‘Red States’ (Music Video) – Guante + Big Cats!

Music video for ‘Red States’ from the Guante + Big Cats! album ‘An Unwelcome Guest’. The video is directed by writer and filmmaker, Justin Schell. Produced by Tru Ruts. © 2009 Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records.

“Part Cormac McCarthy, part Woody Guthrie, and part Public Enemy, An Unwelcome Guest is an intricately woven poetic and sonic excursion through landscapes mental, emotional, and physical, cementing Guante and Big Cats!’s status as two of the best emerging artists within Twin Cities hip-hop.” – TC Daily Planet

“Guante could very well follow Atmosphere and P.O.S. in the long-line of outstanding rappers to break from the Midwest.” –CMJ

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.

Guante Interviewed in Asian American Press

Kyle “Guante” Myhre
An interview with Bryan Thao Worra

Asian American Press recently caught up with the dynamic Kyle “Guante” Myhre in between projects. An emcee, spoken-word poet, activist, writer and educator based out of Minneapolis, he’s been slam champion of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Madison, and most recently took first place at the 2009 National Poetry Slam as a member of the St. Paul team.

As an emcee, Guante is signed to rising indie label Tru Ruts/Speakeay Records and is a multiple Independent Music Awards nominee, Urb Magazine “Next 1000″ artist and one of City Pages’ “Artists of the Year” for 2008. Guante has shared bills with many in independent hip hop, including Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Zion I and dead prez.

Guante’s also commits time to write for nationally-recognized music blog CultureBully.com, facilitate university-level social justice courses and spearheading the “Hip Hop Against Homophobia” concert series. He teaches writing and performance workshops through the Minnesota Spoken-Word Association and serve as arts coordinator of the Canvas, a St. Paul youth center. For more information, check out http://www.guante.info.

AAP: How did you get started?

Kyle Myhre: I always liked to write; it’s something I showed a lot of aptitude for at a very young age. I was lucky and privileged enough to be encouraged by family and teachers to I kept writing. In college, I got involved in the spoken-word scene and also started rapping, and that opened up a new world of possibilities for me – I saw my art not as something I could get published, but as something I could travel around and share with people, face to face.

AAP: What keeps you going as an artist?

KM: A lot of spite.  I say that only half-jokingly. I’m a critic as well as a writer, so sometimes I see and hear things that I greatly dislike (unoriginal, manipulative, exploitative, boring, etc.), and that inspires me to create something better. Aside from that, my work as an activist inspires a lot of my writing.

AAP: What are the themes you really enjoy examining in your work?

KM: When I’m writing “political” work, or work that examines social justice-oriented material, I like to stress things like the importance of perspective and the power of collective action. I think we have enough blunt, unimaginative political poetry, and also enough hyper-abstract, borderline-nonsensical political poetry. My work tends to fall in the middle stylistically.  In terms of content and themes, I’m interested in activism, the construction of masculinity, working-class issues, and more – admittedly not the most revolutionary or unique topics to tackle, but I think that’s part of the challenge. A million poets have “masculinity poems” and “poetry poems” and love poems. I enjoy attempting to come at these topics from a fresh angle and try to breathe some life into them.

AAP: What are your projects that are really exciting you at the moment?

KM: I just released a hip hop concept album called “An Unwelcome Guest,” which tells one story across fifteen tracks. The story deals with zombies, superhero mythology, the displacement, the difference between the violence of the oppressor and the violence of the oppressed and much more ­– and it’d a love story. The album has had a huge push behind it and we’ve been able to get it into a lot of people’s hands and have some great reviews.

I’m currently finishing up my one-man spoken-word show, “The Fist that Lives in Your Neck,” which examines how work informs identity and how what we do for a living has a part in shaping who we are. I’d like to debut that (along with a book and DVD) later this year. Finally, I’m trying to get back on the St. Paul poetry slam team again and defend our 2009 National Poetry Slam title.

AAP: Where in your latest work do you feel you are you really trying to push yourself?

KM: To me, there’s the never-ending challenge of creating work that is at once avant-garde and “pop.” I want to make music and write poetry that anyone can appreciate, but that isn’t stupid. The artists whom I look up to do that very well – balance pop sensibility with some really forward-thinking stuff… it’s about challenging the audience while entertaining them. Too far in either direction and it’s pointless, at least to me.

