Punchline Prose: Meet Minnesota Rap’s Hardest Working Wordsmith

They say every comedian wants to be a rapper and every rapper wants to be a comedian; if that’s true, then nobody in the Twin Cities tows the line better than Jake Giller.

At just 24 years old, Giller has cut through the current of the Minneapolis Hip-Hop tidal wave like a slick-rapping swordfish, with six albums, dozens of collaborations, and over a hundred tracks under his belt.

But what’s all this hard work and dedication led to? Nothing short of a partnership with WaterWaveTV, countless live performances, and most recently, a Headlining gig at a fully booked First Avenue; not bad for a kid who didn’t pay attention in math class...

It’s crazy to think that the same kid who gave up rapping in third grade when his mom found a song he scribbled in a notebook is now headlining sold out shows at Minnesota’s premier music venue.

Nonetheless, that same underdog mentality is what makes Giller so unique: He’s relatable, goofy, sincere, and above all else: He can spit.

Jake Giller "Will Ferrell" (Official Music Video)

When I first met Giller at a show at the Pourhouse this past April, I remember thinking he was just another fan like myself as he stood by the stage, watching the performers warm up with an earnest smile on his face.

When I first approached him, I was immediately disarmed by his genuine demeanor.

“So, how long have you been a fan of Hip-Hop?” I asked him.

“You’ll see in about 30 minutes…” he told me.

Umm, what?

I guess manners can be deceiving…

Sure enough, half an hour later, the emcee called on none other than Giller, who exploded onto the stage, zipping back and forth across the platform like a track star; the crowd couldn’t seem to get enough, reaching a fever pitch as Giller’s signature physicality spurred the energy of the Pourhouse into a frenzy.

I knew right then that this was someone who was born to perform; an artist who, though he appreciates the craft of poetry, understands the true essence of a great performance: Give the people a show.

Whether it’s cracking jokes in the back of his high school history class, donning a full chef’s outfit for a music video, or amping up a crowd with his signature flair, Giller is a showman in his purest form.

(Youtube: WaterWaveTV), December 1st, 2020.

But I’m not the only one who's taken notice, as local stars Minneapolis Drew and Nur-D, two of the cities’ premier Hip-Hop personalities, pushed for Giller to headline as far back as before you had to wear a mask at the gas station.

For obvious reasons, there was a slight delay on that; nonetheless, the fast-rising wordsmith has finally been given his opportunity; an opportunity that he’s been hungry for since he was penning rhymes in the back of history class…

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Jake Giller…

Congratulations on your first ever headlining gig. Tell me, how did this opportunity come to be?

So it all started 2 years ago: I went to a show hosted by Nur-D and Minneapolis Drew. As an artist in Minnesota, First Ave is the spot you have to hit; It’s a venue you set your sights on from the get-go. I remember after the show, I was networking like crazy, just going around, chopping it up with as many new faces as I could because I understood that people are the whole game. When I finally bumped into Drew, I went up, introduced myself, and let him know what I was about. We exchanged info and went our separate ways. After that, I just kept at it; recording every day, performing at all sorts of venues, you name it. What most people don’t know actually is that this whole headlining thing was supposed to happen over a year ago! Obviously, there was a delay in the form of a pandemic, but it never shook my vision. Fast forward to a few months ago, Drew hits me up again: ‘Let’s give that another try’. Best believe I was ready. Now I’m here...

What does it feel like to look at that poster and see your name under the word ‘Headliner’?

It means a lot to me, just the work I’ve put in to get to this point. That being said, I try not to let it get to me. 10 years from now, when I get to the level I want to be, I’m going to look back on this opportunity as a huge landmark in my career; but in the meantime, it hasn’t really hit me yet. If you think about it too much, it throws you off; I’m sure on the day of the show, it’ll sink in. Regardless, I’m really just taking it one day at a time; I'm just sticking to the same mindset that’s taken me this far.

Talk about the period in your life where you first started making music? Was it spontaneous or planned out?

