Tru Ruts artists spotlighted in Wiretap Magazine

Paper Chase:
Hip-Hop for My America

My America is using art to change immigration policy.
By Geoffrey Dobbins

The traditional view of Thanksgiving, like many holidays, is full of irony. For many Americans, it seems strange, even offensive, to celebrate the arrival of English colonists when that arrival was quickly followed by centuries of racism, oppression and genocidal brutality toward indigenous peoples. These days, that celebration even exists alongside an increasingly ugly rage about “illegal immigration” along the Mexican border — when individuals, most of them descendants of indigenous peoples, cross borders that European immigrants drew.

Anyone looking for artists that express the current struggle for immigrants’ rights will find that My America, a benefit CD for the movie “Papers,” does a particularly good job. The CD was put together by Molina Soleil and Aju, a music duo from Denver, CO that specializes in their own multilingual fusion of jazz, soul and hip-hop.

My America and “Papers” both tell the stories of undocumented youths whose parents brought them into the United States when they were children. Some have siblings that are citizens, and a number of them spend most of their lives not even knowing they are undocumented. But the moment they turn 18, the law views them as criminals.

These young people don’t have “papers” — citizenship documentation like social security numbers and birth certificates. Without “papers,” they can’t live normal lives in the country they grew up in — hence the name of the movie and the album’s Spanish-peppered, hip-hop single, “Without Papers.”

The 16-track album by CHiTT Productions features songs from a range of musical styles. “Quero a Paz” by Quilombolas, is a funky, guitar-scratching track with a strut reminiscent of slower jams by Carlos Santana or War. “Pyramids” by See More Perspective — with its lyrics about pride in the artist’s Hispanic heritage and the greatness of the Inca civilization — is a pretty old-school rap song that approaches a bumping, party-like feel.

Overall, Molina Soleil and Aju’s CD presents a consistently meditative mood, often straddling the uncertain line between spoken word poetry and rap. A full hour of this kind of political and intellectual intensity may be too much for some. And several pieces — like Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria’s “Land of the Incas” — disrupt the flow with completely unaccompanied spoken word performances that offer no reprieve from the heavy content.

But these artists definitely have a reason to be so serious. Without a birth certificate or a social security number, it is extremely difficult — if not impossible — for the people depicted in the music and the movie to attend college. If they try to work, vote or even drive, they break the law. And though they grew up in the United States, these “immigrants” constantly face the threat of being deported to a country that many of them don’t even remember. In the movie, many of the undocumented youths remind viewers that if they were deported to their parent’s country, they couldn’t even speak the native language there.

The musicians and the filmmakers are ultimately trying to get Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The DREAM Act would provide a path for these young people to gain legal status. The bill was re-introduced in March of 2009 by a bi-partisan group of senators after similar bills had been railroaded for years. Critics condemn the DREAM Act as “amnesty,” an ill-suited word, considering the fact these youths are being “forgiven” for choices they didn’t make in the first place.

Screenings of “Papers” are taking place all over the country to generate support for the Dream Act, and those who can’t host a screening can still use My America as another way to raise awareness. The proceeds from the benefit CD go towards distributing “Papers” to more audiences, while lyrically the music carries the message of young people desperate for a chance to succeed.

Geoffrey Dobbins is current Arts and Culture Fellow at WireTap who learned how to write for magazines, newspapers and blogs at the University of Cincinnati. Between runs to the local comic book shop, he’s been a contributor for Cincinnati Magazine, The News Record, The Cincinnati Herald, The Root and WireTap magazine.

Originally posted on WireTap Magazine on 27 November 2009.

Verbal Graffiti Tour Second Swing – Iowa + Missouri

Tru Ruts + MediaRoots present Verbal Graffiti Tour 2009
featuring Junkyard Empire, Guante + e.g. bailey

Junkyard Empire, El Guante and e.g. bailey are teaming up for a tour in your area! This electric combination of up-and-coming artists merge the genres of jazz, hip-hop, spoken word, and indie rock, at the height of their craft.

