Recorded, engineered, and arranged by SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE at Luv ‘n’ Dedication Studio. 

New project: it’s one 15-minute track, but it’s a bunch of songs. Free download. A few notes:

This is a kind of quick-and-dirty remix project, featuring a collage of previously-released songs and guest verses performed over jacked beats– a Hip Hop tradition. For what it’s worth, I do have two other new projects in the works (both featuring original production and all-new lyrics); I made “A Furious Vexation” really just for fun. It’s a summer project, recorded over a handful of hours in See More Perspective’s studio.

I mean, that being said, there’s also a more serious side to this. As “political” as pretty much all of my work is, I haven’t posted/talked a lot about this president. Part of that is because I know that my audience, or at least the vast majority of it, is already on “my side” when it comes to him, and I try to engage with political issues from an angle of challenging the audience, or encouraging critical thinking from new angles, blah blah blah. And this project is a bit more straightforward. But I think that’s okay. Sometimes you just have to add your voice to the chorus.

I know that the references here are messy and weird. The title and the vocal samples are from Fury Road. The album art is a cropped image of Akira sitting on a throne of ruins. The songs include references to Game of Thrones, Lovecraft, vampires, and other sci-fi/pop cultural things. And of course, none of that stuff really goes together. But then again, it kind of does, especially in the context of this particular president. That’s one reason why Hip Hop–specifically– is so important: it gives us space to sample, deconstruct, and recontextualize, to make connections that aren’t always obvious, to be both blunt and subtle, both direct and subversive. And in times like these, I think that flexibility is important.

And as always, channel that rage into action, whenever/wherever/however possible.

So yeah, check it out. It’s a good length for a quick workout, a drive to work, or sharpening your sword. Find all of my albums here. Here are the full lyrics for this project:

Guante: A Furious Vexation

Someday, we will crack you open
sticky and sweet on the concrete
We will stand and watch as you wash away
while the world rotates underneath our feet
And someday, was never a plea, it was more a threat
It was less a prophecy and more a promise
a hurricane twisting in every breath
We know the best songs are always sad songs
even when they make the pain last longer
running syrupy thick through our veins
so that our hearts must learn to beat stronger
And we do not have any money
We do not own the land that we walk on
We are not set to inherit anything but the setting sun
which is almost all gone
So what do you do when you can’t do anything?
What do you eat when you’re starving?
We are not ashamed of what you have made us
We are not sorry
We are not far from the ground you have run to
We are not far from running out of mercy
We don’t drink blood because we like it
We drink it because we are thirsty
And we are waking up in our caskets
We are chewing through our handcuffs
We are breaking out of our straight jackets
We are telling audiences they should put their hands up
We are walking through the steady summer rain lighting matches
We are the dead laughing
We are licking our lips in the pitch blackness
We are shadows on the wall, we are dancing, and
We are blasting our music
as we drive by your beautiful homes
We are finding new ways to drift in the darkness and move through the cold
So used to the road
A traveling funeral show, a hearse with two turntables perched on top
We are standing still for the first time since you ordered us to stop
Consider this the calm: We are coming for every drop

I’ve bled a little bit in all fifty states
left my art in the dirt for life to imitate
left a mural of my fingerprints on the border fence
(Yes) left my DNA dancing down the interstate
left my heart border-less, drownin’ in the air
left a song in the atmosphere soundin’ like a prayer
soundin’ like a spell, soundin’ like a curse, left without a word
represent left wing ‘til i’ve left the universe
let’s sing… even when the words never come
a body drained of blood is still a drum
So stretch my skin over something solid
and beat upon it ‘til every wall is demolished
I promise; it’s not very minnesota nice
but that’s alright, I’m from wisconsin
They say save the last round ‘cause you’ll need it
I spent mine in ‘07 shavin’ the tentacles off a demon
and been fightin’ ever since, curse on my lips
padlock wrapped in my fist, no chance for a win:
so this is for my spoilers
who’ll slap a millionaire, his bodyguard and his lawyer
even if it’s their elected leader or employer
or messiah, yeah i’m preachin’ to the choir
but singin’ isn’t something that we do where I’m from
just for the pretty tune I’m livin’ proof we do it for love
but also do it for blood, I don’t believe that the song
is all we have to offer, I believe the singers are strong
I don’t believe in allies, only actions
I don’t believe in blood ties, just people I’d bleed for
I see more where others see coincidence
I believe our power is infinite, let’s get it, no givin’ in
…’cause I know it ain’t just my listeners who are listenin’

To everyone we have lost
To everyone we have gained
Someday we might lose
But today is not that day
To everyone we have lost
To everyone we have gained
Someday we’ll all die
But today is not that day

