It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived in Minneapolis for five years now (see past years-in-review: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011). I knew when I moved here that it’d take at least five years to carve a real foothold, and I think I got more than a foothold now. Thanks to Tru Ruts, See More, Big Cats, Claire, Patrick and everyone else I’ve worked with so far. Here are some highlights from 2012.
1. YOU BETTER WEAPONIZE
I’ve talked at length about this project (check this link for my thoughts, plus critics’ opinions, plus info on how to listen/buy), so if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m very proud of this album. I think these are the best songs I’ve written, over the best beats I’ve worked with, featuring some of the best artists I know. We didn’t just succeed in making a “good” album, we created something truly unique and powerful. It may have almost killed me, but it’s out there now, and that feels unspeakably good. Check it out if you haven’t already.
2. GRANTS AND POEMS AND VIDEOS
This year, I received a grant from the MN State Arts Board to organize a show and get some high-quality footage of some of my best work to share online. And thanks to the amazing Patrick Pegg from Unique Techniques (who also put together the music video for “To Young Leaders”), we definitely did that. We haven’t released all of the videos yet, but here are a few:
We got a bunch more; check out my YouTube page for everything that’s been posted so far. Aside from these grant-funded videos, I also posted a ton of other new stuff this year, including “Five Horsemen,” “Neutral,” “Action” and this next one:
3. GOING VIRAL
While it certainly isn’t my highest-quality video, my poem 10 RESPONSES TO THE PHRASE “MAN UP” got picked up by a ton of blogs, tumblrs and more this year and is now up past 60,000 views. Sometimes I stress about view-counts, but the fact that anyone sits for 3-4 minutes and listens to someone say a poem in this day and age is kind of miraculous. And while this isn’t my most poemy poem or most powerful performance, I’m very glad that this conversation about masculinity and the construction of gender is being had:
4. HIP HOP AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA
While we’ve been throwing these HHAH shows since 2009, we were able to pick up a lot of steam this year because of the referendum battle (which we won, by the way). We played big HHAH shows all over MN, from the Twin Cities to Brainerd to St. Cloud to Northfield and beyond. A huge thanks to Kaoz, Heidi Barton Stink and See More Perspective, who played all of them with me.
5. OTHER SHOWS AND APPEARANCES
This was, by far, the busiest and most rewarding year ever for me in terms of performing. From sold-out hip hop shows to performing in the Fringe Festival for the first time to playing dozens of different colleges and universities to shows with Doomtree, Andrea Gibson, Murs, Psalm One and more, it was a very busy year. I also curated a series of shows at Intermedia Arts (including “MN Splice: A Celebration of Mixed Heritage” and “Death Poetry Jam: Songs and Poems about Death and Remembrance”), traveled all around the Midwest, and played more benefits and fundraisers than any other artist I know. A new challenge this year was being commissioned to write, memorize and perform new work for big nonprofits or companies and their gala events. Very challenging but very rewarding too. My full (well, not completely full, but the stuff I’ve recorded) list of performances is here.
6. NATIONAL POETRY SLAM YET AGAIN
I won the MPLS Grand Poetry Slam this year, and joined our national team for the fourth time. We didn’t win the whole thing this year (like we did in 2009 and 2010), but we repped the Twin Cities at NPS in Charlotte, NC and performed beautifully yet again. This will probably be my last NPS for a while (or ever), so it was great to go out on a high note, with a very powerful, forward-thinking team. Check them all out here.
7. WORKSHOPS, CLASSES AND KEYNOTES
When I say I’m an artist/educator, I take the “educator” part of that seriously. It’s not just “I talked to some kids one day about rapping.” This is my job. I doubt anyone is all that interested in a full list, but I facilitated a ton of workshops and classes this year, engaged in a few longer residencies (including full weeks at Highland Park High, Roseau High, Tri-County and more), sat on a bunch of panels and even gave a few keynote addresses. As an artist without a day job, this is kind of my bread and butter when I’m not performing, and I’ll only be doing more this coming year. Get in touch if you want to book something. I’m also really excited to keep working with Tish Jones (in the photo above) on the K.N.E.W. MN Youth Poetry Slam series. More news on that coming soon.
8. OTHER MUSICAL RELEASES
While “Weaponize” took up most of my time and energy this year, I was able to put out a few other songs here and there:
This is a remix of an old Guante & Big Cats song by Graham O’Brien, who plays drums in No Bird Sing and makes some of the hardest beats out there:
This Is The Opposite Of A Suicide Note (Graham O’Brien Remix) by Guante
This is a song me and Kristoff Krane wrote over a Big Jess (of Unknown Prophets fame) beat for his “Honorable Mention” series. I actually wrote a bar-by-bar analysis of my verse here. Here’s the song:
Pushing Boundaries w/ Kristoff Krane (prod. Big Jess) by Guante
I was honored to feature on two songs on Heidi Barton Stink’s brilliant debut album, “A Charming Gut.” Here’s one of them:
Won’t Let Ya Slide by Heidi Barton Stink featuring Guante and SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE
A cool posse cut from Junkyard Empire’s new album featuring me, Truthmaze and RDM of the Abstract Pack:
The Junkyard Cypher by Junkyard Empire
And while it wasn’t an official release with a promo push or release party or anything like that, my “Extra Life” sampler CDs sold out this year, with 2000 physical copies gone. You can still get a modified version of it online here.
9. WRITING AND BEING ANGRY ON THE INTERNET
Here are the highest-traffic posts of the year, aside from posts about my music or poetry:
- Tosh and Three Points About Rape Jokes that People Forget
- PRIMER: An Introduction to Twin Cities Hip Hop
- PSA: Why I’m Voting NO on BOTH Referenda
- Responding to Common Arguments About What Is or Isn’t Offensive
- How to Read About Hip Hop
- Why Spoken-Word Continues to Matter
- Artist-Activist Partnerships: Five Tips for Booking Your Benefit
- Beyond the Benefit: Three Ways Artists Can Impact Movements
- “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Revolution” and Post-Election Thoughts
- The First Annual Guante Music Awards (2012 Music Wrap-Up)
10. A FINAL NOTE BEFORE 2013
I also bought a house, aced the GRE and got a new tattoo. As always, thanks again to everyone out there listening, reading, coming to shows and engaging in dialogue. It may seem silly, but I think the thing I’m most happy about this year was asking for 100 shares of our Bandcamp link on my Facebook page and actually getting it (and more). That kind of word-of-mouth is worth more than any write-up or blog attention.
2013 will be even busier. While I may not be slamming or even releasing another hip hop album anytime soon, I have some other projects in the works that I’m very excited about. Check back here or follow me on Twitter for updates. Thanks again for all the support.