You could also include folk music in that genre-gumbo, as these are three artists who place as much emphasis on lyrical content as they do on throwing a monster show. Junkyard Empire has been called, “A jazz version of Rage Against the Machine” by Political Affairs Magazine. CMJ said that “Guante could very well follow Atmosphere and P.O.S. in the long line of outstanding rappers to break from the Midwest.” Amiri Baraka says of e.g. bailey, “He makes language live!”

In an evening that will range from spoken word to hip hop, jazz to indie rock, audiences will not leave disappointed. There will be something for everyone. For the underground heads, Guante will grab your expectations of hip hop and shake them loose; he is also said to be on the verge of national exposure.

For the politically savvy music lover, Junkyard Empire’s blend of jazz and funk grooves mixed with socially-conscious rhymes are sure to move bodies and captivate minds. Spoken word extraordinaire, e.g. bailey, works as fluidly with musicians as he does with just a microphone, and his effortless ability to marry words with music pushes the spoken word envelope into a fresh musical realm.

This tour performance would be a great addition to your calendar. Their infectious energy and music will capture any crowd.


The Tru Ruts &
MediaRoots Teams



The Verbal Graffiti Tour extends across the country, from the West Coast, to the East Coast, with stops in the Midwest. The dates of the tour cover the months of October, November, December and January (2010).

Current Touring Routes and Dates:

11/19 – Doc’s – Sioux Center, IA
8:00pm • 21+ • $5

130 – 3rd St NW
Sioux Center, IA 51250

• 11/20 – The Industry – Iowa City, IA
9:00pm • 19+ • $7
presented by Natural Talent Music

The Industry
211 Iowa Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240

• 11/21 – Prospero’s Books – Kansas City, MO
10:30pm • All Ages • $5 (no one turned away)

Prospero’s Books
1800 West 39th Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Additional dates for November, December, and West Coast dates for January to be added. If you are interested in spotlighting the tour, interviews, or additional information, please contact, or call 612-288-9491.


Junkyard Empire - Photo 1 (600pxl)


Since the release of the self- produced Rise of the Wretched EP in 2008, there has been a steadily growing buzz around Junkyard  Empire.  This was no doubt helped by their historic performance at the Minnesota State Capital during the last day of the RNC protests in Saint Paul, where the police stormed their concert and created a stand-off with activists, part of which is featured the acclaimed documentary Terrorizing Dissent. In the past year, they have shared the stage with the legendary Boots Riley and the Coup, Rhymesayers artist Eyedea, Australian urban roots crew Blue King Brown, Rhymesayers artist Toki Wright, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges.

Recently Junkyard Empire signed with indie start-up label MediaRoots. The label put JE in the studio with avant-garde producer, Brian Susko. During their time in pre-production and at the prized Winterland Studios, a relationship was made that caused the band to push the envelope in a way that they had never done before. It’s now easy to hear how the band’s collective influences in conscious hip-hop, acid jazz, R&B and indie rock all culminate to create a sound that is unique beyond all common recognition.

Rebellion Politik is not only the title of the latest EP due out in September, it’s the operating theory Junkyard Empire uses as a force for organization and political action; referred to in the title track from the EP as “the science of survival in a repressive environment.” And to prove it, the album is already garnering inquisitive reactions from the press that can be seen on blogs such as The Hype Machine,, Perfect Porridge, Midwest Broadcast, URB Magazine’s next 1000 and  others.

Guante - B Fresh Photo 1 - w logo


As an MC, Guante’s last album met high critical praise and catapulted him to the forefront of the next generation of Twin Cities’ vibrant hip hop scene; in the past year, he played Soundset ’09 (alongside Atmosphere, the Pharcyde, Brother Ali and more), the anti-RNC festival ‘Ripple Effect’ (alongside Michael Franti, dead prez, Rage Against the Machine and more), along with many other high profile shows. As a slam poet, he’s been the Grand Poetry Slam Champion for three different cities in four years, and most recently became the 2009 National Slam Poetry Champion as part of the St. Paul Slam team.