When I’m dead, find the richest man in Minneapolis
and poison his dinner with my ashes
But save a pinch and mix it into perfume
and dab a little on your neck when you go out dancin’
When I’m dead, submit my epitaph to every rap blog
and watch me go viral as I vanish
Let every MC who I was better than
write a crappy song to commemorate my passin’
That ain’t a shot at nobody
some of my best friends are nobodies, so full of passion
I know MCs you’ve never heard of
who are twice as talented as every one you have and
they’re mad but damn it, you don’t have to believe me
neither validation nor permission, nobody’s askin’
It’s just a mission to transcend these limits
We can’t be blacklisted from scene we never visit
Right? So do the math
map out the path you run through, like
if a hundred thousand scum-sucking scenesters love you
then don’t nobody really love you
And when i’m dead, maybe they’ll claim to love me too
I hope it’s winter, it’s a blizzard, and it’s cold out
so they can wait in line for my First Ave funeral
my first time as a headliner and it’s sold out

To everyone we have lost
To everyone we have gained
Someday we might lose
But today is not that day
To everyone we have lost
To everyone we have gained
Someday we’ll all die
But today is not that day

What’s a hundred grand to a dead man?
What’s a diamond to a corpse?
Every car in my entourage has a casket in the back
How about yours?
How about force feedin’ you every quarter that you owe us
All american, you’re arrogant and forced to take a bonus
like that’s “just how the system works, kid”
but you can’t slap a system and you’re sittin’ right here cursin’
It’s so imperfect, so unfair
I know, I know, I know: “not all billionaires” right?
Not all men, not all white folks
repeatin’ it as you’re leavin’ in the last life boat
The titanic was too big to fail too
so your driver, your cook, that kid in the mail room?
Shout to every iceberg sweatin’
It’s a threat and it’s a promise the atlantic in my pocket and it’s cold
I don’t condone violence
but what I do and don’t condone doesn’t matter, ‘cause I hold no control
over the overflow, over the open road
leadin’ up to rome, vandals with me, tryin’ to go for broke
‘cause going for rich, corrodes your soul slow and
all of my heroes were broke, but never broken
So why the hell do we glorify wealth
when every fortune is made on the pain of someone else?
Who’s that on my evening newscast
frontin’ like the noose ain’t connected to the bootstraps
You pull up the latter, they pull up the former
present a counternarrative: the judge calls for order
present a counternarrative: fail the assignment
present a counternarrative: the police shoot
present a counternarrative: it’s not american
although the counternarrative’s the only narrative that’s true
America the beautiful
a golden parachute, a golden coffin at your funeral
a golden boy, a golden destiny second to none
But it ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, my inherited wealth
is just a story and a song, a message, a fight
so when you ask what the name on my ballot is
I voted for donald trump……’s head on a pike
Rich man tryin’ to buy his way to heaven
with a head start cruisin’ but losin’ the momentum
If it’s class war they want, we’ll bring ‘em armageddon
Solidarity drippin’ from our lips like venom

This place is a prison and these people aren’t your friends
Ain’t no postal service when it’s always sunday in your head
Letters unsent, burnin’ that candle at both ends
in the breakroom ready to break…
Halfway to broke, halfway to broken down
This job makes you nauseous, you try to hold it down
and they will take every opportunity to comment on your luck
‘cause in this economy you gotta be like bottom’s up
even when you know it’s poison, yo: you feelin’ well?
like a body that’s so hungry it begins to eat itself?
Bootstraps so tight you can’t admit to needin’ help
on the real, feel like hell and you want it to all stop:
Jackass manager makin’ smalltalk
Try to stay focused, you casually glance at your watch
and see that you are halfway, to being halfway
to being halfway done with half of half of your day

Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
they tell you to “follow your dreams”
as your alarm is going off, wake up

All of my life I been lied to
just found out my boss makes 500 times what I do
and still wants to cut my hours back
to 39 and three quarters ‘cause 40 gets you a health plan
And I got a feelin’ I’m a need it
Losin’ feelin’ in my knees and my lower back
and I’m going back, trapped like a lower class clown
Hold a rat down, so we kill each other over cheddar
keep us hungry so we never organize for nothing better
Just make it through the day, make it through the week
make it through the month, make a millionaire another couple bucks

Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
they tell you to “follow your dreams”
as your alarm is going off, wake up

So if you got a dollar in your pocket, put your hands in the air
Ten dollars in your pocket, put your hands in the air
If it’s a hundred or a thousand that’s fair
but there’s no such thing as an innocent millionaire
If you got a dollar in your pocket, eat a taco
Ten dollars: buy some peanut butter and some bread
If you got a hundred or a thousand you can stock up
but a million may as well be human flesh
I said a million may as well be human flesh

If you got a dollar in your pocket, drink some water
Ten dollars: you can have a beer with your lunch
If you got a hundred or a thousand, you can dig your own well
and for a million you can drink all the blood you can suck
That dollar in your pocket is an insult
Ten dollars in your pocket ain’t enough
The reason that so many of us are have nots
is that the haves have way too much