So I started making music in my senior year of high school in 2014. Growing up, my parents played everything: Michael Jackson, Prince, E40, West/East coast Hip-Hop, you name it; music was always a part of my life. I’ll never forget when I was in third grade and my mom found a song that I had written: I was so embarrassed that I actually gave up music for a while. Fast forward to high school: I’m in my buddy’s basement with some friends on a Friday night. At one point we were all standing in a circle, we’re feeling good, when all of a sudden my homies just started freestyling. I remember it like it was yesterday: I’m leaning against the pool table, they’re all going around the circle spitting rhymes, meanwhile I’m telling myself in my head, “Oh my god I’m really gonna do this”...I was so nervous that I was literally shaking; when it finally got to me, I just let it fly...That sh*t was TRASH though! But I’ll never forget the rush I got from it; I’d never felt anything like that before.

So what changed for you after that experience?

After that, I’d spend all of class just listening to music; Logic and Mac Miller were big for me around that time. Not long after, I fell in love with writing music, so much so that I lost touch with a lot of the people I grew up with; I was just in my own zone. After high school, I ended up going to college in Mankato for about 2 weeks before going home; I just wasn’t feeling it. I vividly remember sitting in the parking lot before my 8 A.M. class like ‘Damn, I really don’t wanna be here”. Instead, I’d just go to my friend’s house who had a studio where we’d record music all the time. Because of that, I ended up getting academically suspended. At that point, I was just like, ‘You know what? School’s not for me.’ It was simple: I had found what I truly loved to do; I haven’t looked back since.

Growing up, how did your love of Hip-Hop manifest before you started making music? What were the signs?

Growing up, Hip-Hop and rap were all my parents played. As I matured on my own, I found artists that I really loved; Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, Dizzy Wright to name a few. The thing that really hooked me about rap was the use of double meanings in the lyrics: One of my favorite things, to this day, is when you’re listening to a track that you’ve known for years, but you hear it with fresh ears and you catch a bar that you missed before. Hip Hop’s really unique in that way in that you can put so much meaning into the lyrics in such a unique, economic sort of way. You get a rush like ‘Oh my god, that’s what they meant?’ It’s a very unique structure. You say one thing, but it can mean multiple things; that’s always spoken to me for some reason.

When did you first come into contact with WaterWave? How did that partnership come about?

It all started in 2017. I was living in Mankato at the time, and this guy named Eric hit me up like, ‘Hey, I know who you are. A group of my friends are creating a brand called Water Wave’. Right then and there, he told me that he’d love to manage me. I’m like ‘Sh**, okay!’. Next thing I know, we did an interview; I remember the conversation being so fluid, the vibe was undeniable. Those three: Eric, Vino, and Reese started everything and they’re the reason I got on board. The rest is history.

What did WaterWave’s partnership mean to you?

The thing you have to understand about WaterWave is that it’s really just a family; They’re my brothers. They’re support changed everything for me. They made me a better artist, more importantly, a better person. To be surrounded by a group of young, hungry, like-minded artists who push each other to be their very best is an incredible blessing. Like I said, that connection changed everything.

(Instagram: itsjakegiller) July 12, 2020.

Was there a specific project that first inspired you to create?

Definitely ‘Take Care’ by Drake and ‘K.I.D.S.’ by Mac Miller. I’ll never forget when I first heard ‘Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza’, I wasn’t even in the room but I literally tracked it down to the other room and saw the video. There was just something about it that resonated with me; I knew right then and there that that was the type of vibe I wanted my music to have.

Q: What’s an underrated songwriting tip that most beginners tend to overlook?

A: I think of music like a wave, the best artists know that when you hear a beat that you like, instead of trying to take it over and control it, you ride with it, surf on it, you become one with the track; the music will always tell you what it needs, you just have to listen; Music should never be forced. When I started making music, I’d try to get my point across so hard to the point that I had absolutely no flow. I just had to simplify it; It’s about letting the music breathe!

Q: Take me through the process from when you first hear the instrumental to the finished product: What does that look like from a songwriting perspective?

A: When I first hear the beat, I always start by sounding it out. I think of a flow like a wave in that you wanna surf on the beat. You just have to find the pockets in that instrumental. Basically, I hear a certain count, and I start sounding out how I want my syllables to sound, the spaces between kicks, counts, etc. Once I find that, everything else falls into place.