El Guante quietly rolled into the Twin Cities' hip-hop and spoken-word scenes with a hand grenade, and pulled the pin. If you look anywhere in those scenes now, you'll see his shrapnel buried deep in every wall.
He is one of those artists who doesn't merely make art to live, but lives his art. He is mostly known as a hip-hop artist, but he is also a writer, poet, spoken-word artist, activist, organizer, teacher...and is impressive on all fronts. But one of his finest attributes is that he gives himself and his art the respect it deserves, without taking himself too seriously.
As a poet, he never fails to impress me, or the audiences he dazzles from coast to coast. Not only a powerhouse performer, El Guante is also one of the most intense and exciting writers in the national spoken-word scene. He delights in defying norms and stereotypes, and he does it with a style that best resembles a solid-gold sledgehammer. He's quiet offstage—almost too quiet. Onstage he is a whirlwind of energy, with a voice like a sentient chainsaw, a smirk, and a positive message.
You would most likely be scared of him if you passed him on the street. Dark clothes covering bulging muscles, hoodie pulled over a baseball cap hiding eyes that stare as though he were calculating where best to bury the body. But if you sat down to talk with him, you'd think you were having a conversation with a Harvard grad with a double major in philosophy and social justice.
El Guante has built a house of stone in the Twin Cities, but it's clear he won't stop until it becomes a skyscraper.
Matthew Rucker is a visual artist, poet, and the producer-host of the Soap Boxing poetry slam.