I’m not racist but…
is usually how racist people start sayin’ racist stuff
And self-proclaimed allies get side-eyed
‘cause the same idea still relates to us
and look: I got no advice to give
no wisdom to share, no answers to be laid bare
Just my experience, my fear and perseverance
all my insecurities and every value I believe in, like
Whether poison berries, wildflowers or crops
everyone plants seeds whether they know it or not
so I’m just tryin’ to look out at my garden
and be more intentional about the life I wanna harvest
And as always, that is not enough
It’s a start, but a match in the dark is not the sun
And tears of guilt, tears of realization, either way:
they are no substitute for rain
You don’t beat racism by bein’ a better person
You beat it by destroyin’ the system that undergirds it
This decision to see past the surface
is not the last step, it’s the first, it’s a trade of
all my good intentions for a patch of wet earth
‘cause it always comes down to the work
And maybe we are all lost, all imperfect and unworthy
but we can all get our hands dirty

One airhorn means we’re back
Two means we’re under attack; armor up, red alert again
CDs are shuriken, sharpen all the mic stands
XLR swingin’ from your right hand like a whip
That’s hip hop: improvisation
makin’ do with whatever you got to make music
or make war, so if a pen’s all they give you
you better make damn well sure you can use it
Gimme a snare like, lucifer crackin’ his knuckles
Gimme a kick like a kamikaze passin’ above you
Gimme a bassline like a tripwire
and a room full of people movin’ like they’re on fire
Hell or glory, they smell the same
and both covered in the graf of our elders’ names
who held the flame, songs in the silence
like even if we never win we’ll never stop tryin’
Stop me if I’m lyin’, literally: stop me
no other recourse rather be another corpse than a zombie
But first I’d rather be alive
if only out of respect for all my people who died, let’s go
My target audience is dead folks
ancestors, martyrs, ghosts in these headphones
Rep those: and if you’re feelin’ it too
that’s just a little bit of them creeping out of you
Every song is a seance, true that
give me a Wu-Tang beat and loop that
like where my goons at? With heartbeats like boom bap
just put a fist up until the sky is blue black
I’m not religious, I just pray a lot
and I ain’t talkin’ to god I’m walkin’ the long road between the cradle and coffin
and y’all already know, the way we break outta dogma and find god in a poem
Thermometer fallin’ below zero
We’re so cold we bring minnesota wherever we go, yo
Y’all know it’s bigger than rap right?
silver bullet ballpoint, wooden stake graphite
and every set is an exorcism
Every word sets fire to the breath we’re given
so let’s breathe: my top five emcees:
war, death, famine, pestilence, and me
I play the wall like I’ve taken the black
and watch the nightlife facin’ the facts
You can die for nothing, or get to livin’ for something
You better weaponize kid, winter is coming

(horizontal image for sharing)
Where the beats came from:
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: In the Hall of the Mountain King
  • Gorillaz: Dirty Harry (Gorillaz/Danger Mouse)
  • Jidenna: Long Live the Chief (Best Kept Secret)
  • Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Mark Ronson)
  • Birdman/Clipse: What Happened to that Boy (The Neptunes)
  • Method Man: Bring the Pain (RZA)

photo on the right by Daniel Rangel

Excited to announce that I’ll be performing at Eaux Claires this year. Specifically, I’ll be participating as a writer/poet, doing a series of micro-readings throughout the festival. Musicians this year include Chance the Rapper, Wilco, Feist, Danny Brown, and many more, and everyone I’ve talked to about Eaux Claires has told me that it’s a very unique, community-oriented concert/festival experience.

Get more information, and reserve tickets, here.

In other news:

1. Upworthy just shared my poem “How To Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist,” so thanks both to them and to Button Poetry for that signal boost. Especially right now, challenging ourselves to see oppression and hate as something bigger than just interpersonal acts of bigotry feels pretty important.

2. Two quick links to pieces that I had originally written for Opine Season but have since migrated over to my site (and cleaned up a bit):

3. That second piece was written in collaboration with UyenThi Tran Myhre; find more of her fantastic work here:

New video! Here’s the official blurb:

Guante & Katrah-Quey’s “Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood” features singer (and constant presence at Twin Cities rallies and marches) Jayanthi Kyle lamenting the deeply personal loss of something that used to mean something. While using the standard structure of a love song, the track attempts to explore the human side of an issue that, for too many, is an abstraction, or “someone else’s problem,” if it’s considered a problem at all.

The song exemplifies the philosophy of “Post-Post-Race,” an album attempting to grapple with issues of race, racism and solidarity by pushing beyond platitudes and asking deeper, more challenging questions. Over Katrah-Quey’s lush, vibrant production, Guante (along with an impressive roster of guests) reaches for root causes, explores his own complicity in the system, and tries to find pathways to action.

The full album is available here
(a portion of the proceeds benefits Twin Cities youth arts/activism organization TruArtSpeaks).

