Born and raised in the Twin Cities to NuyoRican parents, emcee, singer, and songwriter Maria Isa is recognized for her dedication towards celebrating her cultural diversity through music and political activism. Read more about Maria Isa.
Maria Isa is also profiled in a Twin Cities Public Television's mn original production. View the video.
Two Sunday nights ago wasn't your ordinary Easter feast rap up. While many Twin Citians were glued to the tube watching the holiday episodes of Fox's the "Simpson's" and "Family Guy," or the NCAA Woman's Basketball finals, or playing catch outdoors before the Yankee's vs Red Sox game, I decided to take a different route. A fellow SotaRico staff member and I attended the grand opening of First Avenue and 7th Street Entry's "Record Room."
The festivity was hosted by First Avenues' booking agent Sonia Grover, who presented a speech commemorating a brand new "retro styled, comic-strip collage" mural by artist Greg Gossel, who was inspired by the historical venue celebrating its 40th anniversary. Grover also gave special recognition to the room's history and how its carries another branch of representation to the venues popular status. She proclaimed the room as a space showcasing the richness and strong movement of local and international DJs who have drawn an impact towards the Twin Cities music and night scene.
(Photo courtesy of First Avenue and 7th Street Entry)
In honor of the renaming of the VIP room, I caught up with Twin Cities based DJ Verb X. Verb X is most known for spinning and hosting every Thursday's "The Bungalow," one of the venues' most popular nights. The expansion of what's now the Record Room has so much history! Out of all people, I felt it was appropriate to acknowledge what DJ Verb X thought about the room's transition, development, accomplishments and memories.
When did you begin spinning @ the former VIP room?
It was in late 1998, during its "Erotic City" night. At the time PopTop was the DJ and we came across networking through music. He really was the one who gave me my opportunity to spin.
At the time, a former booker at First Avenue was highly impressed and I got the chance to kick off the "Bungalow" in March of 1999. I came up with the marketing, the name, establishing a crew to help promote through the One Love Movement. In the beginning it was strictly all reggae and slowly I incorporated playing hip-hop, which was mostly played during a promoted night in the room called the "Barbershop."
If those VIP walls could speak and tell us about its' expansion what would they say?
They'd definitely cross the point of how much smaller the room used to be! (Chuckles as he remembers) It was so small when we first started. It was a record closet for all the DJs who spun at First Ave, which is why the name "Record Room," is so fitting. Our crowd started with 75 people, representing friends, staff, supporters, artists and has now grown to establishing a fan base of weekly club-goers. The room has grown to the best... if not the best, than most def one of Minneapolis' most chilled places to be at on a Thursday night.
As both, a fan and an artist who has performed at First Avenue, I've found Thursday nights at the famous club to be a highlight of our community's music scene. With the Salsa night in the main room and then the "Bungalow" upstairs, what inspired you to help make this historical venue's room so diverse and entertaining?
I really wanted to help create and bring a great atmosphere for club-goers to have fun and chill. I was really inspired by the New York City rooftop club parties that spun reggae and brought movement and rhythm to the place. It's great to have the Salsa night in the main room, because if definitely feeds towards upstairs. The fact that the music we play is so diverse with reggae, hip-hop, dancehall and reggaeton it adds towards seeing the variety of people who come every week..and love it! I especially enjoy the ranges from different generations and cultures. From the "turning 21 year-old birthday" crowd, to the local artist scene and regular supporters who have been attending the VIP room for years; the "Record Room" to me now represents that movement of people!
How do you feel about the new "Record Room" name?
The "Record Room" represents the venue's name better than the VIP room, because many of our people who hang out there never felt it to be a VIP lounge. It still is and has always been a home for DJs. Purely a room that adds flavor and a place to chill after main room events. You hear a great act in the main room and then have an opportunity to continue the night listening to the cities best DJs play fitting music. It was time for the VIP to grow and establish its own identity, where weekly acts and guest can help establish their unique brand.
I do hope that we can showcase more artwork and details towards the history of the DJs, events and acts who have made the room successful up to this day.