He’s also a 2008 City Pages ‘Artist of the Year’, 2008 URB Magazine ‘Next 1000’ artist and multiple Independent Music Awards nominee. CMJ said: ‘Giving you something to think about while nodding your head to his nimble, casual flow, Guante could very well follow Atmosphere and P.O.S. in the long-line of outstanding rappers to break out from the Midwest.’ City Pages echoed these sentiments, saying ‘Whether writing of lost causes or zombie apocalypses, Guante demonstrates impeccable artistic control; in performance, he hsa the audience’s undivided attention.’

Aside from these artistic endeavors, Guante also found time to curate the massively successful ‘Hip Hop Against Homophobia’ series, contribute regularly to nationally-recognized music site Culture Bully, and lead writing/performance workshops in multiple Twin Cities area schools throught the MN Spoken Word Association.

E.G. Bailey - Urban Griot 2 - by Uchefotography (600pxl) copy


Amiri Baraka says of E.G. Bailey’s work, “He makes language live!.”

Deemed a true innovator of the spoken word art form, his charismatic yet musical style dances words with sound in and out of synch with verbal play.

One of the most prolific voices and talents in the Twin Cities, Bailey’s work has taken him on travels through the U.S., England, South Africa, France, Serbia and more. A spoken word innovator, he has created spoken word work in film, theater, music and radio. Born in Saclapea, Liberia, and now based in the U.S., he is a founder of several foundational entitles in the local and national community including: MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors, the Urban Griots Spoken Word Awards, The Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of MN titled ‘In Da Tradition.’

He has appeared in spoken word commercials including ‘Art Connects’, which premiered at the 2008 B.E.T. Hip Hop Awards, and was featured on the MTV, VH1, MTV Europe, CBS, NBC and other networks, in addition to being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame archived at the Modern Museum of Arts in New York.

E.G. Bailey is the winner of the Hughes Knight Diop Poetry Award and several of his poems have been published in Solid Ground; the millennial issue of Drumvoices Revue; and Warpland, a publication by the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for creative writing. He was a co-producer of Write On Radio, an award winning weekly literary radio program on KFAI Fresh Air Radio where he is currently an on air personality for the Tehuti Spoken Word show on Sunday nights.   As he moves effortless between radio, film, theater, and producing, his live performance is always a treat!



“Tru Ruts is a record label of this generation. It strives to transcend the boundaries of music…”  – Rich Albertoni (Isthmus) on TRU RUTS

Tru Ruts Endeavors is a multi-disciplinary artistic enterprise encompassing a record label, theatre productions, a radio series, visual art exhibits and film productions. It has been a major innovator + trailblazer in the Twin Cities, often producing shows to sold out audiences and critical acclaim. Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records is a premier record label based in the Twin Cities, with a roster of nine artists and has been called ‘a record label of this generation.’ It has released over 10 albums and EPs, including a number of singles, in addition to producing dynamic shows including KRS One’s sold out return to the Twin Cities in 2008, and a Slum Village show with a tribute to J Dilla, featuring nine of the most respected emcees in Minnesota including Slug, Muja Messiah, Maria Isa, Truthmaze and others. Tru Ruts’ roster also includes Truthmaze, Guante, Sha Cage, e.g. bailey, See More Perspective, Quilombolas and others.

“[Tru Ruts] has the star power and chemistry to fill a much larger forum.” – Jordan Selbo (City Pages) on TRU RUTS


MediaRoots is a record label of the web 2.0 era. We are dedicated to bringing you the music and content you want and need. MediaRoots is a safe haven for independent thought, independent media, and independent music. MediaRoots seeks to foster an interactive environment that takes the fan’s input seriously. Here, the artists, companies, and fans contribute to the direction of the business itself as a community of like-minded music lovers, artists, and humanitarians.

MediaRoots is what the new music industry must be. MediaRoots is a place for contemporary ideas and new ways of doing business for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. Far from seeking to enrich ourselves, we the people of MediaRoots believe that a more sustainable business model—grounded in equality and respect—is more preferable to a system that has grown out of touch with its listeners and artists. We the people of MediaRoots view the current music industry as an outdated business and aspire to change it.

