing. it was yours, now it belongs to the masses, so be grateful that you had something we wanted to replicate. we’re honoring you by taking part in your culture and art form, but we really don’t need to like you or value you, because nobody does.” yeah- that didn’t hurt…we’re used to it, right?

      • Bull $*it! The article is spot on. How often do you actually hear about the artists of color from the local media? The reason I bring that up is you mention white people being the majority… well, Latinos have an insane buying power in MN, like billions annually… yet in MN, we have no media representation. We have no one to appeal to us. We’re fed the same bs. So why aren’t we marketed to? Why aren’t we given meDia opps? Because there is the fear of the loss of power. That’s why. Yet when you can infiltrate an art form created by blacks, you can control it in your own environment. They’ll cover Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans and make a joke of it. Show some quirky white dude “braving” some authentic “strange” food and a jalapeño. The other 364 days it’s about how wonderful the same 6 white guys who own downtown st.paul are, the foundations that run “ethnic” celebrations, and the almighty people in charge of the cities.

    • First of all Minneapolis and St. Paul are both nearly 50% people of color. Second, of course you don’t get why the author used the term white supremacy, because you are white and clearly are the epitome of the problem the author is addressing. Please decolonize your mind! This is why V
      Black and Brown artists need to keep making spaces for Black and Brown people.

      • Hey wtf family I’m sorry that’s way more racist than any white kids coming to your shoes or trying to emulate the message of unity and people power that is seed of rap. First shut off the _beastly book too and meditate on the fact that w the count corporatation of our great land the more and more it will be evident how little your skin color is as opposed to your willingness to conform. Art does or should not division. Communicationw.o anger , is often all that’s needed. I just want to reach out to my family of Cole and say m”man take the power our young white people want you to have and use it to unite the poor yet hopeful and let’s the world family revolution begin

  3. Wow, that’s me smack in the middle of that “mostly white crowd” photo from Mally’s performance. It’s interesting to see myself in that context as I spend a lot of time thinking about these issues and considering my role in them as a fan. Growing up in northern MN I had pretty much zero exposure to black culture, and having lived in big cities my whole adult life, I’ve loved how hip hop has given me a window to first-person perspectives on the lived experiences of black men and women. At the same time I sometimes feel like a creeper since the segregation of our city makes it hard to even make friends with black men or women. Besides geographical/demographic barriers, there are so many layers of hurt or mistrust to work through that it keeps cross-cultural friendships from feeling natural. As in, it isn’t the norm in a given friendship for one friend to have to be on guard that their buddy will accidentally say something hurtful because their privilege has kept them from understanding the implications of different phrases, etc. And it isn’t fair to the other friend to be responsible for their education. But I think open public conversations like this one can help break down those barriers that can be difficult in personal relationships. And I think for white fans or just white people in general, it’s on us to self-educate, because our schools sure make a point of avoiding the history of racial oppression and its contemporary implications. That’s the only way to be a truly good citizen in this society. Thanks for this!

  4. Sad commentary on contemporary American culture. For non-Blacks with limited direct access to the broader, mainstream Black culture, the one-dimensional, commercialized – thus, ubiquitous and seductive – rap/hip hop lens becomes an accessible, if insulting and reductionist, lens into Black culture. Sadder, if you will, for the Blacks who are unwillingly assumed by uninformed others to uncritically endorse – if not live – the values and behaviors promoted by much, most, of hip hop. Because so much of the entertainment form and its most visible purveyors make no bones about their worship of all things material and cash-defined, as so much of world history and literature depict, the moral compass is at best dubious. The common, lazily mimicked defense that “If others do it, why not us?,” only further debases the position. It’s easier to become a commercially successful rapper than to learn a marketable, legitimate trade, develop entrepreneurship or get a degree … Contrary to popular belief, disparities based on things like race and ethnicity continue to exist, education remains the most reliable means to an independent and productive existence and while the Justin Biebers of the world can dabble in hip hop tomfoolery by surrounding himself with young, apparently “bad” boys of color and emulate hyper-consumerism, at the end of the day he is still a young, blonde white male – with money, even – who can walk away from the world of make-believe and enjoy all of the privilege reserved for him. And to be sure, this is not all about “blaming the victim” because goodness knows there has been a lot of outside “help” getting here … Yet, I’m curious if the readers of this publication who are not Black would be comfortable with many of the most common (right or wrong) associations with the genre – violence, mass consumerism, misogeny, homophobia, etc. – perhaps defining THE dominant, worldwide take of their race/ethnicity/culture, entrapping their youth before they even have a chance to conceive a different reality, leading others to hold on to generational fear/ignorance/hate …?