What was one of your most favorite memories in the VIP room?
Wow! I've had many, but one that grips me was when Muja Messiah had his "MPLS Massacre Mixtape" release show in March of 2008, at the 7th St Entry Room. As soon as his show finished, the whole VIP room became even more packed and he performed his version of "Paper Planes." It was cool.. The crowd went crazy! It was a great night and showcased what the room is meant to be about...it showcased our cities' love for diversity and local music. Moments like this one is what keeps us connected with our local artists who support the venue, just as much as we support them.
Thank you Verb X, Sonia Grover, and all of the staff at First Avenue and 7th Street Entry. The Twin Cities look forward to seeing the future of the "Record Room" grow.
You can find Verb X spinning every Thursday night presenting "The Bungalow," at First Avenue and 7th Street Entry's "Record Room."
Also tune into his podcast @:
For more information about First Avenue and 7th Street Entry, please visit the official website @:
Twas a well night spent last night at Minneapolis' "Triple Rock." Famous for they're live and loud punk/metal rock shows, the events' head banging attendees jammed out to a different buzz. A sound in which transformed Twin Citians into killer bees as they were stung by the venom of one of the founding members of the Wu-tang Clan, the "genius" himself: GZA.
Before the Brooklyn, NYC native born Gary Grice took a hold of the mic, the crowd was hyped up by opening acts from militant rapper St Paul Slim accompanied by Dj Snuggles, and Minneapolis massacre Muja Messiah alongside Dj Turtleneck who spun a few sets throughout the nights. The crowd was thick and diverse with your traditional hip-hop backpackers rocking black and gold "Wu" t-shirts awaiting to "Enter the Wu-tang's 36 Chambers."
As I roamed the room, greeted a few people, and felt out the vibe of patiently waiting fans, I made it back to my place backstage to interview GZA before he turned the venue into a human beehive. It was truly great to sit next to an original member of a crew who has influenced so much of my work as an emcee and hip hop advocate. M.I.: The Wu-Tang Clan has been known globally for almost 2 decades now. As hip-hop continues to grow and media depicts the changes of representation, Where do u see the future of the Wu-Tang Clan's expansion? GZA: Schools, education.
Wu-tang has opened many doors for hip hop. I see us continuing to open doors for the youth and students through entering more curriculums; alongside Hip-Hop courses being taught and adapting in universities and colleges now I see us more adapting those lessons with lyrical workshops and discussions. M.I.: Would u consider the Wu-Tang Clan to be on the high ranks of spreading outreach to communities of activism? Would you say the Wu uses poetic expressions to walk alongside the formed movement of the 1960's Black Panthers and Young Lords? GZA: Yes most definitely. Not in the same path such as Chuck D (Public Enemy), but more so along the guidelines of staying committed to giving back and speaking the truth through our craft and motivation. As well as keeping our projects productive to help benefit each artists.
It's all about organization. M.I. What has been a success to be able to progress the Wu's message? GZA: Education is the tool. Even if we haven't directly instructed a session. I think Wu-Tang has been an instructor of education to anyone who has been a fan, anyone who has supported our movement whether its been from buying a Wu-tang cd or coming to see a show. I feel each listener/supporter has received a jewel or a blessing of knowledge and motivation that they can carry inside of them forever. We don't just talk about repin' our hood.
We bring patterns of mathematics and ancient history through modern metaphors. Something I wish more artist these days could continue building from. M.I. What's one thing that stands out about the Twin Cities? GZA: Not to many 24 hour sit down food joints yo. Whatsup with that?! (Smiling) M.I. I can't give much of an answer to that. I've been waiting my whole life here in the TCs to have a more of a selection than the normal "fast- food" all night service and Mickey's diner on my side of the river.
But hey the SotaRico kitchen is open all day! :) As I wished the GZA a good show (and informed him if he finished his set he may have a chance to grab a slice at Pizza Luce), I made my way back out towards the sound board at the Triple Rock to catch what would be once again an amazing set by one of the Killer Bees. Bumping shoulders with Atmosphere's ANT and fellow Rhymesayers label mate Toki Wright, I took a moment to discuss and acknowledge how truly great the culture we live in is.