So this balance has always been my goal; with my latest work, I think it’s about refining it. I want to write stuff that I can stand behind 100 percent philosophically, politically and artistically, but I also want to write stuff I can perform in any context and find success.

AAP: What’s your next project you’d like to take on?

KM: Definitely a graphic novel. They’re pretty much all I read these days, and I’m exciting about exploring the areas where graphic fiction, poetry and hip hop can intersect.

Originally posted on Asian American Press on 19 February 2010.

Tru Ruts on Rift Magazine

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records secures national distribution. The local upstart label/community based arts collective has started using IDC (Independent Distribution Collective) for their distribution.  This label has had many great releases over the last year and is releasing American Afrikan – E.G. Bailey’s debut album this Saturday at the Bedlam Theater.

Originally posted on Rift Magazine on 19 February 2010.

An Unwelcome Guest reviewed on Reviler

Guante and Big Cats:
An Unwelcome Guest Review

Full disclosure: Kyle Myhre and I used to both write for the same publication, the now defunct site Culture Bully.  Now that he and I have parted ways though I am finally free to say what I really think of the guy.  And that is…that Myhre is one of the best rappers in the Twin Cities today, not to mention its best spoken word poet.  At best the only fault with the dude that I can find is that he’s too serious.  But, his stern demeanor does in fact make it all the more hilarious when he quietly drops an unexpected one liner about “taking another rapper’s wallet and making him cry.” It’s funny because Guante is the kind of guy who would cross town to give back a wallet that he found on the ground.

Despite Myhre’s day job as a “nice guy” his hip hop alter ego Guante (formerly El Guante) is that of a pissed off revolutionary who eviscerates politicians and fake rappers with equal vitriol.  Guante’s roots as a spoken word artist give him a natural sense of cadence as well as a keen understanding for the impact of words.  His is a quiet, deliberate flow, a rhythm that constructs elaborate ideas rather than burning them to the ground.  Last year Guante teamed up with local producer Big Cats to release An Unwelcome Guest, a post-apocalyptic journey through wasteland America.   Unwelcome Guest is a sort of Hip Hop version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, except where the novel offers no explanations for the world’s end, Guante has plenty of answers.  Military build up, economic warfare, social inequality, and the hypocrisy of politicians to name a few.  “No Capes” probably sums it up best when Superman, the champion of the “American Way” is found dead, unceremoniously dumped behind a Chinese restaurant while everyday heroes (the janitor, the artist, the teacher, etc) continue to do the world’s less-heralded good deeds (the “real” heroes).   In another track a torture victim is turned into a “bad guy” through his victimization – a scenario that strikes close to that of prisoners in Guantanamo.   In yet another a war vet wastes his life on a country that doesn’t seem to care for him – leaving him desperate and contemplating violence.

As dark and hopeless as Guante’s vision seems he does offer some hope – at heart Unwelcome Guest is deeply humanistic.  In “A Hug from a Stranger” he speaks of building a “bridge in every direction, constructed from muscle and bone.” The meaning is direct – if we don’t work together then we will fall apart.  It’s an old idea but a good one regardless, even if it’s a concept that the human race seems historically determined to ignore.  As Myhre says though, “Hungry people don’t stay hungry, they either die or take a bite.”  If Unwelcome Guest can prompt just a few more people to take a bite, then in my mind it is a step in the right direction.

– Jon Behm

Originally posted on Reviler on 19 February 2010.

Spoken-word work gets right to the point

CD review: Spoken-word work
gets right to the point

By John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune

He can come on like a freight train. Words are his medium. He will make you laugh. He will make you cry. He will make you think.

His name is E.G. Bailey and his brand-new release “American Afrikan” combines spoken word, poetry and music to explore what it is to be an Afrikan in America today. It doesn’t just skim along the surface in that exploration, it heaves from below like a bulldozer churning up slabs of concrete, tree roots and old asphalt in its quest — Bailey leading the narrative charge.

Using language like John Coltrane used the tenor or soprano saxophone, Bailey — together with friends such as Aimee Bryant, Katrah Quey, Sha Cage, Hipgrosis, D.J.Limbs, plus African poets Ibe Kaba and Sankaradjeki; Dubai jazz ensemble Abstract Collision, and Mankwe Mdosi, the singer from Atmosphere — uses bits of pre-recorded sound, field recordings (including Liberian work songs from the Mano Tribe) and jazz. He rails, he whispers, he implores, he exhorts and subtly weaves his spell.

“K Street Blues: The Bailout Plan” sounds like it could have been Sonny Rollins captured on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1952 talking to the skyline with his horn.

“America” is Bailey (with Abstract Collision giving an eerie, angular backdrop) holding a mirror up to our own country with all its actions and how they have morphed over time. “America with your varicose veins and Catholic guilt, I fear you and I love you … America, it’s getting harder to defend you.”

Aimee Bryant’s stirring multi-tracked version of “Motherless Child” is a riveting take on this black spiritual.

“Afrikan is the New American” has an almost Prince-like groove smothered in chicken grease.

Bailey is the real deal. He has created spoken word dynamics in film, theater and recordings during his travels through this country as well as England, South Africa, France and Serbia. He is the founder of the MN Spoken Word Association, Tru Ruts Endeavors and the Spoken Word and Hip Hop Institute at the University of Minnesota. He’s been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in the New York Modern Museum of Art.

“American Afrikan” is not just a journey but an adventure that, during February’s Black History Month, explores identity, history, culture and what it means to be black in America today.

The CD release of this wonderful piece of art takes place Saturday evening at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis and should not be missed.

E.G. Bailey / “American Afrikan”
Genre: Spoken word/Poetry/Jazz/Hip Hop/Electronica
Label: Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records
Web site: http://www.egbailey.com, myspace.com/egbailey
Produced by: E.G. Bailey and Ben Durant

Upcoming show: Saturday at 9:30 p.m., the CD release party at the Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis. Cost $5. Ages 18 and older. Includes special guests Guante, Sha Cage, Mankwe Ndosi, Ibe Kaba and more.

John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for the past 35 years as a radio host, interviewer, record producer and professional musician.

E.G. Bailey in l’étoile magazine

E.G. Bailey “American Afrikan” CD Release
@ Bedlam Theatre
1501 6th St S.
Minneapolis

10pm / 18+ / $5 advance

This weekend, E.G. Bailey is going to drop a bomb — a “proverbial bomb” that is! On Saturday, the Bedlam Theatre hosts the release show for Bailey’s debut album, titled AMERICAN AFRIKAN, showcasing his creative mix of powerful spoken word, performance art and hip-hop/funk/jazz/electronic music. Additionally, the night will feature the work of many more artists and musicians like Guante, Mankwe Ndosi, Truthmaze, Chantz Erolin, Aimee Bryant, Ibé Kaba, Sankaradjeki, Dameun Strange, Kahll Brewington, DJ Stage One and more.

Originally posted on l’étoile magazine on 18 February 2010.

E.G. Bailey featured in Star Tribune

Bailey comes home
By Chris Riemenschneider
Star Tribune

Spoken-word artist and Tru Ruts label proprietor E.G. Bailey might have what you’re looking for in the form of his first full-length CD, “American Afrikan”.

Looking to celebrate Black History Month to the tune of something besides “We Shall Overcome?” Spoken-word artist and Tru Ruts label proprietor E.G. Bailey might have what you’re looking for in the form of his first full-length CD, “American Afrikan,” a thought-provoking collection that also provokes some cool grooves out of Bailey’s flowing poetry.

Inspired by Bailey’s trips to Africa, the disc laces field recordings and traditional African verses with modern digital beats and live drums. In “Liberia,” for instance, he expounds on a “nation waiting to be reborn” over the rhythmic clanging of hammers from field workers. In the title track, he trades verses with African poets over a steady treadmill-like beat and soulful backup vocals by Atmosphere touring member Mankwe Ndosi. Themes of identity, reclamation and rebirth permeate the album and should make for an equally evocative stage show. The release party is Saturday at the West Bank’s Bedlam Theatre with guests Guante, Sha Cage and more (9:30 p.m., $5).

Originally posted on Star Tribune on 18 February 2010.