  5. I would like to ask the author of this article what her thoughts are on the Minneapolis bluegrass music?

    What are bands like Trampled by Turtles and their predominantly white fans doing to promote diversity and inclusion at their shows?

    How about Minneapolis punk rock?

    or Country Music?

    Where is the diversity in these music scenes, Sarah?
    What responsibility do they have?

    • With regards to bluegrass, better to ask about the class background. It’s generally middle class suburban white people taking on the old-timey mannerisms of working-class southern whites in order to feel authentic.

      But really, considering the whole article was prefaced by the idea of hip-hop being a black American art form, your comments are just silly.

    • Those musical cultures have long been taken over by white people. Hip hop was a response to these previous appropriations. Hip hop is still a Black culture, so it is timely to push these conversations. I find your comments to be completely condescending and defensive. The comment sections are a great way to discover white people defending white supremacy.

  6. The problem is the history of Twin Cites hip hop culture is lost. Those who paved the way are not celebrated but forgotten like and old pair of shoes. Those who are making a great living off hip hop know the truth and some of the history but will never admit it. Minneapolis has given the world some of the greatest music of all time, in a state where there is only 3% black population. Blacks people were the first to embrace this culture here. If you don’t mention Travis Lee aka Travitron as the Godfather of Twin Cities hip hop then you have no clue to why you do what you do. But that’s are fault as elders for not documenting our history. Just like jazz and blues and rock & roll we let those claim and define our music and profit. In the process slowly erasing our image and contribution.

  7. Is it surprising that one of the whitest cities in America has one of the whitest hip hop scenes? To the author, yes.

    Racism is horrifying and what MaLLy, Toki Wright, and Maria Isa have experienced is deplorable. Write an article about that, because it’s an actual problem.

    Instead this is an advertisement for nobody (with the exception of Toki Wright) rappers who want to get their first name drop in the media, toot their socially conscious horns, and warn possible future competitors to stay out – it’s racist! The most viewed music video linked here has 4k views, and that’s 14 hours after the article was posted. Just look at MaLLy’s audience. It’s 15-20 people. If that makes him, or the rest of the lot, an authoritative voice in the Twin Cities music scene, the stoner “DJing” the frat party across my apartment is Prince reincarnate.

    • Keep defending white supremacy you clues less MF! You are the problem that the author is writing about! Every artists mentioned in this piece have big names in our communities because of their work fighting white supremacy, despite you not knowing who they are. Actually, when people like you start listening to them, that’s when I’ll stop!

  8. Very accurate. White people feral as if they are entitled to others cultures. They call it “enjoying” or “experiencing”. No these are cultures of people white folks destroyed. I mean mass genocide. Throwing baby in the ocean and against rocks. Lynching. Etc… You really dont deserve to “enjoy” or “experience” the beauty that comes from that struggle cause you’ve never known it. But if your white you think your privileged to any culture and probably take that offensively when it wasnt meant to be at all.

  9. 2009 – Nomad World Pub

    I grab a becks at the bar, caucasian kid two stools over making faint eye contact, trying to relate. DJ fades from some mjb to pr & CL: T.R.O.Y.
    As the horns blare, he leans over to me and yells, ‘What you know bout THIS son?’

    From Spirituals to Ragtime, Jazz to Blues, Rock to R&B to Rap…same song.

  10. This has been the biggest criticism I have had about the Twin Cities Hip-Hop scene since I was first introduced to it about 15 years ago. Watching kids back then in my high school support all of these white rappers and white labels seemed to me as unequivocally wrong. The biggest names in Minnesota Hip-Hop are white or are passable as white, they sound white, they talk about white issues, and they do very little to inspire change. I have never felt that MN has ever been capable of the same creative output as other cities/scenes in Hip-Hop, to me this is purely a reflection of the lack of and suppression of minority cultures here in the Twin Cities. The fact is not once have I ever listened to someone from Rhymesayers and said “Wow, that’s an amazing and unique song” and I don’t think anyone in their heart-of-hearts truly can.