It's about having a purpose and recognizing that even after 20 years in the game rocking a mic and spitting knowledge, you can continue to motivate and move forward to help establish the next chambers that await their destiny. Pa'lante mundo! -M.I. Check out M.I. Song of the post: St Paul Slim's "HORSES" www.myspace.com/stpaulslim
On October 19th, 2009 Judith Orea Ojeda passed away at 32 from a tramatic unexpected illness that deteriorated her brain, leaving behind her husband Antonio Gonzalez and 6 children ranging from the ages 5-17 years old.
Tonight a special gathering will take place to celebrate Judy's life at Minneapolis' 414 Soundbar. A celebration representing who Judy was and how she liked to express herself in good times; a night with family and friends, listening to Hip-Hop music and representing the community she belonged to.
Ojeda had been working in the Twin Cities as a health access coordinator for the Neighborhood House in St. Paul, but I had the honor to know Judy personally as a mentor, big-sis on the block, and a friend through her advocacy work for teens, human and immigration rights. Judy was also a proud Latina family business owner of the "MexaRican Cartel," which was a record and souvenir shop bridging many Urban youth from the Twin Cities area through Hip-Hop and Latino music. Her and husband Tony named the store after her being Mexican and him being of Puerto Rican decent. Along with investing and promoting shows at Twin Cities' venues for well-known Latino Hip-Hop artist like Baby Bash, Chingo Bling, Cuban Link and Juan Gotti, Judy always made sure to show love to the local Hip-Hop acts who came by the shop, by giving them an opportunity to be an opening act.
"Judy will surely be missed as a true devoted fan of our music," expressed South Minneapolis rapper Big Wiz of Long Doe Records who will be performing at the event tonight. " Judy always offered us shows and she was never interested in taking anything from anyone she helped out. She just wanted to respect and keep pushing the movement for better opportunities to come for the artist she supported. She did it to express her love."
Another feature of the event happening tonight is a special performance by Judy's son 15 year-old Young Outlaw aka. Antonio Gonzalez Jr.
"She was really happy and very encouraging when she saw me focusing on music," Antonio Jr. shared with family and friends during last month's eulogy at the funeral. "I'm going to keep on doing my best...it's what she would want me to do."
If you're looking for something fun and gererous to get involved with tonight, I ask that you support this event showcasing live performances by Jes Latino, Juan Gotti,Young Outlaw,The St Paul Kings, Player City, Dj Pablo and DJ Fresko. Food will be provided and a special raffle including a trip for two to Las Vegas sponsored by the Country Bar and Grill. $20.00 entry 18+.
Judy was a woman of pride and determined to be the best that she could be. She led and now leaves her legacy to beloved husband Antonio Gonzalez along with 3 daughters (Tacita, Thalia, and Carmen), and 3 sons (Tony Jr, Jesus and Noah Gonzalez).
Thank you Judy for being one of my biggest supporters. For giving me some of my first opportunities to express on the mic, to perform what I wanted to express on stage along with keeping the community close. We will continue to march pa'lante and shout "si se puede." You believed in us and we will grow to learn and share our blessings just like you did. Moochie Love ma y Descansa en Paz Mrs. MexaRican.
The Neighborhood House have set up a fund to help assist Judy's family with funeral and other expenses.
Please Make Checks Payable To:
Judy Ojeda Memorial Fund
C/O Neighborhood House
179 Robie Street East
Saint Paul, MN 55207
ATTN: Ed Kegle
Fox 9 News Clipping of "Rare Illness Takes Mother of 6"
M.I. Song of the Post:
La Incondicional- Juan Gotti
M.I. Album of the Week:
La Revolucion - Wisen y Yandel
New York City, the birthplace of the historic culture infusing the influence to rap, spin, mix records, break dance, graffiti tag and bomb, fashioning fresh kicks and advocates diversity for people to respect where you come from.
