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***UPDATE: Brother Ali requested a clarification on what was admittedly a breezy recount of his complex statements on same-sex marriage. It's posted at the end. Also, he reports that his bandmates from the taping will unfortunately not be involved in his Soundset performance.
What a difference a few TV cameras can make in the reality-show-worthy world of Brother Ali. The battling rapper performed in front of a film crew for the second installment of the “Lowertown Line” series Wednesday night at Twin Cities Public Television’s studios in downtown St. Paul. It was alternately one of the lightest and heaviest showings hometown fans have seen by him. And let’s face it: Ali has been anything but light of late.
Looking leaner and (no kidding) a little tan after a few months of being off the road, Ali opened the taping with “Mourning in America,” the title track off last year’s dense, stern, sometimes preachy album. The song was accompanied by the burka-wearing female dancers from the video, and by an installment from Brother Ali’s Book Club (he recommended “Dirty Wars” by Jeremy Scahill for another look at America's recent military actions). Along the same lines, Ali later threw a couple new lines into his 2007 classic “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” including: “Even Obama is killing people with drones / Now I’m going to jail with Occupy Homes.”
The headiest parts of the taping came after the performance, when Ali sat with “H2” radio co-host and Rhymesayers staffer Kevin Beacham for a Q&A filmed for a new initiative on TPT’s website called “Open Air.” That discussion was done on top of an interview with “Lowertown Line” host Dessa, which was filmed separately (she’s currently on the road). All the audience’s questions were submitted via mobile phones in the studio. Among them was an inquiry about Ali’s Muslim faith shaping his opinion on same-sex marriage. One of the performers who urged fans to shoot down the amendment banning gay marriage at First Ave’s Vote No concert last fall, Ali conceded that he supports Imams who would refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
“But we don’t live in a country where my spiritual beliefs dictate your life,” he said. Perhaps pointing to his failed first marriage, he added with a laugh, “I don’t get [same-sex marriage], but I also don’t get why someone would marry a mean-ass woman, either.”
There were many more wryly humored moments like that throughout the taping. He repeatedly talked about the sociopolitical tone of last year’s album. “It was career suicide,” he said, admitting it fared poorly compared to his more personally toned, better-loved 2007 album. “It’s not as good as ‘The Undisputed Truth,’ but it’s the album I had to make at the time.” Introducing another dark track off the 2009 "Us" record, “The Travelers,” he joked, “My job now is to do music that’s entertaining and that says what I want to say. So I did this one for the clubs … and it’s about slavery.”
Other songs in the taping included “Forest Whitaker” and “Fresh Air.” In addition to his usual ace DJ support from Plain Ole Bill, Ali performed with keyboardist DeVon Gray (Heiruspecs, Liminal Phase) and guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird, Alpha Consumer), whose funky and sometimes freaky interplay added a cool, grinding edge to the songs.
Ali will return to the stage again for next weekend’s Soundset festival. Look for Ali’s “Lowertown Line” episode to air when TPT’s new season kicks off in September.
Here is Ali's further explanation of his answer based off Tuesday's passage of the Freedom to Marry Bill, which made Minnesota the 12th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage:
To give a little context, I was asked what is "The Muslim Opinion" of same sex marriage in light of the Marriage Equality bill that just passed in Minnesota. My answer was that aside from the belief that there is a Creator called Allah, there's no one "Muslim opinion" on any topic. Muslim scholars, Imams and activists have debated almost every topic for hundreds of years just like every other community gathered around a system of beliefs and ideals.
I said that my personal understanding is that Islam starts with the prospect that Allah has dignified every member of the human family and that basic human dignity is under attack in this society based on identity. Its our sacred duty to protect and defend the human rights of everyone regardless of our differences.
I went on to explain my personal understanding of marriage in Islam and when TPT posts the entire session, folks can hear the entirety of my comments. To be clear, though, I didn't say that I support Imams not performing same sex marriages. I said that some Imams probably will, but most won't.