    When the entirety of your stable of artists sound virtually identical to each other (not just musically but in content and inflection as well) it’s not hard to see why the Twin Cities isn’t respected as a quality Hip-Hop market. To be completely frank, it’s not like the artists of color even mentioned in this article bring a whole lot of diversity to the table either, so much of what comes out of the Twin Cities is so completely homogeneous in every possible way that it is probably by far one of the most white-washed Hip-Hop scenes in the entire country. Despite what Mr. Toki Wright (always the ever present commentator) says, we aren’t hearing from the minority dominated areas of the Twin Cities, we aren’t hearing from the kids on the North Side or West St. Paul or other areas. No, what we hear is the voices of those who are connected to or at least appeal to the quasi-liberal, quasi-progressive tastes of white Minnesotans, most of whom live on the South Side in comfortable neighborhoods.

  11. My earlier comment, which had no use of profanity, threats or any negativity was removed.
    Anyways, I will attempt to make my point again, and maybe if I rephrase some of the subject matter more eloquently I won’t be blocked, and my opinion will be taken into consideration. I am hoping that the moderators of this forum understand my frustration and value the freedom of expression and speech, along with the concepts of open-mindedness and acceptance of differing opinions.

    Here it goes:
    Levying an accusation that “the Minneapolis hip hop community is a prevailing home of white supremacy (‘As in every corner of Minnesota (and the U.S., and the world), white supremacy prevails in Twin Cities hip hop. But, at its core, hip hop is an art and culture founded by Black artists and other artists of color in response to their racial oppression.’)” is a complete generalization of hip hop fans that are white, and a disparaging stereotype of our music scene. True hip hop fans or any race, creed, or color will recognize that diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism have been a part of hip hop from it’s genesis. By definition “white supremacy” is the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society. This is a very troubling accusation, because using terms like this inadvertently compare white hip hop fans to groups that actually do have these beliefs. There indeed are subcultures in punk, heavy metal, and country music that absolutely do promote the concept of white supremacy in the lyrics and content of their music. Using a term like white supremacy carry’s a significant amount of journalistic responsibility in understanding it’s definition and application when it comes to the context of your argument. If white supremacy is being promoted in the Twin Cities hip hop scene, we should all know the specific artists involved, and if there are none, this is not an assertion that should be made. If your argument is that “prejudice”(an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason, any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable; unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.) is a problem in the Twin Cities hip hop community, I would agree with you, but I would revise your argument to reflect that position.

    The fans of hip hop in the Twin Cities have supported what I would argue, is one of, if not THE most diverse group of musicians in hip hop in the nation. In no other city are you going to find rappers like Baby Shel, M.anifest, Lizzo, or Mike Mictlan. The fact that white people make up the majority of concert attendees sheds light on the fact that whites make up a statistical majority of the population of the Twin Cities. I would argue that going to a bluegrass, country, folk, or indie rock concert in Minneapolis and comparing the crowds to those of a hip hop concert you will see significantly less diversity.

    The statement that white hip hop fans seek out black artists that they are comfortable with and will replicate a minstrel experience is just plain insulting to the emotion and intelligence of white hip hop fans. This is a hateful and hurtful generalization that marginalizes our thoughts about the hip hop culture.

    The author also makes note that “Many white Minnesotan artists and fans ignore the roots of hip hop while profiting off the music, art and culture. Yet, white emcees who are intentional allies are visible around the Twin Cities.” I think that we can all identify many of the intentional allies in the hip hop scene, but I am curious about the assumption preempted by this. Who exactly in the music scene is ignoring the roots of hip hop while profiting? I think if you are going to make a proclamation as bold as this you should have some examples to validate your statement. I do believe that there are white hip hop artists that co-opt black culture for profit, and I can name specific examples; Stitches, Slim Jesus, and Riff Raff, but these artists are not a part of the Twin Cities hip hop scene, and are not representative of our values.

