$6 advance / $8 at the door
Nazeem and Spencer Joles:
Nazeem Cunningham met Spencer Joles in middle school, and neither expected to be making music together almost a decade later. “I kind of just went up to him and started freestyling, but we wouldn’t ever freestyle about anything or have it rhyme. It would just be ridiculous,” Joles said. By the time the collaborators, now both 20, made it to Southwest High School, they began writing music seriously, and the two have been close collaborators ever since. “Sometime in high school we realized we could actually kind of make music,” Cunningham said. “At first we were going to start a band similar to Rage Against the Machine, but then we started just writing raps, freestyle a capellas and stuff at lunch, and we just decided to be rappers after that.”
Coming of age in South Minneapolis has impacted their worldview and is referenced throughout their songs. “South Minneapolis is awesome because there’s such a huge hip-hop influence, it’s a huge punk community, and I just like to observe those attitudes and those ideologies in my music and with fashion,” Cunningham said. Their upcoming mixtape, coyly titled The Album, was produced entirely by Joles. It blends deceptive party tracks like “Smoke Daht” with the incise, razor sharp social commentary on “Chinatown Dreams” or “Fallen Souls,” which also features P.O.S. On the latter, they tackle white privilege, the case for reparations, and gun violence. “It’s 13 tracks, with a lot of different types of hip-hop. We’re doing trap stuff, old-school hip-hop, soul beats, and some experimentation on it. It’s a very diverse mixtape. It’s very fun to listen to,” Joles said.
Each raps with a style that pushes forward while the other pulls back, complementing one another’s lyrical flow as each song mounts in rising tension. In addition to P.O.S, the mixtape will also feature Maria Isa and even Muja Messiah — Cunningham’s father. Spencer’s production darts between folk, classical, and pop music, and he says he tries take aspects from each and incorporate them into his beats. “We tried to go with a mainstream palette, but also speak to social justice issues,” Joles said.
“People fight for equality, they fight to be heard, and if I can put that voice in my music, then I’m doing a service for everyone and myself,” Cunningham said. Elsewhere, themes emerge in their work that include “a lot of inner turmoil,” as Joles puts it. “Besides observing the environment, it’s observing the chaos within the self, and not just the chaos, but also the things that are good. It’s intertwining the flow of the inner being with the flow of the lyrics.”
Their influences range from the likes of Kanye West to local up and comers in thestand4rd crew. While the dup appreciates the thriving local hip-hop scene, they see a trend among young rappers in the Twin Cities refusing to be pigeonholed. “It’s not all just Rhymesayers stuff,” Joles said. “They’re really dope, and they’ve held it down for a long time, but we’re starting to some different stuff, like thestand4rd crew. They’re all making good, weird songs. A lot of artists are experimenting and putting work in, and getting recognition outside of Minnesota too.” [Peter Diamond, Local Current]
Lu first picked a notebook up after watching 8 Mile, soon succumbing to the frustrations of being eight with no bars. He picked it back up during his junior year at Simley High School, where he was always the first name on attendance that every teacher would apologize before mispronouncing. This common misstep in cultural competency, paired with the inspiration from watching a friend rap on Facebook, led to Lu’s christening as Student 1: a reflection of a lifetime dedication to learning oneself, the world, and the game.
After a two-year stint at Inver Hills Community College - ending in academic suspension which lead to him dropping out - Lu shifted his life’s focus to perfecting his work for the world outside his frozen suburbia. Student 1 embodies an upbeat approach to interrogating the questions of life, fusing an oddball braggadocio with meticulous technicality for an engrossing experience that’s equally whip-ready and stare-at-the-ceiling ready. For all the relentless energy in his flexin’, there’s a moment of self-crisis to match it. Caught in a haze of tobacco and uncertainty, Student 1 serves as a beacon of light for anyone reveling in their uncertainty, searching for the motivation to persevere through a world that feels set to destroy them.
D Mills (Diane Miller) performs solo hip-hop by making her own beats organically with a loop station. She's been described by critics and fans as "unexpected" and "inspirational" for her wild ability to rap and sing from a poetic, engaging voice. It's unexpected in that Diane is a quiet, unassuming person off stage, originally from Fargo, ND. It's inspirational in that Diane's abilities are bold, creative, raw and strong.
In Fargo, Diane has opened for Brother Ali, Nelly, Caroline Smith, John C. Reilly, Dessa, Astronautalis, Todd Clouser and more. While living in Minneapolis, Diane has shared the stage with Dosh, Davu Seru, Mina Moore, Aby Wolf and more. Her work has been featured on MPR, NPR Music Blog, Prairie Public, City Pages, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, TEDxFargo, and countless more regional media blogs and sites. She's been voted "Best Musician" by her peers in Fargo, ND. Her band D Mills & The Thrills has several times been voted "Best Original Band" of Fargo and "Best Hip-Hop Group" of North Dakota.
Diane currently servers as the music booker for Icehouse MPLS. She also performs music at different venues throughout town, either solo or with with a variety of area musicians. Prior to pursuing her passion for music in Minneapolis, she served as the editor-in-chief of High Plains Reader, Fargo's alternative newsweekly, and as director of The Aquarium, Fargo's premiere indie music venue.