The video is directed by E.G. Bailey, fresh off appearances at the Tampere Film Festival, Riga International Film Festival, and Sundance Film Festival, where his short film, “New Neighbors,” was selected from tens of thousands of entries. Bailey (along with co-producer Sha Cage) was also responsible for Guante’s move to Minneapolis back in 2007, so this video represents coming full-circle, and affirming that community comes first. Full credits:

  • Director: E.G. Bailey
  • Cinematographer: Anton Shavlik
  • Producers: E.G.Bailey & Sha Cage
  • Editors: E.G. Bailey & Anton Shavlik
  • Costume Design: Trevor Bowen
  • First Assistant Director: Sha Cage
  • First Assistant Camera: Casey Bargsten
  • Production Assistant: Autumn Compton
  • Colorist: Anton Shavlik
  • Storyboard Artist: Cecilia Hsu
  • Titles: Eroll Bilibani
  • a Freeztyle film

FULL LYRICS:

Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood
(words by Guante; music by Katrah-Quey; guest vocals by Jayanthi Kyle)

I don’t recognize this place anymore
Grew up around the corner, before these lines and borders
but I don’t recognize this place anymore

I ain’t afraid of ghosts
I grew up in a place where they’re takin’ over slow
like death isn’t always the fading of a soul
progress isn’t always related to growth
The first step in building a skyscraper
is digging up a very deep hole…
you ever seen a city melt into a shadow of itself?
you ever feel like there’s a lack of all the magic that we felt
split an atom or a cell like it’s progress
like destruction and creation are the same process
yeah, and our relationship
just ain’t been the same since the chains moved in
I still remember when
I felt like a million bucks, wasn’t worth a cent
your heart is still the only place I want to live
I just can’t afford the rent

I don’t recognize this place anymore
it’s just a big blank canvas, after all this color’s been banished
I don’t recognize this place anymore

I ain’t afraid of ghosts
a house can’t be haunted if it never had a soul
but tell me what happens when that house gets sold?
does a spirit shiver stuck out in the cold?
so this is how the world ends? a casual exorcism
the closing of a story dressed up as the beginning, what’s the limit?
here’s to the history we lived in
here’s to the years we were able to resist this
here’s to acid rain as it falls
enveloped in each other as umbrellas dissolve
you’ll caress my skin and I’ll peel it off
until we’re nothin’ but our hearts underneath it all
and then we’ll sell ‘em to developers for cheap and fall
deeply asleep as the concrete just crawls
over the whole earth ‘til all of a sudden
you got this look like a cop sayin’ “you lost or something?”

I don’t recognize this place anymore
so I’ll leave for the last time, and treat every memory as a landmine
‘cause I don’t recognize this place anymore

A nice photo of me, but look at the writing on the board. These aren’t conversations I ever had in traditional arts education spaces, and I think they’re ones that we need to have.

(originally published at Opine Season)

In my inbox right now, I have invites to four different panel discussions on the role of art and artists in the age of Trump. I’m sure they’re happening all over the country, so I wanted to share a few thoughts.

I’ve written a lot about the relationship between art, artists, and movement-building. It would be inaccurate to say that that conversation is more important now than it was last year, or ten years ago—things were urgent and scary before Trump too—and artists have always been part of social and political movements. But I also want to recognize that for a lot of people in my community, this feels different. Maybe it shouldn’t, and maybe some of us should interrogate that feeling. But, if nothing else, this could be an opportunity to have a deeper, more critical conversation about the role of art and artists in resisting fascism, supporting our communities, and building a movement for justice.

So I’m revisiting some of that earlier work, and trying to work out—for myself, and for anyone who might be interested—what a responsible artistic practice looks like in this particular historical moment. I also want to recognize that art has multiple functions, and that it isn’t productive to attempt to hold everyone to the same standards. So what follows is much less five powerpoint-ready commandments or magic keys and much more just questions that I’m trying to ask myself in 2017 and beyond.

1. How Do We Come to Terms with the Fact that There Is No “Neutral?”

Let’s be clear: the attitude of “I’m just going to do my thing and leave politics to the politicians” is an attitude that supports the status quo. And the status quo is unacceptable. Art impacts people, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Artistic protest matters, and so does the lack of artistic protest. Fascists don’t need us to join them; they just need us to not talk about fascism.

For those of us who already engage with social and political issues (or those of us for whom these issues are inextricably bound to our identities), this is easy; for those of us who do not, sure, it’s more of a challenge. But I’d rather frame that challenge as an opportunity, rather than a burden. As the rest of this list will explore, that opportunity is bigger than just writing “message songs.” We can think more holistically about what “being engaged” means—but we have to be engaged.

News came in this week that Trump might finally be able to achieve something that the GOP has wanted for years—defunding the NEA and other federal support for the arts. It’s important to note that federal funding for the arts is already a beyond-minuscule part of the budget, so these kinds of efforts are much less about saving money and much, much more about making a symbolic statement about dissent.

Conservatives want to shut artists up, because artists present counter-narratives that challenge the status quo. With all of this happening in the background, this means that we need to dissent. We need to keep sharing our stories and counter-narratives, and we need to fiercely challenge the status quo.

