One Nation, Invisible

The untold story of local hip hop: 1981 to 1996

Ron Edwards, activist: The first cartels started showing up from Omaha, actually. Most people don't know that.

LST: There really was no trouble until 1987. There were no fancy rides up here. Pretty much the people that had fancy rides were pimps, and they were in the club scene, in their mid-20s, in the Alexander O'Neal era or whatever. Younger people, they took the bus everywhere. They went to the Roller Gardens. And if they weren't doing anything else, they'd go to some party on the weekend.

Truth Maze: It was crack, man. Crack did it. The gangs were here. The Bloods were here since about '81. I myself was a Blood. The Crips didn't come up here until a little later, somewhere around '86, but I heard rumors that they were visiting earlier. Then all of a sudden you had a large increase in the late '80s.

I swear, it was like this: One day you seen people breakdancing and kicking it and trying to be DJs and trying to MC. The next day, they had huge pockets of money. Then everybody's attitude started changing.

Slug: It wasn't long before the gangs started treating the b-boys like the b-boys were just another fucking gang. Before you know it, now, due to my affiliation with no gangs, I'm being put into a gang, and once again I have to watch my back at parties.

Musab, a.k.a. Beyond, MC: My cousin dying was very decisive, because it was so close to me. I could have been there. It was in our place. He was murdered, shot execution-style in the back of the head. Nobody really knows what happened. It was one of those unsolved things. But we was into a lot of stupid shit. And I was like, I want to do something else. I want to be here for my kids. So I said, what am I good at? I'm smart but I don't like school. I can rap.

Truth Maze: I got out after my dad died, really. I was like, maybe that's what's going to happen to me. He got shot in north Minneapolis.

Peyton: Truth Maze, he's kind of the Afrika Bambaataa of Minneapolis. When he was still in the I.R.M. Crew, he actually started MBBO, the Minneapolis B-Boy Organization. He was trying to get the whole hip-hop culture of Minneapolis united under one umbrella.

Gage: He called this meeting in North Commons Park. All these kids came out, and he was like, "We're going to start this organization." We had the little signs down, you know, "love," "strength," and "peace." Then you'd go to the Shirt Shack downtown, and get your hat with the insignia on it.

Truth Maze: I didn't really know where it was going. It was linked with all of the energy behind me being B Fresh, part of the I.R.M. Crew. I think it was something being dreamed about, even if it was in the most silent way. 'Cause we didn't know what we were doing, except trying to get together and do something other than fight and trip.

Slug: As a child, I got to talk to Truth Maze maybe five or six times face up. This was way before Atmosphere, way before the Micranots. It was like being in the presence of a god. He had such an energy to him. He always smiled. Anything that he said to me, I decreed as law, and I would take back to my friends, Mark and Adam, and we would live that way.

Truth Maze: Truth Maze was born in '87, after being very depressed in dealing with the streets. Because, yeah, I ended up out there trying to get my money, too. I had my own stones to kick in my own path, just because of the karma of my life.

I Self Devine: I met Truth Maze in Powderhorn Park on the 4th of July. I grew up pretty Afrocentric, so every time I saw brothers with dreads, I gravitated toward them. Like, "Who are you? Where you from?"

Truth Maze: I remember doing a show with the Metro Unit, who [I Self Devine] was with then. He seen me, I seen him. And I was like, "Who the fuck is that dude?" He was like, "Who the fuck is that dude?" It was instantaneous. I left my group to form the Micranots with him and DJ Kool Akiem.

I Self Devine: Micranots pretty much came into existence around the winter of '91. I had gotten into some trouble with the law, and a few other people that were in the Metro Unit were involved in this activity as well, and all of us went to jail. It was attempted murder. We were just doing dumb stuff. We tried to rob somebody.

I actually did a year at the workhouse on Plymouth. I wasn't able to play tapes there. I had no music, but I had a pencil and pen. I had a poetry class, so I just did poetry and read. I would write raps, but I wouldn't say them or project them, because then if everybody knew I rapped, I would have to rap all day.

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