Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yo! The Movement and the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop In Vita.MN

(swiped from

Pimpin' ain't easy? Nah, organizing ain't easy. Just ask the people behind the annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-hop, which mixes youth-outreach events with three days of hip-hop music at First Avenue. Now in its sixth year, the festival is still a beast to pull off for Yo! The Movement, the community-based nonprofit that puts it all together. The youth-run group struggled more than ever to get funding this year, resulting in a slightly scaled-down lineup. But it was still able to get two great headliners in Naughty By Nature and a reunited Eyedea & Abilities.

"We went through a lot," said co-organizer FranzDiego DaHinten, 22.

What, exactly? Here are 10 things you should know.

1. There almost wasn't a festival this year. While the festival is a showcase for local talent, it's always been anchored by bigger headlining acts -- which cost money. When the usual big sponsor didn't come through, organizers struggled to find new ones. At one point they had to make a decision to go forward or quit. "We decided to do it no matter what, even if we had to do it in our backyards," said co-organizer Toki Wright. After last-minute funding came through in July (from the Empowerment Zone, the Northway Community Trust and Pizza Luce), they went after their headliners.
2. Eyedea & Abilities will perform for the first time in three years. Once one of the Twin Cities' powerhouse acts, the duo of speed-rapping Eyedea and turntable virtuoso Abilities parted ways after 2004's "E&A" album. Eyedea has been doing his rock thing with Carbon Carousel, while Abilities is still DJing but based in Milwaukee. The two were already talking reunion when a good friend, Carnage, suggested they do it at this year's fest. The duo is planning future shows, too.
3. Naughty By Nature took a pay cut. After hearing about the fest's community-driven focus, the group agreed to perform for less. It was a rarity in the early '90s: a hardcore rap act that had pop success with hits "O.P.P." and "Hip-hop Hooray" (the hooks are ringing in your head now, right?). This will be the fest's third year with a great old-school headliner (MC Lyte last year and Slick Rick in 2005).
4. P.O.S. = nice guy. Local star P.O.S. is busy this summer on the Warped Tour. But after hearing about the fest's financial woes, he agreed to help out by signing on as a headliner. The only problem: he'd have to take a day off Warped, fly to Minneapolis for the show and then fly out right after. He'd have arrived only minutes before his set -- if everything went perfectly. Both parties decided the timing was too tricky.
5. Co-organizer Toki Wright is having his busiest year ever. Wright keeps busy in the local scene, but things really picked up when Brother Ali asked him to go out on the road for "The Undisputed Truth" tour. As Ali's hypeman, he spent this spring traveling the country, then went out again this summer on the Paid Dues tour. As a result he had to do most of his pre-fest work by phone. Wright probably will join Ali again in the fall, and hopes to release his own long-awaited solo debut, "A Different Mirror."
6. Yo! The Movement wants to get to know you. If you still don't know what Yo! does, this is the year to find out. Friday's events will take place at its office in downtown Minneapolis, where you can see what the nonprofit does year-round. "We just wanted to clear up a lot of misconceptions," DaHinten said. "Some people still think we're just promoters or a business." Besides the fest, it works in schools, helps juveniles in the probation system, does anti-racism workshops and organizes young people around political causes.
7. The b-boy battle will be hot. B-boys (and b-girls) are excited about this year's showdown after a less-than-stellar battle in 2006. Old school cats (Grove Nuts) and new school cats (Warriors) are putting together a two-on-two battle that will see the state's top breakdancers get down for a $500 prize. Prelims are Saturday outside First Avenue and the finals are Sunday in the mainroom.
8. Clich├ęd but true: There's something for everyone. Is the fest a true reflection of the entire Twin Cities hip-hop scene? Well, you can't please everyone, but you'd have a hard time saying this year's lineup isn't diverse. The college kids are covered with Doomtree. There's old-school boom bap by Big Quarters. Some international flavor with Ghana's M.anifest and reggaeton by Lirica Secreta. Live hip-hop by Leroy Smokes. Street-hop stalwarts like Muja Messiah and members of the Chosen Few. Tongue-twisting rhymes by Carnage. Comedy by Ice Rod. And much more.
9. It really is for the kids. The music will draw a crowd, of course. But fans -- especially kids -- also should check out the workshops (noon-1:30 p.m. Sat.; 1-2:30 p.m. Sun.) focusing on violence in our communities and other issues. There are also voter registration and HIV/AIDS testing.
10. There might not be another one. While no year has been a cakewalk, this one was unusually difficult -- to the point where some organizers wonder if they can do it again. Wright said it'll depend on how this one turns out.

Let's hope for a good weekend.

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