2. How Can We Know Our Strengths, While Also Acknowledging Our Weaknesses?

Art is powerful—it moves larger conversations, provides frameworks that can lead to a deeper understanding of the issues, inspires and provides emotional support, educates and challenges, reaches audiences that politicians and activists can’t always reach, and much more.

But art alone won’t defeat fascism. It won’t protect our families and neighbors from ICE, or police violence, or defunded schools, or banks foreclosing on homes, or hate crimes. If we really want to tap into the power of art, I think that we have to be realistic about its limitations too. Now is not the time for disconnected, love-and-light proclamations about how “all we need is more poetry” or whatever.

Because we do need more poetry, but I’m less interested in art as some mystical force for change, and more interested in the power that art can bring to bear when it is organically, intentionally integrated into movements. I believe that progressive change is the result of organized activist movements. So how might we, as artists, break out of our arts community bubbles and engage in meaningful, concrete ways with the activists and organizers doing the everyday work of building these movements? Again, for many artists, this is simply how they already operate. For others, though, it takes some extra intentionality and effort. See next point.

3. In What Ways Can We Think ‘Beyond the Benefit?’ What Do We Have to Offer Beyond Our Art Itself?

Related to the previous two points, I want to link to this piece I wrote last year: “Beyond the Benefit: Ten Ways Artists Can Help Build and Support Movements.” An excerpt:

I believe that as artists, we have more to offer than our art. I’m not asking artists to take leadership roles in social movements they may or may not know much about. I’m also not asking anyone to radically change their style or preferred subject matter, or to be someone that they’re not. I’m just saying that artists occupy strategically useful spaces in our communities, and have access to resources and networks that can really help movements grow. In a perfect world, we’d all get directly involved in activist campaigns, but I know that reality doesn’t always allow that to happen. So I’m trying to think of spaces of synergy. We can cheerlead stuff when it happens. But we can also use our platforms to help make stuff happen.

4. How Might We Take Both Process and Product More Seriously?

Of course, every artist is invested in some measure of “process” (with whom we work, our guiding philosophies, the journey that the art takes on its way to being released, our own personal growth as artists, etc.) and some measure of “product” (a critically-acclaimed album, a viral video, a profitable book, etc.). I hope this isn’t a radical statement, but I’d like to encourage myself (and others, if this applies to you as well), to think more critically about both this year.

Because process matters: being an artist can’t just be about capitalist transactions, and what we do has so much value beyond how many views or likes it gets. Let’s be more intentional about the community we build, the support we offer one another, and our own mental/physical health as we create. Let’s affirm, once and for all, that identity matters, that power and positionality impact our access to resources and audiences, and then act accordingly—opening up new spaces, supporting new distribution models, and engaging in more effective, symbiotic collaborations.

But product also matters, at least if we are invested in creating art that impacts other people. If you’re not, that’s perfectly valid; art can be about the joy that you get from making it, or having fun with your friends; maybe your art and your activism exist independent of each other. But for those of us who do strive to create transformational art, I believe that now is a good time to start taking certain elements of the process more seriously, in order to create a more effective product.

  • Are we throwing that big concert just to say that we threw it, or are we creating a space of intentional growth and transformation, a space where people can connect not just to ideas and emotions, but to organizations and other human beings too? Are we putting in the work to make sure people actually show up?
  • Is our work community-oriented, or does it just *look* community-oriented in a grant application?
  • Is that song or poem that we poured so much of ourselves into done once it’s released, or are we willing to put in the work to ensure that it reaches people? Numbers aren’t everything, but they are something.
  • Who is our audience (target, likely, ideal)? What are we attempting to share with them? How do our own identities impact the kind of message we can/should share with them?
  • In our quest to honor process, are we creating products that, on a basic level, just don’t move people? Where is the balance? How are we– as poets, musicians, visual artists, dancers, and beyond– taking our craft seriously and striving to improve?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I am trying to keep them in mind.

5. How Do We Survive? How Do We Thrive?

This tweet from Trungles really stuck with me, because it captures so much of what we’re talking about here.

Artists are people. The archetype of the “starving artist” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Both concrete policy and the resulting cultural frameworks about the role of art in society contribute to the mythology of artists as eternal sufferers, who create art not in spite of that suffering, but because of it.

And of course, great art can come from anger, frustration, sadness, and cynicism. But it can also come from joy. It can also come from having the personal security to just sit down and create, without worrying about being able to keep the lights on. It can also come from existing within a community that values the arts, and makes that value concrete by shifting institutional policy to support and develop artists– whether through defending art programs in schools, supporting local artists by paying them what they’re worth, increasing the reach/inclusivity of grant programs, and beyond. As artists, we don’t have to just passively hope that we can benefit from this stuff; we can take a more active role in making it all happen.

Artists are people.

That phrase relates to the previous point, but it also relates to the larger idea here of artists in relationship with movement-building efforts. As Bertold Brecht said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” We have agency. We are not just witnesses. Our work is not just to document the struggle, but to actively support it– with our art, sure, but with whatever other force we are willing to bring to bear as well.