I'm not saying that you quoted me completely wrong, but I feel like the quotes you selected don't reflect the overarching theme and message of my answer to the audience question. I have a strong sense that Religion and GLBT rights are generally being portrayed as opposing ideas in the media. I think that undermines not only GLBT folks who also belong to religious communities, but the alliances that exist and can potentially be built between the GLBT fight for human rights and prophetic faith communities.
Hundreds partied at the American Swedish Institute this spring. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.
Everyone loves a party, especially arty types eager to celebrate in style. Three of Minneapolis' leading arts organizations are staging galas this summer either as fund-raisers or to celebrate their heritage.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts leads off June 1 with a simple "summer party" theme to raise money. It promises "sunset cocktails" followed by a "celebration of the Minneapolis music scene" with Doomtree and Morris Day and the Time. Pick your price range: General tickets: $85 per person for nibbles, 1 drink, 2 tickets to the special exhibition "More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness." VIP tickets: $175 per person including all of the above plus valet parking and more drinks. Gala tickets: $750 and up for 6 p.m. dinner, etc. (8:30 p.m. to midnight, June 1. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls. 612-870-6323 or www.artsmia.org)
Next up on June 15 is the American Swedish Institute with a traditional, day-long Swedish Midsommar Festival. The family-friendly event includes singing, dancing, fiddling, "flower head-wreath making," glass-blowing, a flea market and a mini-golf course. Yep, just when Walker Art Center seemed to have a lock on mini-golf with its artist-designed course, the Swedes try to muscle in. The glass blowers will be giving demos in conjunction with the opening of ASI's new "Kingdom of Crystal," exhibition of Swedish glass art. Be advised that the festival food will include pickled herring as well as the usual hot dogs, ice cream and lemonade. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 15, $7 adults. American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls. www.ASImn.org)
Walker Art Center will round out the season September 21 with its annual fund raising gala in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Dubbed "Avant Garden," the event promises music, art, gourmet food, specialty cocktails, an auction and dancing. How long you can stay depends on what you pay: Silver Key, 8:30 to 11 p.m., $100. Gold Key, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., $500. (6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Walker Art Center, 175 Hennepin Av., Mpls. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org)
Tomorrow night they’re going to party like it’s Aug. 1, 2013 – the day that same-sex marriages will be legal in Minnesota, pending Gov. Mark Dayton’s signage Tuesday of the bill that passed the Senate today.
A truly rainbow-like coalition of Twin Cities musicians will perform at a free outdoor bash celebrating the legislation at Ecolab Plaza in downtown St. Paul, including Chan Poling and members of the Suburbs, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, P.O.S., Hookers & Blow, Zoo Animal and the Jack Brass Band. Mayor Chris Coleman and the City of St. Paul are hosting the party and calling it the “Love Is the Law” concert, named after the Suburbs’ 1984 hit that became an anthem for the legislations advocates.
The party will begin after Dayton’s 5 p.m. signing ceremony around 6 p.m., and is scheduled to last until 10:15. Ecolab Plaza is at 375 Wabasha St. N. More info on the concert can be found on the city’s website.
Grade-school rappers Y.N. Rich Kids of “Hot Cheetos & Takis” fame could have another viral hit to their name, but there’s one problem: That’s not actually their name anymore.
A gritty slow-jam titled “My Bike” -- recorded by north Minneapolis’ littlest rap giants last summer alongside another insatiably cute video -- finally saw the light of day Friday afternoon and has already attracted 30,000 views in three days on YouTube. In the interim since the song was made, however, the group has changed its name to simply the KIDS following a dispute with the Northside YMCA over money issues.
Those issues are still unresolved, with the families of the youth rappers asking for some of the money made off of paid downloads and YouTube ad revenue. The money instead has gone to the Beats & Rhyme afterschool program that birthed the group, and to the director of the “Hot Cheetos” video. However, the good news is the KIDS’ families and the Beats & Rhymes organizers at least found common ground with “My Bike” (posted below).
“We all just wanted to finally get it out there,” said Melissa Mercedes, whose son Freeman “Frizzy Free” Hickman shines again along with his other cohorts in “My Bike” and its video. “This is the follow-up hit to ‘Hot Cheetos.’ We always knew this one was going to be hot, too, and the numbers we’re seeing already speak for themselves.”