    I do not intend for this comment to be misconstrued as downplaying the struggle that many non-whites have in the Twin Cities, whether in the hip hop scene, or not. I am very consciously aware of the systemic racial issues that have been, and continue to impact our communities. I know that systemic racism has historically marginalized people of color and that I have benefited in society for no other reason than by being white. That being said, I find that the authors approach to the subject has merit in its pursuit of shedding light on the issues that our non-white communities face, but I disagree with the analysis of the hip hop community. I find that stereotyping white hip hop fans as ignorant, profit seeking, white supremacists is only hurting the work that we have done here.

    White fans or not, Minneapolis is home to an amazing, dynamic, and diverse hip hop music scene. It should be celebrated, not criticized.

    • You don’t understand white supremacy, because if you did you would know that WE all subscribe to it. The movements of today are an awakening and backlash to this mental colonization that has occurred for too long. Stay sleep!

      • Sorry if you disagree, Marjaan, but I definitely understand white supremacy. I also understand prejudice and systemic racism. I made it very clear in my comment the difference between these terms. I even took the time to define them. When you levy accusations on an entire group of people, semantics and context are paramount.

        I also made very clear my awareness that systemic racism has benefited and continues to fuel an advantage to white people like myself. I’m not denying this, or making excuses about it, so I’m not really sure what you mean when you tell me to “stay sleep.”

        Maybe you should reread my comment again before you rush into judgement about me. And maybe you should brush up on your sentence structure as well, before you insult my intelligence.

        • su·prem·a·cy
          so͞oˈpreməsē/Submit
          noun
          the state or condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, or status

          Martym Every thing you wrote reeks of sanctimonious, liberal, white supremacy. Stand down and let POC describe their experience. Stop denying our reality, our truth. Your need to ramble about why “white people are just fine/they dont mean any harm and it is not their fault, not really” is regurgitated passive-racist rhetoric at best, supportive and encouraging of a racist system at worst. Your pushy need to be right reveals the (white) privilege you refuse to give up.

          You are proof of the problem(s) as listed.

          Someday, if you learn to listen, instead of prove how right you are, you might experience growth. Or you will go on knowing everything because being right is more important than having an open mind and closed mouth.

          Btw. marginalized people learn to navigate around white supremacy, and not the other way around, because POC dont have that luxury or those privileges.

    • White supremacy looks like you telling poc what diversity is and thinking your opinion about the hip hop scene is more accurate than the opinion of actual poc in the hip hop scene/doing movement work. White supreemacy is demanding facts and statistics…numbers and “credible research” to make a statement true. White supremacy is you taking up tons of space because you can. White supremacy is you taking this article which is not news to anyone but white people and making ot about white auidences being attacked when it’s about black culture being appropriated. If you want to contribute, start listening stop talking over poc because white supremacy gives you the privilege. Stay sleep then!

      • “white supreemacy is demanding facts and statistics…numbers and “credible research” to make a statement true”

        OK. Really?

        So I guess if I follow your logic here, anybody who has ever demanded that facts be used to validate the truth about something is a white supremacist.

        I feel sorry for scientists, who knew they had it all wrong?

        Dude, if you can’t even form a cogent argument, you shouldn’t bother typing a response.

  12. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Minnesota’s population is approximately 85% white. I think that might have something to do with how white the hip-hop scene is, don’t you think? I’ve talked to black artists in the Twin Cities who aren’t very happy with the level of support they receive (like Carnage the Executioner, for instance) and I think they have very valid points to make, but the prevailing reality is that there are more white people in Minnesota than not by a significant margin and there will therefore be more white people at most concerts and more white musicians playing shows locally and so there will be more white musicians who succeed in gaining an audience at the end of the day, in this particular region. That isn’t a conspiracy by white supremacists – it’s just demographics.