These are all just preliminary thoughts. This is a process, after all. Feel free to leave a comment below.

A 2016 wrap-up post, featuring some of the stuff I created or released that you may have missed:

1. I Wrote a Book
I’ve been working on this for a long time, so thanks so much to everyone who has already picked up a copy, and to Button Poetry for the signal boost. Here’s the official blurb:

One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this book brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work. From the exploration of toxic masculinity in “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’,” to the throwback humanist hip hop of “Matches,” to a one-act play on the racial and cultural politics of Eminem, “A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry” is a practitioners eye-view of the intersections of hip hop, poetry, and social justice. Get it in-person or online here.

2. New Album: Guante & Katrah-Quey: “Post-Post-Race”
Katrah-Quey and I released an album all about race, racism, and solidarity, featuring a bunch of my favorite local voices. You can get the whole thing here, but here are a few highlights:

3. Sifu Hotman’s “Matches” on Vinyl (Plus a B-Side with Tall Paul)
I’m very glad that we got to do a vinyl release for this song, which is both my most successful song (thanks to its being featured on Welcome to Night Vale) and one of my most personal, meaningful songs. Get it here. I’m also proud of the b-side, a remix of “Embrace the Sun” featuring Tall Paul:

4. 8 Million Views for “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up'” on Facebook
This was a great surprise to close out the year with: Button Poetry posted my poem (which is a few years old now) as Facebook video, and it took off. It’s nice to see that the message of that particular piece is still resonating with so many people, especially this year. See the video, and read more about the poem, here.

5. A Handful of New Videos
Between my own page and Button Poetry’s, we released a few new poems and a few updated versions of older ones, plus a couple of songs:

6. Some Writing and a New Zine Project
While most of my writing focus this year was on my book (and finishing grad school), I did post a couple of pieces:

7. I Finished Grad School
A few thoughts on what I did there and how it impacts my work moving forward, plus a link to one real-world resource that came out of my research: a list of 100+ spoken word poem videos for use by social justice educators.

8. TruArtSpeaks Contines to Grow
Under the leadership of Executive Director Tish Jones, it was another great year for TruArtSpeaks; I’m both honored to have been able to be part of that and excited about this coming year. The Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series starts up again in January!

9. Shows, Connections, and Reasons to Be Excited About 2017
This year was bad in a lot of ways, for a lot of people. I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel, to perform, and to work with people from so many different communities on issues that matter– from the ArtChangeUS Design for Equity Conference, to the MN Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Summit, to opening for Marc Lamont Hill at the UMN, to Brave New Voices, to a bunch of college/university visits all over the country– it’s clear to me that as dire as the situation in this country might be, there are still a whole lot of bold, brilliant people doing the work. As I think about 2017, I’m trying to figure out how best to use whatever resources I have to support those people.

I’m excited about local politics– 2017 is going to be a huge year in Minneapolis with regards to city council races. I’m excited about Jillia, Jeremiah, Andrea, Erica, Phillipe, and all of the sharp, community-minded people running for seats; I’ll be posting more about this as the caucuses approach. But even if you’re not in Minneapolis– this is going to be a BIG year for local politics in general– that’s the level at which so many battles are going to be fought, and we can win them. Get involved.

Related to that, I’m excited about the potential for artists to meaningfully plug into movement-building work, now more than ever. Will be sharing thoughts and resources (beyond what I’ve already written) very soon.

My excitement is not to say that things aren’t scary, or that people aren’t going to be hurt by what’s going on in this country. Our fear is valid. But so is our courage. I’m excited to see more and more people start to realize that there is no “neutral,” that change starts with us, that plugging into activist organizations and getting involved is a key first step in creating the world in which we want to live, no matter who is in office. It’s going to be a tough year, but I believe in the power of this movement.

Finally, as for me, I’ve got a new music video coming out right away this January. I’m also booking for both Spring and Fall 2017. Also working on some new projects. Just want to say thank you for reading and connecting. Let’s keep building.

Post-Post-Race by Guante & Katrah-Quey

The new album is here. Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered it, came to the release show, and had a hand in putting the project together. I will likely do a follow-up post with some more notes and thoughts on specific songs, but for now, just wanted to get this out there (although I will share a few more general reflections below).

As always, the only real way people will hear this is if you share it– on social media, in real life, however. All of those RTs, re-posts, and emails make a real difference– and me and Katrah-Quey really, truly appreciate it. I’m not really expecting this one to blow up on the rap blogs, haha. Word-of-mouth is everything.

Also, because you can’t release an album without some kind of video too these days, here’s a video of me performing the last two verses on the album (which work as a pretty good encapsulation of the whole primary theme of the album, as does this video I released last week) a capella:

Finally, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts and reflections, especially since this album is attempting to do some pretty specific things.