The goal of MediaRoots is to bring about real art that celebrates the musicality and beauty of the medium. Whatever unfolds is up to us. We’ve been unable to find this type of community on or offline, so we decided to start one ourselves. Join us, and together let’s set down MediaRoots.



Junkyard Empire Press
• Junkyard Empire write the soundtrack for Rebellion –
• Junkyard Empire chosen for URB Next 1000 –
• Junkyard Empire featured on –

Guante Press
• El Guante, insightful and inciteful –
• Guante chosen for URB Next 1000 –
• Brother Ali, El Guante, and Ellis Headline Street Festival Commemorating the 1934 Minneapolis Truckers Strikes –

E.G. Bailey Press
• Spoken Word takes root in MN –
• Liberian-American Spoken Word Artist is Home at Last –
• The Daily MP3 – E.G. Bailey – America –

• Junkyard Empire –
• Guante –
• E.G. Bailey –

Chantz spotlighted in City Pages w/ Geologic + Sandra Garcia Rivera

Geologic, Sandra Garcia Rivera
By Cole Sarar

Minneapolis has topped the list of most-literate cities the past few years, and that literacy, coupled with a golden era of groundbreaking local hip hop, has created a perfect storm for spoken word in the Twin Cities. Organizations like the Loft are keeping their fingers on the pulse of these brilliant artistic waves, cultivating them, and supplementing them by bringing in nationally known artists while displaying local talents. The Equilibrium series turns out rooms packed with readers and rappers alike, tickling ears and literary lobes with dense poetry, thoughtful hip hop, and cunning wordplay since 2001. This Saturday’s installment features Seattle giant Geologic of the Blue Scholars, a hip-hop duo whose lyrics deal with community issues in the Northwest, from race to overcrowding in schools, with the sort of forward thinking that gives hope to difficult situations. From the East Coast, the Loft is importing Nuyorican (Puerto Rican + New York) poet Sandra Garcia Rivera. Her lyrical writing is intensely personal, and embodies the spirit of the city, invoking jazz and an effortless bilingual harmony. Also on the bill is young local Chantz Erolin. Many have been anticipating his explosion onto the scene as the first of a new generation of Twin Cities hip-hop artists, with a fresh view and unlikely, experienced lyrics. This is not your mother’s poetry reading: Equilibrium brings edgy work into the public eye. Also with DJ NAK. Sat., Nov. 21, 8 p.m., 2009

Originally posted on City Page on 17 November 2009.

Guante + Big Cats: ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ CD Release Party

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records presents:
Guante & Big Cats: “An Unwelcome Guest” CD release party

Mark your calendars.  December 12, 2009 will be the Twin Cities release party for Guante + Big Cats’ debut LP, “AN UNWELCOME GUEST,” at the Bedlam Theater in Minneapolis.  Supporting acts will include No Bird Sing, Kristoff Krane and The Tribe.  The show will be 18+ and start at 10pm.  Tickets are $5 in advance, and $7 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at Fifth Element. Bedlam Theatre, 1501 – 6th Street South, Minneapolis, MN 55454.

AN UNWELCOME GUEST is a hip hop concept album from Twin Cities producer BIG CATS and rapper GUANTE.  Over fifteen tracks, the album tells the story of one man moving from east to west in the wake of a man-made disaster and his own personal tragedy.  Also, there are zombies.

The album features guest appearances from HALEY BONAR, PROLYPHIC (of Strange Famous Records), BIG QUARTERS, CHASTITY BROWN and ERIC BLAIR (of Hyder Ali and No Bird Sing).  Through the album’s unique narrative frame, these artists join Guante in exploring issues of displacement, authority and the difference between the violence of the oppressor and the violence of the oppressed.  Also: zombies.

Stay tuned.  Much more (including the first single, some exclusive video stuff and more announcements) coming soon.

An Unwelcome Guest Release Party Flyer (Back) (700pxl)