  13. Read the article twice in hope to make sure I did my best to understand the points. I hear the points made, and see the names mentioned. As far as blanketing the local scene as white and it not showing respect to hip hop cultures roots, I really don’t agree with that from the artists/label side. I feel that some of the scene leaders do as good or better job than anyone in such matters. Brother Ali, Slug, and of course the figurehead label RSE, do as much as anyone locally for the culture of hip hop, respecting and highlighting it’s originators, race issues, police issues, and on and on. If they didn’t, I don’t think Chuck D would show the love he does for them as Chuck doesn’t play like that. Or simply look at this Soundset events as I’d love to hear where another scene does as much of an event for the hip hop culture. From this morning’s cypher w Swag at Fifth Element (black, white, asian, male, female, even children all represented), to having Marley Marl, Pharoahe Monch, and OG breaker Crazy Legs/Rock Steady playing a show in 2016, Graf artists at the show, and on and on. Then throughout the year if you follow Ali/Slug, you know they highlight endless causes of the North Side mpls, Black Lives Matter, free shows and charity on the Northside and on and on. Again, moreso than just about any local artists I’ve seen.

    Anyways, just hard for me to see their names mentioned without saying they really are showing fans and other white artist how it should be done. If you disagree, maybe ask Chuck D and see what he thinks. Or ask any local movement peoples, local black MCs, etc if they don’t think the 2 MCs and the black label CEO aren’t doing it right.

    As far as ‘tastemakers’ and what the fans do with the information and art presented to them, not sure how much you can or want to control that. If the art/message is desired, it’ll catch on as this isn’t 1987. I do feel that MN fans do maybe shy away from street/gangsta lyrics if anyone thinks those are more ‘true’ in any way. In part cause many can’t relate since there’s such smaller pockets here compared to rappers in LA/NYC/CHI streets so it can come off as not so authentic from simple scale alone. Hearing songs and race matter delivered by black artists like POS or Dem Atlas surely have a lot of support from the scene, maybe cause the delivery isn’t as ‘street’ but also opens up to a larger audience that way I believe. Then artists like I Self Divine and Muja Messiah, surely do speak to issues straight up, delivered in an honest way of the people that I feel is respected by all. Both local legends and of course playing Soundset. Again, from the artist/event/label side, not sure what’s so white about that.

    Now to the specific instances that Mally, Toki and Maria highlighted, that stuff is real and not welcome to be seen hear or anywhere, but is that the ‘white scene’ behind any of them, or just ignorant and/or racist individuals? I don’t know what defines the ‘scene’ here, and it may be real white because of the area’s makeup alone, but in my 38 years around fans/artists here I sure don’t see much of negative from the ‘scene’ and crowds/events I’m around. All these events around Soundset just continue to validate that for me as they are so diverse it’s just beautiful, just as the much smaller Parks and Power show was at Icehouse a few weeks ago. That scene was beautiful, with the crowd as diverse in race/style as the acts of Ali, Sarah White, Zulu Zuluu, Lady Midnight.And to support parks in the city, possibly for that 14 year old boy mentioned in the article to have a better life. That is the scene to me and it was beautiful.