1. First of all, huge thanks to all of our guests: Tony the Scribe, Jayanthi Kyle, GP Jacob, Tish Jones, Lucien Parker, See More Perspective, and Laresa Avent. We knew going into this project that because of the subject matter, it had to be a collaborative album. We had to feature more than just my voice and perspective. And all of the guests we got are not only phenomenal artists, but also people who walk the walk too– as organizers, educators, and advocates in many different spheres. If I can give myself a compliment, it’s that I’ve always been very good at choosing people to work with, and this album might be the best example of that yet.

2. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not we succeeded, but there were three kind of “guiding principles” for this project. One was collaboration, which I mentioned in the last point; one extension of that idea, though, might be that we wanted to have an intersectional lens. “Venom,” for example, is as much about class as it is about race. Throughout the album, we talk about oppression both along racial lines and more generally– the goal is to make POWER visible, to see how it flows and functions (which relates to the next point too).

Two was criticality— the idea that if we were going to do a hip hop album about race, it had to push further than saying stuff like “racism is bad” or “privilege is a thing that exists” or whatever. If the album has a theme beyond “songs about race and racism,” it’s pushing back against the narrative that race doesn’t matter, that we live in a “post-racial” society. But on an even deeper level, it’s exploring the idea of racism as something bigger than interpersonal dislike or even hate– it’s about history, it’s about trends and patterns, and it’s about systems of power. This might be the single biggest thing that a lot of people don’t *get* about race and racism, and a bunch of the tracks explicitly tackle that.

The third point here is communication— as mean as this album can be, and as radical as it might be to some listeners, it was important that the album “let people in,” so to speak. The very first track might piss some people off, but it’s also about immediately attempting to let people in on the “joke” (while affirming that the joke isn’t funny). Winning an argument isn’t about the other person immediately, explicitly saying “oh I get it now;” it’s about presenting a new frame of understanding that might impact how they think weeks, months, or years later. Almost every song on this album is attempting to present deeper, more critical frames of understanding– not to indoctrinate anyone or make them think exactly like I think, but to encourage questioning and critical thinking.

This will likely be a longer post later, but I also want to state that it was important to me to make the points I wanted to make. That might sound weird; I just think that sometimes in art, we sometimes over-value a kind of detached, above-it-all, hyper-metaphorical or imagistic subtlety. So yeah, this album is pretty damn direct, sometimes blunt; but neither “blunt” nor “subtle” are universally good or bad. They’re tools. Subtle art can be brilliant, but it can also be empty. Blunt art can be boring, but it can also be transformative.  It all depends on what work you want your art to do. Again, I’ll try to expand on this later, because I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

3. My half of the profit from this album goes to TruArtSpeaks; if you follow me here or on social media, you probably already know about them (full disclosure: I’m currently the managing director of the organization while Tish Jones is on a fellowship in Oakland), but if not, check them out. This video is a fantastic introduction to the work that we do.

I could keep writing. A lot went into this project. Thanks again for listening.

These updates aren’t necessarily related; there’s just a lot happening in my life right now. First off, I just made the pre-order live for the new Guante & Katrah-Quey album, “Post-Post-Race.” If you preorder it, you get an instant download of my FAVORITE new song from the project: “Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood” featuring the incredible Jayanthi Kyle!

Post-Post-Race by Guante & Katrah-Quey

And don’t forget: our release show is coming up on Thursday, 3/3 at the Whole Music Club, and it’s going to be something really special. All of the performers are also guests on the album, and they’re all people I have endless respect for both as artists and as people who “walk the walk” when it comes to the issues that the album is tackling. Check out the Facebook event page here. It’s free and all-ages too!

This would normally be a separate post because getting a poem up on Button’s channel is a pretty big deal, but like I said, these are tumultuous times so I’m just going to put this here. They got footage of my poem “Small Talk” from Sierra DeMulder’s book release show. This is a very personal poem I wrote about art, identity, and profound introversion.

If you missed it, I have ANOTHER new poem up at my own channel, brand new footage of “The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege,” which is a great introduction to the themes explored on the new album.

Finally, a reminder that the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series is heading into semifinals this month— 3/5 at the Loft Literary Center, and 3/12 at the MacPhail Center for Music. Finals are coming up too– 3/26 at the Walker Art Center. All three of these shows are going to be amazing; I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: these young artists (all between 13 and 19) are mind-bogglingly talented, and deserve our support!


Brand new video for an older poem courtesy of Patrick Pegg. Full text after the jump. I usually like to let the poems or songs speak for themselves, but a few background points on this one:

1. I’m trying to walk a pretty fine line in this poem. The argument that hip hop is a rainbow-colored racial utopia isn’t true. And the argument that white people have no place whatsoever in hip hop is an increasingly abstract, academic one. Both of these arguments, however, are easier to stand behind than what I’m trying to actually say. I think it’s important to recognize the facts on-the-ground, while at the same time being careful not to excuse anyone or cop pleas; we have to understand the history of cultural imperialism, and we also have to know how that history interfaces with what is happening right now. The ending of the piece is intentionally layered/muddy.

