Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A story I like to tell

Here is the story of why I chose Minneapolis as my new home.

It all started in 2003, I was living in Kalamazoo, Michigan attending a community college there. I was just starting to discover that rap music was more than what they played on WJLB in Detroit. There was a whole host of musical artists of this style that were hustling in the underground music scene. Slowly but surely I started listening to Aesop Rock, Sage Francis and some other better known indie rappers when one day a friend played for me a song that would start it all. The track was "Woman with the Tattooed Hands" by Atmosphere. You have probably heard of Atmosphere with his recent rise in popularity but for me in 2003 it was a revelation. I became a bigger and bigger Atmosphere fan and started to explore other artist on his label, Rhymesayers.

Three years later, after seeing shows and buy CDs by Minnesota rappers I took my next step toward the state I would later call home. While attending a Minus the Bear concert I noticed a few Rhymesayers stickers and some merchandise. I thought that maybe Rhymesayers had started to diversify it's artists, to my benefit it had not. The first two opening bands were exactly what I expected in a band that would open up for Minus the Bear, rock music. The third artist to play that night goes by the name of P.O.S.. If you are unaware of him, he is a rapper who has a large punk rock influence. On both points, not what I expected from this show but he sure did deliver. I was hooked on his music from that point forward. After about 6 months of my obsession I realized that he was a founding member of another Minneapolis based indie rap label, Doomtree. Just like with the Rhymesayers label I started to explore the label in it's entirety and was very impressed with my findings. At this point I should have started to become interested in the state of Minnesota but I was still caught up with the places I was more familiar with.

In the summer of 2008 I was desperately searching for a music festival that I could both afford and would take me out of the state of Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Minneapolis hosted a Hip-hop festival every summer and the tickets would only set me back $25. I picked up a ticket, grabbed my partner and headed west to the Twin Cities ready for a great weekend. My experience in Minneapolis over this long weekend was more impressive than I could have imagined, there was culture, style and tons of green space. I started to believe that Minnesota was a pretty cool state.

When it came time to start thinking about what I was going to do after school ended, Minneapolis quickly became one of the places that I looked for work. After applying to countless Americorps programs in Colorado, Washington and Minnesota I was offered a position working for an organization in Minneapolis. I tentatively accepted the position wondering would life would be like outside of my boyhood home. As a final test of my decision to move, I decided to take a trip to Minneapolis, this time with exploring being the only objective. I used the website Couchsurfing.com to find a place to stay for free and once again headed west.

This trip would turn out to be impressive. The people I stayed with were extremely friendly, pointing me it the right directions to make my exploration as positive as can be. My first afternoon alone in the city I headed out on foot to try and find a neighborhood that I felt comfortable in. My direction of choice was north-east. After walking a considerable distance I came across a craft store called I Like You, they had astroturf covering the floor so I decided to go in. After browsing the wears that they were selling, and being bummed out that I was too broke to buy anything, I started talking to the woman behind the counter. This conversation lasted at least an hour and provided me with one major place in the city to find, Fifth Element Records, the store owned by Atmosphere. I started walking west on Hennepin only to discover that it intersects quite oddly with Lyndale and I took the wrong fork in the road. After walking about 3 miles I realized that I was lost and I really need a place to sit down. Thankfully I passed a coffee shop, called Muddy Waters, and decided to duck in. I grabbed a cup of coffee and pulled out my computer to find out where I was. The next few surreal moments would cement my decision to move to this city.

Sitting at a table facing the door, hot, tired and lost I was a little out of it already. When I looked up from my computer toward the door I was blown away when Dessa, a rapper on the Doomtree label walked through the door and grabbed a table not to far from myself. After finishing my coffee, while stealing glances of this celebrity in my world, I got up to reach my destination. And the next bomb dropped, sitting there smoking a cigarette were two of Dessa's cohorts, Mike Mictlan and Sims. I said to myself at that moment, "there is no way I can't move here."

Here I am almost a year later, sitting in the same coffee shop (watching more Doomtree rappers walk through the same door), confused as to why it took me so long to find this gem in the Mid-West.

Image courtisy of Flickr user Bob B. Brown

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