  14. My earlier comment, which had no use of profanity, threats or any negativity was removed.
    Anyways, I will attempt to make my point again, and maybe if I rephrase some of the subject matter more eloquently I won’t be blocked, and my opinion will be taken into consideration. I am hoping that the moderators of this forum understand my frustration and value the freedom of expression and speech, along with the concepts of open-mindedness and acceptance of differing opinions.
    Here it goes:
    Levying an accusation that “the Minneapolis hip hop community is a prevailing home of white supremacy (‘As in every corner of Minnesota (and the U.S., and the world), white supremacy prevails in Twin Cities hip hop. But, at its core, hip hop is an art and culture founded by Black artists and other artists of color in response to their racial oppression.’)” is a complete generalization of hip hop fans that are white, and a disparaging stereotype of our music scene. True hip hop fans or any race, creed, or color will recognize that diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism have been a part of hip hop from it’s genesis. By definition “white supremacy” is the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society. This is a very troubling accusation, because using terms like this inadvertently compare white hip hop fans to groups that actually do have these beliefs. There indeed are subcultures in punk, heavy metal, and country music that absolutely do promote the concept of white supremacy in the lyrics and content of their music. Using a term like white supremacy carry’s a significant amount of journalistic responsibility in understanding it’s definition and application when it comes to the context of your argument. If white supremacy is being promoted in the Twin Cities hip hop scene, we should all know the specific artists involved, and if there are none, this is not an assertion that should be made. If your argument is that “prejudice”(an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason, any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable; unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.) is a problem in the Twin Cities hip hop community, I would agree with you, but I would revise your argument to reflect that position.
    The fans of hip hop in the Twin Cities have supported what I would argue, is one of, if not THE most diverse group of musicians in hip hop in the nation. In no other city are you going to find rappers like Baby Shel, M.anifest, Lizzo, or Mike Mictlan. The fact that white people make up the majority of concert attendees sheds light on the fact that whites make up a statistical majority of the population of the Twin Cities. I would argue that going to a bluegrass, country, folk, or indie rock concert in Minneapolis and comparing the crowds to those of a hip hop concert you will see significantly less diversity.
    The statement that white hip hop fans seek out black artists that they are comfortable with and will replicate a minstrel experience is just plain insulting to the emotion and intelligence of white hip hop fans. This is a hateful and hurtful generalization that marginalizes our thoughts about the hip hop culture.
    The author also makes note that “Many white Minnesotan artists and fans ignore the roots of hip hop while profiting off the music, art and culture. Yet, white emcees who are intentional allies are visible around the Twin Cities.” I think that we can all identify many of the intentional allies in the hip hop scene, but I am curious about the assumption preempted by this. Who exactly in the music scene is ignoring the roots of hip hop while profiting? I think if you are going to make a proclamation as bold as this you should have some examples to validate your statement. I do believe that there are white hip hop artists that co-opt black culture for profit, and I can name specific examples; Stitches, Slim Jesus, and Riff Raff, but these artists are not a part of the Twin Cities hip hop scene, and are not representative of our values.
    I do not intend for this comment to be misconstrued as downplaying the struggle that many non-whites have in the Twin Cities, whether in the hip hop scene, or not. I am very consciously aware of the systemic racial issues that have been, and continue to impact our communities. I know that systemic racism has historically marginalized people of color and that I have benefited in society for no other reason than by being white. That being said, I find that the authors approach to the subject has merit in its pursuit of shedding light on the issues that our non-white communities face, but I disagree with the analysis of the hip hop community. I find that stereotyping white hip hop fans as ignorant, profit seeking, white supremacists is only hurting the work that we have done here.
    White fans or not, Minneapolis is home to an amazing, dynamic, and diverse hip hop music scene. It should be celebrated, not criticized.

  15. I live in Cambodia. We have a hip-hop scene here. The artists are all Cambodian and rap in Khmer, the language here. Next door in Vietnam, the same, except they rap in Vietnamese. Same for Thailand, but in Thai. Same for every Asian country, with their own language. Hip-hop fans in these countries listen to African-American artists, but there aren’t any black people involved really aside from a few foreigners occasionally as part of the audience. That’s the Asian hip-hop scene.

    There is a lot of racism in Asia. The police don’t shoot people nearly as often as in America (they don’t ever shoot people in most countries here to be honest), but racist ideas aren’t considered wrong or controversial and people are often openly racist without any backlash or issues. People from African countries have to pay more to get a visa to visit here and Africans are banned from entering the most popular night club in Phnom Penh, like America in the 1950’s, No Africans Allowed. I could give dozens of examples of racism aimed at Africans or people of African descent. The musical forms that African-Americans pioneered are still popular but in a localized form. I say all this just to give you some context.

    1. Is this stealing black culture? Is this cultural appropriation? Explain why it is or isn’t in light of the idea that it necessarily is whenever white people are involved.

    2. The Asian hip-hop scene reflects the make-up of the local population. Asians. Or more specifically where I am, Cambodians. What else could it reflect? Why would majority-white Minnesota be any different in that respect?