As was the case in "Hot Cheetos," the rappers involved have no trouble speaking for themselves in "My Bike." Here's a sample of the song's smooth-flowing lyrics from Glenn "G6" Carter, age 12:
"It's G6, ridin' on my bike / Flyer than a kite, and I put that on my life / Matter fact put that on my mama / Flow cold but I'm hot like a sauna / No games, bro, I don't need no drama / Cuz I'm tryna make change like Obama."
So far, the song is only being offered as a free download, so there's no money to dispute, and the parents of the young rap stars are cool with it being issued as a Y.N.RichKids song. “That’s the name they were still using when they made it, so it’s fair,” Mercedes said. Another fun and infectious new video/single, “Khaki Pants,” was simultaneously issued under the Beats & Rhymes banner by another group in the program, the NSJ Crew, which features some of the KIDS and other students from the program’s partnering Nellie Stone Johnson Community School.
From here on out, though, look for the kids to be the KIDS. Their new management team is finishing off a demo with new songs to shop around to labels. They are keeping up appearances, too – the only way they have gotten paid!—including a short slot opening for Mindless Behavior at Epic last weekend. On Saturday, they will perform again at an open house event at the Institute of Production & Recording in downtown Minneapolis (where their demo was made; click here for more info). There’s talk of a short tour to the South over the summer. By then, they very well could be known as more than a one-hit wonder.
Consistently one of the most adventurous and electrifying annual live music events in town, the Heliotrope festival has been officially called off for what would have been its 10th anniversary installment this year. Organizers of the Memorial Day weekend event -- which gathered together experimental musicians of the noise-rock, electronic, psychedelic, none-of-the-above ilk – had trouble finding a suitable venue after recent years saw it bounce from the Ritz Theater to the now-defunct Loring Theater to (last year) the Lab Theater. That delay led to the rest of the planning falling short, said Rich Barlow, whose Flaneur Productions produced the event.
“With this being the 10th year, we had hoped to make it something extra special,” Barlow said. “It was starting to look like we might be able to pull something off, [but] it was if anything going to be less special.”
The good news is Barlow and his partners seem intent on bringing it back next year. In a press release announcing the postponement over the weekend, the Flaneur crew said, “We will be working from now until the spring of 2014 to bring ‘HX’ to the fullest fruition.”
At least local/underground fans can still look forward to a similarly wild weekend of music this weekend with Art-a-Whirl, which takes over northeast Minneapolis again Friday through Sunday. Here are some of the Art-a-Whirl highlights to plan for:
THE 331 CLUB: The usual indoor/outdoor music mix with Kill the Vultures, Milwaukee’s new Sub Pop signees Jaill, the Blind Shake and Carroll on Friday (6 p.m.-1 a.m.), Marijuana Deathsquads, Prissy Clerks, Story of the Sea and the Stnnng with its new spilt-EP partner FT on Saturday (Noon-1 a.m.), and Night Moves, Josh Grier’s Ginkgo and the Sunny Era on Sunday (1 p.m.-9 p.m.), with many more each day (331 13th Av. NE, free, click here for more info).
GRUMPY'S NORTHEAST: Dillinger Four and ’90s Iowa favorites House of Large Sizes make a great one-two- punch for headliners, plus new Afrobeat act Derobé Dance Band, Seawhores, Germaine Gemberling, Pennyroyal and more. (1-10 p.m. Sat., 2200 4th St. NE, free, click here for more info).
ANCHOR FISH & CHIPS: Romantica, Valet and Black Audience – all featuring Anchor founder Luke Kyle’s brothers -- play Sunday, while Saturday features Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings, the F- Knights, Mad Son of Unknown Prophets and more (2-9 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 302 13th Av. NE, free, click here).
STANLEY'S NORTHEAST BAR ROOM: Capitol Sons and Orange Whip will be on tap for music alongside 100 beers at the inaugural Stanley’s Craft Beer Festival (2-5 p.m. Sat., with free music till 9 p.m., 2500 University Av NE, $59 for beer ticket, click here).