Local music: Christian rapper Xross takes aim

  • Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2013 - 10:50 AM

The Christian rapper drops a new double album. Plus, Usonia goes retro and Dre Day offers a change-up.

“OMG” by Xross

How’s this for timeliness? When I talked to the Twin Cities’ pre-eminent hardcore Christian rapper Xross on Tuesday about his new single addressing gun tragedies, “Monster,” the news of the day was the Oakdale shooting that left a 9-year-old dead.

“Just way too many murders,” muttered the rapping minister also known as Korey Dean, 38, who is dropping a new double album this week as his once seemingly paradoxical niche music genre sees another boost in its profile: Houston rapper Lecrae, a friend of his, won the Grammy for best gospel album Sunday. “That’s a big one,” he gloated.

Xross wrote his hard-hitting new song in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. The “monster” in this case, he said, “is the evil force” behind the tragedy rather than the actual shooter (“a spirit from the underworld consumed his fire,” per the lyrics). Said Xross, “So many people had spiritual questions at the time: ‘How could God let this happen?’ Well, he didn’t make it happen.”

While his main intent was to preach God’s comforting and counterbalancing presence in this case, Xross also used the single to touch on the gun control debate, which he said is long overdue: “Kids didn’t just all of a sudden start getting shot. They’ve been dying in the inner cities for years.”

Not all of Xross’ new double album is as dark as that, as is hinted at by its cheeky title, “OMG.” Guests on it include Jamecia Bennett, Billy Steele and former Timberwolves player Troy “T-Hud” Hudson, Xross’ longtime production partner. His release party is Friday at Shiloh Temple (7:30 p.m., free, all ages, 1201 W. Broadway, Mpls.).

‘Fresh’ from Usonia

The title of Usonia’s second album, “What’s Fresh,” is a bit of a fraud. These guys sound more like an early ’80s synth-pop band than even OMD does nowadays. What’s lacking in innovation, though, is made up for in poppy hooks and a sexy playfulness by the quintet, which now includes ex-White Light Riot drummer Mark Schwandt.

“Are you gonna use your powers for good or evil?” frontman Zack Carroll asks in the most ambitious track, “Please,” a melding of Pulp’s stylish drama and textbook disco beats. Younger than the era he evokes (at 28), Carroll also wields a mean falsetto in the closer, “Damage Control.” Release party is Friday at 7th Street Entry (9 p.m., $8-$10).

Random mix

A fun twist on an annual tradition, Monday’s Dre Day at the Triple Rock will be headlined by a new all-star ensemble called the Oh Geez — not to be confused with Dave Pirner’s short-lived Oh Jeez — featuring members of Culture Cry Wolf and Dream Crusher with guests, all bouncing through live versions of Dre-affiliated classics. Get Cryphy DJs Jimmy 2 Times and Plain Ole Bill open the party. (10 p.m., $12-$15.) … The Triple Rock will also host what’s being billed as the Tribe & Big Cats’ farewell show on March 1. Word is the duo are calling it a day to continue working more on separate projects. …

Low is selling a limited-edition bonus EP with advance orders of its new Jeff Tweedy-produced record, “The Invisible Way.” The EP includes three demos of album tracks plus one extra instrumental. Details at Low’s site, Chairkickers.com. … An offshoot of an all-female rap series in Chicago, Friday’s I Still Love H.E.R. showcase at the Icehouse will feature local favorites Maria Isa and Lioness with Chitown’s Ang13 (11 p.m., $5). …

McNally Smith College of Music hosts a release party Friday by none other than Jack McNally — yeah, the boss — at his school’s Soundbite Cafe for a new album of twangy and bluesy rock tunes titled “Take Time” (6-9 p.m., free). Proceeds benefit his wife Deb’s charity, Hand in Hand Literacy. …

Rock the Cause is putting on a cancer benefit Saturday at the Varsity Theater called Up, Up, Up and centered around Zach Sobiech, the terminally ill Stillwater High School student whose would-be swan song became a viral hit. Sobiech is releasing his album that night, “Fix Me Up.” Vicci Martinez of “The Voice” will also perform, and Kevin Bowe & the Okemah Prophets will lead an all-star jam with Chris Koza, Molly Maher, Alison Scott and more (6 p.m., all ages, $10-$15). Sounds like one mighty enlightening party.

 

chrisr@startribune.com • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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  • Zach Sobiech, a Stillwater High School student, will release his album “Fix Me Up” at a Varsity Theater cancer benefit on Saturday.

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