  16. I would say that most of the “white” artists I enjoy to listen to from time to time really do appreciate the culture, know of its roots, and have great respect for it. There are artists of many colors that do not know the roots or respect the elements…and that isnt neccessarily their fault as well (considering the fact that we are all victims of monetary society in some way shape or form). I preferably only listen to dope hip hop, aka artists who have been affiliated with breakers, graf writers, and real Deejays who kut’n’scratch vinyl…. so I find the perspective of the article to be off balance. In regards to who created and birthed Hip Hop, true, its great to teach the history, and to teach it correctly, but Hip Hop is being innovated by ethnicities all over the world, in almost every country on the planet, and its funny that in America, its a black verses white thing, we are being manipulated and divided by the media propaganda and psychological warfare…pointing fingers at each other when the time is now to unite….. i am more concerned about the little kids in the third world (like thailand or just pick any country for that matter) who do not know literally anything about hip hop and its roots or true culture, they only see what the corporations present to them through movies and videos (yea, in case you werent aware, American music in general is being used as a weapon to Americanize entire nations of people globally, but that is another topic), and that is a much larger issue than worrying about some white kids who adore, love and respect the artform…. we are one family…… humans, and we shouldnt further the divide between us…. our greatest struggle as an Earthling family will be to unite and crush this monetary system…. i enjoy the thoughts of true freedom, and in my vision of true freedom, anyone from anywhere can practice any artform they so desire, and they dont even neccessarily need to know the history or the roots for that matter, as long as they are making respectful music that benefits humans and the planet, I’m down for it…. i dont see skin as the issue, I see the words and the messages being the real issue for any genre of music…… we are in revolutionary times, all peoples of humanity are in need to awaken and rise against the monetary enslavement that is killing us all and our planet, we definitely need more thought provoking material from all artists, more revolutionary activist material, and more unity amongst us all…. from my perspective, I see twin cities hip hop as a great community of people who love and respect hip hop to its core, there are a few corny and wanna-be famous artists, but the majority of hip hop heads in minnesota love the elements to their core….. sure monetary things will divide us, that is what the monetary system is and promotes – division…… some people have more resources than others, thats why this monetary society is a crime against humanity, we need to break the chains of monetary society – which is the foundation of all problems for humans and the planet….. I really enjoy the way “Run The Jewels” has progressively pushed forward by giving away the music for “free”, that is how we break these chains, music should be free as with all things in life, what a nice way to get rid of the money hungry wack emcees, make music free, so there is no way for wack emcees or corporations (who care nothing for humans or the culture) to profit any longer from it, so we can preserve and protect our culture and our children and work towards a better future unlike anything humans have known…… 🙂 — i want and need more revolution / activist music…. we need to throw protests and riots instead of corny “i wanna get a deal and be famous and rich” shows…. unfortunately, as humans, we are facing a massive uphill battle, we need to destroy everything we have known, our education system needs to be crushed and rebuilt, etc. etc….. people of all communities are victimized by this crime against humanity we call monetary society, there is no research being done, intelligence is lacking etc etc…. blahhhhhh lol…. yep… we could talk for days on any of these subjects 🙂 —- on a personal preference note, I definitely prefer Slug (even though I havent listened to him since the Headshots days) over “Prof”, who to me is not a good representation for the culture 😉

  17. Great article! Very true too many white people are trying to controll the hip hop secene and creative energy that comes from POC in all. We live in white MN. White supremacy and white privilege wants to dominate every space we create from organizing to all creativite art expression and feed off the creative energy from of all black people and all genres of their music especially hip-hop In MN. The club owners and promoters are white, majority of audience are white, we don’t see artist fighting for their space because it’s dominated by white people who can’t relate to hip hop’s roots and foundation which cames out of the same oppression and racism the same white people that listen to the music perpetuate everday through how they work, move and live in this city. This is why creative art of black and brown people won’t take off in a big way here like other cities that are ownership of their black and brown space to be creative.

  18. White rappers making music for predominantly white audiences. Been done with every genre of music, and the same complaints have always been registered. What makes this different? Blacks, in general, have always been disenfranchised and cheated out of fame and fortune for their accomplishments in this country. Are whites supposed to stop making music for their appreciative audiences? Doesn’t seem likely. What’s the solution? People like what they like and money talks. People do not have educated taste.

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  21. The quote that “Many white Minnesotan artists and fans ignore the roots of hip hop while profiting off the music, art, and culture” really got me thinking. I mean, I’m starting to see how this relates to my life and my job. It’s just as true in my industry. Many Minnesotan fry cooks ignore the story of how french fries were invented while profiting off their crunchy, chewy, and saltiness. It’s amazing! Could the same be said for the industry you work in?

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