In times like this when everyone's worried about hip hop being "dead" and bloggers are complaining about "indie hipsters" (read: white folks) ruining it for the "real" heads (read: other, different white folks), it's a dangerous proposition to come on stage rocking a mullet and a CB4 jacket and rapping about how to make, throw and subsequently recycle paper airplanes. But it's times like this where we desperately need people to make those kinds of risks -- someone like Ice-Rod, who can be funny and rap without making the comedy at hip hop's expense. As well-known for his freestyle skills -- he once battled Sage Francis to a draw -- as he is for his outsized personality, Michael Gaughan has recently split time between his gig in Brother and Sister (the literally-named noise-rock project he formed with his sister Katie) and his recently reintroduced mic-controlling not-entirely-alter ego, who performs for a CD-release party at the Triple Rock this Sunday.
City Pages:What is the most cold, brutal thing you've ever said about somebody during a rap battle?
Ice Rod: I battled this one guy, and it was a two-part battle during the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop. This guy who was battling me had his kid, he was holding his kid on his shoulders, and then the next day he didn't have his kid anymore, and he was wearing a backpack. And I told him that he'd put his kid in the backpack. And another time, this one kid had an African medallion and Nike shoes, and during a previous battle he said he wore it because "all people were created equal." So I told him "if you think all people are created equal/then why are you wearing those shoes, 'cause they exploit people." That, and making fun of people for looking like a police officer.
CP:What's the most ridiculous beat you've ever rapped over?
IR: Well, I'll rap over everything. Like, when I listen to the radio, maybe the most ridiculous beat would be commercials. Country music, the news, I'll rap over everything.
CP:What would you say is the difference between "ironic" and just funny?
IR: Well, I think being funny kind of covers a lot more things than being ironic, and "ironic" doesn't always have to mean "funny." Irony can be tragic or sad or journalism, referencing things that are so close to how they really are, recounting and being historical. Being funny has a different set of things that you do in music, maybe if you're being ironic you're ironic by your style, or your content, and you're kind of referencing something else. You're not really adding anything to it that's your own. But if you're being funny, you're doing something completely out of the blue and create your own things. Taking your own personal observations on society and putting a twist on it.
CP:Have you ever gotten any criticism or grief for being a humor-minded rapper? With a mullet?
IR: Yeah, I think it's very tricky, because I'm trying to be taken as a serious rapper, but I have a fun sense of personality. But I'm not making fun of rap. Sometimes that's misunderstood. I think most people get it at this point, that most people understand that I'm really good at rapping and that I'm a fun person, but I think some people still maybe take rap music too seriously and I don't fit into that category. But I don't want to identify myself with characters like Malibu's Most Wanted. For me to be silly, and be white and rap, so many people do that and I feel like I have to go further than that and make my new music more personal, more sexualized, more creative, and more political, too. That's how to stand out as a serious rapper whos fun, without making fun of rap.