2. White privilege as a symptom of white supremacy plays out in many different spaces. When I was more actively doing social justice education/facilitation stuff, a common argument among students was that white people lose their privilege when they become the minority, or visit another country, or whatever. Part of this poem is pushing back against that idea. Even in hip hop, a culture created by and still driven by people of color, white privilege plays out– that’s kind of a central message in this piece. It’s also about pushing the “privilege framework” a little further and complicating the idea of “allyship.” The key line in the poem, for me, “what is the difference between acknowledging your privilege and acting on that acknowledgement?”

3. My perspective in this poem is also complex– I’m speaking as a white MC, while also speaking as a mixed-race, white-presenting MC; beyond that, I’m speaking as a practitioner. While the racial identity stuff might get more attention in this poem, that last point is really important to me. I think it’s important for practitioners (active, involved MCs, DJs, b-boys, b-girls, etc.) to be driving these conversations, not just think-piece writers and bloggers.

4. The title is confusing, yeah. I have a SONG called “The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege” too; plus the older version of this poem was called “Confessions of a White Rapper.” I decided to use the former title for both the song and the poem– partly because I just think it’s more clever (“backpacker” being casual slang for underground hip hop fan, and the whole title riffing off Peggy McIntosh’s “invisible knapsack metaphor), but also because I wasn’t super comfortable with the old title– didn’t want it to push into “isn’t it so novel and amazing that white kids rap?!” clickbait territory.

5. Finally, this poem isn’t on the new album, but it is a great introduction to the ideas and themes explored on it. Reminder: the release show is 3/3 at the Whole Music Club in MPLS (free and all ages!), and here’s something special: the full tracklist featuring song titles and guest vocalists:

THE INVISIBLE BACKPACKER OF PRIVILEGE

A pocketful of props, a quick pound and a handshake
A free mixtape, a highway through a landscape
as far from the Bronx as heaven is
Moment of uncertainty, moment of clarity, moment of hesitance
A bio with a spark a truth,
a couple sharpies, Party Music and The Carter Two
Labcabincalifornia, Illmatic and Headshots,
A couple handbills left in the back of a reststop,
A rhymebook, a sticker with my name on it
stickin’ through the rain washin’ all the other flyers down;
hoodie up, fitted to the side, bottled water, last minute to decide
setlists, rep this: livin’ for the rhyme
but moreso for what that rhyme represents:
forty-five minutes of our lives to connect
Broken hearts over breakbeats, live and direct
from the belly of the beast, strivin’ to get free…

The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege; OR: Confessions of a White Rapper:

1. KRS-ONE says there are nine elements of hip hop, a solar system of art, and fashion, and innovation orbiting an inferno. Some promoters will book me over a black rapper because they don’t want to attract the wrong element.

2. It is easier for me to get a buzz going because most bloggers, radio DJs, publicists, music journalists, videographers and booking agents are white. And I don’t even really identify as Caucasian; I’m mixed. But that usually doesn’t fit on the flyer.

3. Listeners, who are often white, and identify with me because of it, actively seek out meaning in my music, rather than just looking for a good beat to dance to. And I will readily admit: I am very talented. But is that talent the reason you bought my album, the reason you came to my show, the reason you want this interview? I will never know.

4. I can code-switch on a dime. We developed warp technology years ago and will leave this solar system as soon as we find a more fashionable one.

5. My music can be perceived as rebellious because it’s hip hop, but safe because of my skin. Fans and listeners get to engage with an oppositional culture without ever leaving their racialized comfort zones. Tarzan is the king of the jungle. Tom Cruise is the last samurai. Michael J. Fox goes back in time and invents rock and roll in 1955.

6. The thing about stealing is that it’s addictive. A little here. A little more. And we all know it’s not wrong to steal to feed your starving family… and white kids in America are hungry.

Whose food are they eating? Whose food are you eating? Whose food am I eating?

7. Maybe white people don’t belong in hip hop. But white people don’t really belong in America, when you think about it. So these questions remain: what is the difference between acknowledging your privilege and doing something about that acknowledgment? How do we move forward? How do we define progress? Who is we? Who should be we? Who deserves to belong in the category we?

8. When I say one small step for man, you say one giant leap for mankind. Just remember whose planet you’re standing on.

9. The code of the white rapper is this: know the history, build community, put people on. And if they ever make you a monument, scratch your name out. Break it. Spit on it. Burn it.

We are not tourists, but we are also not the native inhabitants of this land. Aliens. Invaders. Put your hands up. Put your fucking hands up.

The brand new album features beats by Katrah-Quey and vocals by me and a bunch of my favorite artists (including Jayanthi Kyle, Lucien Parker, G.P. Jacob, Tish Jones, Tony the Scribe, See More Perspective, and Laresa Avent– who are all performing at the show), all talking about race, racism, and solidarity.
More info coming. For now, here is the event page, and here are the first two singles: