‘An Unwelcome Guest’ Release Party Video

Live version of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’
featuring Big Quarters + Truthbetold (of The Tribe).

Live version of ‘Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One’
featuring Eric Blair (of No Bird Sing).

[Courtesy of Culturebully.com]

Twin Cities Roll Call

Guante, yet another consciousness-raising rapper who calls the Twin Cities his home, commands center stage tonight at the Bedlam Theater alongside his producer Big Cats. They’ll be celebrating the release of “An Unwelcome Guest,” a 15-track concept album about—I kid you not—a zombie apocalypse. The disc features guest appearances by some of the Twin Cities’ finest (Haley Bonar, Big Quarters, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing), but the real star remains Guante’s endless repository of establishment-agitating lyrical insight (“This isn’t patriotism/This is the Stockholm syndrome”). (10 p.m., $5 adv/$7 door, 18+)

Originally posted on Metromix Twin Cities.

Strange Famous Records + Tru Ruts partner on exclusive offer

Strange Famous Records + Tru Ruts
to offer exclusive pre-sales of ‘An Unwelcome Guest’

“Earnestness can go wrong in hip hop.  On this album, it goes very right.” –Sage Francis

Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records’ release of “An Unwelcome Guest,” the hip hop concept album from Twin Cities duo Guante & Big Cats, will be available exclusively through Strange Famous Records until its official release on January 12th, 2010.  The indie-rap powerhouse, home to Sage Francis, B.Dolan, Prolyphic (who guests on the album) and other forward-thinking artists, will sell the album through its web-store at www.strangefamous.com.

Following the pre-sales period, rising indie label, Tru Ruts, will make the album available in stores and other distribution outlets, however, ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ will continue to be available via digital download through Strange Famous Records.

“An Unwelcome Guest” tells the story of one man fleeing the zombie apocalypse.  It may sound original, but isn’t.  The post-apocalypse concept has been done to death.  What is original, however, is the way the duo plays with perspective, pushes the boundaries of hip hop narrative and somehow makes a love story about zombies, superheroes, displacement, violence, struggle, and America work.

Big Cats’ beats could almost tell the story themselves—intensely cinematic, the production walks the line between crazy outer-space simmering funk and straight-up hip hop bangers.  Guante, part of the championship 2009 National Poetry Slam St. Paul team, writes like a poet but doesn’t rap like one—the songs are hook-driven, dynamic and instantly quotable.  Unapologetically political, unflinchingly descriptive and undeniably ambitious, the album is the duo’s first full-length collaboration.

Listeners who buy “An Unwelcome Guest” through the Strange Famous store will receive a signed copy of the album, a free instrumental CD, a limited-edition sticker and a booklet by Guante containing song lyrics, commentary and pictures.


Though the album’s official release (for record stores, ITunes and other retailers) will be in January, Twin Cities residents will have an exclusive opportunity to get it on Dec 12 at the Bedlam Theater during the special Twin Cities release party.  Joined by No Bird Sing, Kristoff Krane and the Tribe, and backed by a live band featuring members of Dragons Power Up, Guante & Big Cats will play the album in its entirety and sell physical copies of the album for one night only (10pm, 18+, $7).

Guante + Big Cats! roll out ambitious new concept album, “An Unwelcome Guest”

Guante and Big Cats! roll out ambitious new concept album, “An Unwelcome Guest”
By Justin Schell, TC Daily Planet

For you know, and I know, good horse ´mongst the rich ones
How oftimes we go there an unwelcome guest

-Woody Guthrie, “The Unwelcome Guest”

Earlier this year, Minneapolis MC and spoken word poet Guante told me that he was working on an album that was “about immigration.” This vague, yet full-of-potential germ has resulted in An Unwelcome Guest (Trú Rúts), the debut album from Guante and producer Big Cats!. The album is a follow up to the group’s Start a Fire EP, also on Trú Rúts, which was released in May of this year. The duo will celebrate its release Saturday, December 12th at Bedlam Theatre, with support from Kristoff Krane, No Bird Sing, and The Tribe.

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. When I spoke with them at their St. Paul rehearsal space, they were quick to emphasize how collaboratively they worked to create An Unwelcome Guest.

According to Big Cats!, “we would start with, ‘hey I have this beat, do you wanna use it?’ But then there was a process from there, ‘Can you change this part of it, can you rearrange this section, can this verse be 24 instead of 16?,’” he says. “It wasn’t just taking a verse and slapping it on a beat.”

“Each beat needed to fit a certain mood,” Guante adds, “to fit what was going on at the story at the time. They make the album as a whole more captivating.”

That attention to detail is evident throughout the album. Something that’s marked Big Cats!’s work since his first beat tapes is his vivid use of sonic color. Part of this comes from the producer’s multi-instrumental skills. “I have a musical background, I know how to play some instruments,” he says—including piano, guitar, and bass, along with the AKAI MPC1000 sampler. “I came up playing other people’s music, writing my own music.”

These details are not just present on drums that bump and hooks that grab, but also on elements like the constantly shifting sonic beds for verses, such as the hauntingly effective auto-tuned voices on “The Stockholm Syndrome.” Elsewhere there is the discordant harpsichord on “Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One.” This grating musical dissonance matches the social and emotional dissonance of the lyrics, which features a guest verse from No Bird Sing’s Eric Blair, as the two MCs explore the how the events of the album are “going according to plan/but whose plan?” This line is just one of many bursting with meaning, made all the stronger by their unified place in the album’s overarching story.

The idea of doing a concept album is nothing new to Guante. “I’ve been wanting to do a concept record for a long time, just as a challenge for myself. I think it makes interesting listening.” This emphasis on listening is key for Guante. “Music, and particularly hip-hop, has become a very passive listening experience,” he says. “It’s something you just nod and zone out to. We definitely wanted to have beats that anyone could appreciate and rhymes that flowed nicely, but it’s the idea that you could go deeper.”

The basic narrative of Guest, as I understand it and without giving too much away, revolves around a person is escaping some terrible event (although it’s never quite revealed what that event was), and while doing so, explores not just the physical landscapes he traverses on his post-apocalyptic journey, but also the emotions and meanings of that changed world and his place within it. “It’s not super abstract,” says Guante. “The language is very simple. I think where it gets complex is the subtext.”

The subtexts of Guest change with almost every song, invoking numerous interlocking themes. These include contemporary rhetoric about immigration; the reality and ideology of borders physical, national, and emotional; a biological plague; and governmental irresponsibility, conspiracy, and violence, as well as the insurrectionist response from the victims of these actions. There are two themes, however, that provide an inspiring and redemptive power in the midst of so much darkness and destruction. One is an insistent and unwavering emphasis on the power of aggressive social critique and the fight for social justice; the other is the power of love, a love that is neither hokey nor Hallmark, but one that persists and emboldens even through an apocalypse.

“Hopefully,” Guante says, “listening to the album is an experience that demands and rewards multiple listens.” Like the people whom Guante speaks about in “No Capes,” the everyday heroes that don’t need a costume or a mask to fight for what’s right, the messages of the tracks on An Unwelcome Guest possess more power together than they ever could alone, sounding a 21st century battle cry rooted in the righteous hoof beats of Woody Guthrie’s Black Bess.

Originally posted on TC Daily Planet on 8 December 2009.

Guante + See More Dialogue at Inver Hills Community College

Interesting Conversations with Interesting People
featuring Guante, See More Perspective + Eric Blair
1:30 – 3:00pm
Inver Hills Community College
2500 East 80th Street, Inver Grove Heights, MN

Recently the McNally School of Music in St Paul, announced they are offering a degree in Hip Hop music and the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the home of the first Hip Hop learning community, First Wave. As The Midwest becomes a beacon for forward thinking and progressive Hip Hop Arts, scholars, hip hoppers and the public will join together for a discussion about our place in the Hip Hop movement. Members of the local Hip Hop community will share their perspectives on the history of the movement and the cultural implications.

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)

Guante + Big Cats! ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ Megamix

unwelcome guest cover (600pxl)

Noam the Drummer put together this megamix of our new album, An Unwelcome Guest, essentially condensing an hour-long zombie-superhero-love-story concept album into 15 crazy minutes. In it, you’ll hear some flashes of the story, a few of our guests (Haley Bonar, Chastity Brown, Eric Blair of No Bird Sing; the album also features Big Quarters and Prolyphic, though they’re not in this mix) and an idea of how the album as a whole sounds. We’ll be releasing the LP in December on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records. Think of this as the trailer. – Kyle “Guante” Myhre. To hear the megamix, link here.

An Unwelcome Guest Welcomes Guests


New album from Guante & Big Cats! boasts some killer guest-spots

“An Unwelcome Guest,” the zombie-superhero-love story hip hop concept album from Twin Cities duo Guante & Big Cats!, wrapped recently after a couple of grueling sessions at Ben Durrant’s Crazy Beast Studio.  While the album itself won’t be released until late 2009, label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records is leaking the guest roster now.

The most recognizable name is probably Haley Bonar, the popular singer/songwriter who just made the move to Portland after a long and successful stay in the Twin Cities.  Bonar lends her distinctive voice to “The National Anthem,” a dark and propulsive track that mixes an eerie piano sample, lyrical throwbacks to Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and the first appearance of the album’s signature catchphrase: “we are waking up in our caskets.”

Another singer, Twin Cities-by-way-of-Knoxville folk/soul artist Chastity Brown makes an appearance on the track “Welcome to the Border.”  Successfully blending threatening with beautiful, her sections of the song are warnings: “crawling, walking, running, pressing up against your lovely lines/ we are underwater breathing, we are walking through your fire/ pressure building, burning, pressing up against your lovely home/ we are so close…”

The Twin Cities vibrant hip hop scene is well represented by guest spots from Big Quarters (on “The Stockholm Syndrome”) and Eric Blair of the bands Hyder Ali and No Bird Sing (on “Yes God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One”).  All three emcees get to flex their creativity and develop characters that fit into Guante’s overarching narrative, the story of one man traveling from east to west in the wake of a man-made disaster.

Finally, Strange Famous (home of Sage Francis, B.Dolan and Doomtree’s Cecil Otter) recording artist Prolyphic delivers a fiery storytelling verse alongside Guante and Big Quarters on “The Stockholm Syndrome,” a track about survival at all costs.

“I love putting people on the same song whom you wouldn’t ever expect to be on the same song,” Guante says.  The track with Prolyphic and Big Quarters is a monster, and the one with me and Haley Bonar might be my favorite on the album; who would ever think that she’d sound so natural and at-home on a hip hop album about displacement, zombies and the political/social nature of violence?”

Add to this the beat-making talents of Big Cats! and the critically acclaimed lyrics and vocals of rapper, slam poetry champion and activist Guante, and you’ve got a potent mix. “An Unwelcome Guest” will be out late in 2009 on Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records.

For further updates, check out http://deadrunning.blogspot.com and http://www.truruts.com.