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Styles on a Map: A closer look into the Melting Pot that is the Minneapolis Sound

The pride of style and sound in Hip Hop allows us to take a closer look into the regions that birthed the genre. Only recently have I asked myself the question, what is the Minneapolis based sound? Through some comparison in technical elements and trends I’ve often seen here in the local scene, the blend is undeniable. The hybrid nature of Minneapolis, with its spread of wealth throughout types of Hip Hop, provides for unique sounds and styles to come out of every corner. On the front end of it now, we need to understand where we are drawing from, going back to the roots.

We all know the East and the West coast represents Hip Hop heavily, with two respective legends, Pac and Biggie. Deeper than that, why did they sound the way they did? How did the evolution of sound break barriers in how high the genre would fly? Over on the east coast, we got the wordsmiths. The stretching of syllables, pockets in the drums to add an extra intricate 8 bars, the East coast made it known that they will spit what they want and when they want to. With an incredible presence in the patterns that groups like Mobb Deep, De La Soul and Public Enemy use, we really get a grasp on what the New York region wants to get across. Make the drums loud and grimy, add in a symbol or two on a loop and let the MCs do the work, finding pockets with the sword that is the tongue. Come correct and at least learn your Wu-Tang knowledge before continuing with this article. The East brought new heights to group styled albums and artistry. Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Run D.M.C, Lords of the Underground and Gang starr are rap collectives that have defined what it means to be an artist in the East and more specifically, New York. My personal favorite NYC artist would be that of Big L. The legend, Rest in Peace forever. As a stand alone act, he is the perfect representation of what New York rap is. With his unmatched charisma and word play while Lord Finesse spins the record, there is not much to say and instead, more to listen. Let Big L be our representative from the East Coast, bringing us that raw and in your face style of poetry over loops and samples of certified classic records among many genres, as the DJ scene on the East Coast arguably created what we know about producers today. Coming back to Minneapolis, I see our New York influence within our underground scene. The open mics that are available to poets and emcees around the Twin Cities has allowed that East coast swagger to seep through. On a larger scale in recognition, artist P.O.S, a Minneapolis native, is a great example to look at when recognizing what sound scheme inspired him. The aspect of Underground artists and open mics is another major aspect Minneapolis takes out of the book written by the East Coast. Underground artists such as June Tha Kid and East Coast Kobi are pivotal to check out in the local scene as well.

Now, we know what the East brings to the table, with our representative being Big L. The other beasts wait in the West. With a heavy theme of having a good time in the streets, anthems quickly became a staple for the state of California, specifically in the early 80s. Party was in the mind of California with groups like World Class Wrecking Crew taking advantage. With hits like Turn Off the Lights & Surgery, anthems were the state of the culture. A chant in response to their environment, a calling card to West coast sunset style. The Gangster rap genre was born with a laid back and melodic sense in bars and song structure. It’s a very forward and unapologetic sound. The West Coast was able to attract the masses in a very nonchalant and persuasive fashion. The artists from the West were who they were and nothing was changing that, people felt that in their music. A heavy emphasis on partying with a conscious mind was something that was hip to the late 80s and early 90s scene. Eazy E, Ice Cube, Too Short, MC Ren, Ras Kass, Dr. Dre makes for a stacked roster. With Tupac as their Batman, the West made it clear that the way they rhyme was the way they rhyme. It will be bouncy and it will be loud as ever, it’s guaranteed. I won’t talk much about Tupac, otherwise this piece would not end. We'll have Snoop Dogg as our representative. No one displays a more laid back approach to their delivery, the smoothness that many cannot match. A perfect blend of anthem building, party and politics, Snoop Dogg rivals the East in experimenting with more synths and sounds that can make a track explode. Bringing it back to the Twin Cities and our melting pot of styles, we see artists like DMG and Carnage the Executioner pull from the in your face nature of California bars. Underground artists like King Swank can have that same forward approach that can be heard and felt.

With the word to your dome poets in the East, to the party now and stay active chants of the West, the blend begins. The South however, has something to say. Artists from Texas, Tennessee and Atlanta step up to the plate with their signature bounce sound. The dirty south was born with their ultra aggressive rhyme patterns and controversial themes. They stood for pride in the South, with an influence that grew large on the trap scene as we know it now. Through the bounce culture, bars came scattered and chopped up over tracks that would be blaring out of car speakers. The natural progression to trap would be one of the coolest transitions that Hip Hop has seen, in my opinion. With collectives such as 2 Live Crew, 5th Ward Boyz, UGK & 808 Mafia, you will find no shortage in lively action with true to the South word selection, that is sure to get a rise from anyone within 500 feet of the speaker. Outkast, hailing from Atlanta. Took the Southern region to a new level. Andre 3000 & Big Boi bring the funk out of every drum that was beat. Pulling from all regions, the sound they were able to provide allowed people to realize that region and style is not as concrete as we would think. Let the greatest of all time, yes that is my hot take, the greatest of all time, Andre 3000 & his counterpart Big Boi be our representatives from the South as they lead us into our point of finding sound in Minneapolis. Lil Wayne is an honorable mention as well. If you want to hear what trap sounded like during the Hot Boyz era, listen to We On Fire. Thank me later. Honestly, trap music as we know it came from Southern states. From everything I’ve heard within the underground scene here due to the open mics, there is definitely a grit to how we speak on the mic. That same grit can be found in a state like Atlanta. A something to say attitude that does not fall short in the land of 10,000 lakes. The trap scene here is nuanced in the sense that we have a variety of artists that can provide different deliveries and concepts, depending on their intended audience. The party scene here when it comes to good rap shows all around, is something that has been on the rise recently, especially with WaterWave in full swing. This should not be overlooked, as this is literally the same movements and trends that we saw take the genre to where it is now. The South influences those in Minneapolis that like to get weird with it. Emcees that like to find pockets that shouldn’t be there, those who like to create the ultimate bounce party atmosphere, a double edged sword unlike any other region in Hip Hop, due to its authentic inception. Honestly, trap music as we know it came from Southern states. You can thank artists like Kacey Pluto and Mati Saucin for a potential influence from the South in their sound, from what I hear.

Outkast, Snoop Dogg & Big L. Three styles of hip hop that vary in every aspect in the genre. From what’s worn, what’s spoken and how it’s delivered, Hip Hop would grow into the number one genre around the world. A culture that is so gripping in its call to action, cities around the world took notice. Minneapolis, specifically intrigues me because there is no direct answer to our signature sound. I would say we are a fascinating hybrid region with an emphasis on the underground and abstract portions of artistry. The evolution and growth since those legendary trail blazers provided us the blueprint, provides our future to be one that will be written about as well. I am a firm believer myself that the Hip Hop scene here can transcend into mainstream play and action due to the wide range of audiences the artists of the Twin Cities attract. We have music for the hipster, the rager and the dude with Hennessy in his cup. We were able to adapt and learn to form something special to us, above anyone else. Part of why WaterWave is so important from a community perspective, is for this exact growth and sound to expand into something bigger than it ever was. It is well on its way. From the underground to the rage, Minneapolis is able to offer many styles to many types of Hip Hop consumers. Catch me at the Urban Lights record store when they host open mics, to hear some incredible underground rappers based in the 612.

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