Last week I was able to catch a full glance at the Big Apple's love for the scene I call home: the world of Twin Cities hip-hop. A week ago I came across a small venue the Sin Sin. A lounge over in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (my parents' old stomping ground), where a line of backpack hip-hop heads signed up for the monthly emcee battled. I was invited by an NYU graduate student who had interviewed and informed me of the event earlier that day. After ordering a cocktail and scoping the environment with Chilo (the other half of New York's Dr. Loco crew which toured the Twin Cities last August), I recognized a few artist with whom I performed alongside my NY release tour last June.
One of them known as MC Niles Davis (whom I did a show with in Brooklyn and was also a resident of Brooklyn Park,MN), insisted I sign up for the first round of the night's battle. My intentions weren't to go and participate, but I couldn't help but sign up to see what type of lyrical ammunition I could spread. Later on that night I met with Minneapolis' Chaz Kangis, who has been the succeeding champion for more than 15 times. The 23 year-old, De La Salle alumni rocked a rugged-US flag bandanna on his head, with a similar lyrical swag that could be compared to the style of Slug from Atmosphere. His comedic metaphors and expressions placed him on the list of favorite emcees who attended the annual cypher sessions that occur every Monday.
Hosted by Ill-Spoken for over 8 years with Dj Milk Money- on the 1s and 2s, and a small house band (made up of musicians who select the beats for each round;the bass players wife is from St. Cloud I found out), the battles are broken up by different topics: world politics, current events, tv shows, rap songs, sports and more, which are all spun "price is right" style on the themes' bicycle wheel. With double digits numbers of men battling and me as the only female in the competition that night, I had to listen to the weak hits of "you're a lil girl and honey go to the kitchen." But, the small smacks didn't do nothing but make me fire back, like a dragon burning down a wanna-be emcee castle. It was no question that between Chaz and MI, the Twin Cities came in and exploded a "sota-can" to fizz and drown what was being represented as New York underground battle rap.
"There's something happening in the Twin Cities. A bomb that is helping the true hip-hop culture survive," commented native New Yorker Ill-Spoken after hearing a similar phrase from Dr.Loco's Chilo.
Before leaving Sin Sin that night to head back to uptown, I said my good-byes and reminded everyone to attend and support the following Saturday's NYC stop of the "Fresh Air" tour presenting Rhymesayers Entertainment artist Brother Ali alongside label mates Toki Wright, BK-One and the most recently signed Evidence of the well-known crew Dilated Peoples.
The following Saturday I met up with hometown brotha, rapper and mentor Toki Wright right before his set at the famous Irving Plaza's Fillmore venue. He treated me as he always does, like an older brother/big cousin on the watch for his sista. It felt great to see the homies from the Miny-apple in the Big Apple, and for once feel the love for them outside of the local TC scene. With a packed venue the emotions and reactions from the crowd felt just like I was back at home watching them at First Avenue's Main Room or SoundSet. As Toki hit the stage to introduce himself seconds before his set began, a stage production set off with BK-One breaking the ice on his 1s and 2s, along with an awe of lights and video back play flashing Rhymesayers' and featured artists' logos; I remember smiling as the center glare flashed at Mr. Wright, who stood like a king on a throne with his crown as a traditional Twins ball cap in a Yankees wonderland.
As the beat to his first track of the night dropped, the energy of the whole room waved there hands side to side as if Toki's dreds advocated their direction. In other words: the crowd was feeling it! A recap towards one of the ways Toki is an advocates, his latest video of the single "Devil's Advocate" off his recent release 'A Different Mirror,' is currently on rotation at VH1 and MTV stations. Toki closed his set commenting that it was time for others to recognize that he "was way more than a hype man!" I have to agree with the rapper who has devoted years of his art towards non-profit organizations and toured through Africa. But that wasn't the end of the night for the opening act and host who announced the next Rhymesayer emcee on the set list.
Evidence! .....To be continued
Be sure to vote for Toki Wright's "Devils Advocate" video on MTV.com and VH1.com!!
Check out the official Toki Wright website at www.tokiwright.com
Song of the Post:
"Devils Advocate"- Toki Wright
A Different Mirror Album of the Week "Us" - Brother Alí