By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Beginning with weekly writing sessions over brunch, Twin Cities rap veterans Crescent Moon of Kill the Vultures and Joe Horton of No Bird Sing decided to make a record together. The mantra from the beginning seemed to be "no pressure," with little more than an EP in mind and no deadline. The opportunity to work with like-minded friends superseded some defined final product. Doomtree producer-about-town Lazerbeak's name came up when figuring out beatmakers to work with, and as discussions continued, he seemed like a natural fit for what was to become Mixed Blood Majority.
"I think there was something very intentional when we picked him. We did want to make stuff that definitely just banged," says Crescent Moon. "It hit hard. A lot of the beats kind of have a dark tinge to them. That said, I really didn't know what the end result was going to sound like."
Both rappers's main projects lean toward the avant-garde, incorporating heavy subject matter that is somewhat analogous to one another's. The collaboration seemed natural and proved surprisingly simple in execution, and quickly the intended few songs became a full-length album. Aided by Lazerbeak's creative energy lighting up the record, the backdrop is set for the rappers to let loose. The songs find the MCs over more straightforward beats, pushing flows into the sort of boom-bap territory that recalls Moon's breakout work with the early-2000s group Oddjobs at times.
Mixed Blood Majority play an album-release show with LaLiberte and Guante & Big Cats! on Saturday, January 26, at Triple Rock Social Club; 612.333.7399
"I feel like we were all bouncing off each other, but we were also sturdy. We ended up refining each other's processes," says Joe Horton. "That's my favorite thing about making music is on some level, I want to be refining my process. That makes better music. I'm going to sound better if I learn something over the course of making a record."
Horton was simultaneously writing raps for this project and for No Bird Sing, who are planning on a spring release, and had to feel out what material belonged where. "It's a really different style. I can't treat every single landscape like it's the same thing. You have to respond to it. When I'm writing by myself, there's all these thought processes that happen and I'm barely aware of. I'm not really talking to myself, but I'm somehow doing a bunch of things and then something happens. When you're writing with someone else, you have to make some of those explicit. You have to try to put language on some of those things."
Having Horton and Crescent Moon trading verses removed some of the weight of carrying entire songs, which allowed for expressions and styles that the rappers' main projects would not have conjured. If at times the voices come off as distractingly similar, it belies the fact that the group can cohere and sink into a track's feel with ease. The limerick flow on "The Runaround" and the quick-trade chorus of "Still Standing Still" play especially well, and seek to match the playfulness that Lazerbeak's hugely percussive beats consistently hit. Lyrically, we're left with some heavy points to ponder, and the writing continues to be the focus.
Like-minded guests Cecil Otter, Toki Wright, and Kristoff Krane make appearances on the record and bang out some densely worded verses that fit the vibe. Lazerbeak's beats were chosen, tweaked, and refined as the songs got to the studio, and the final sound was very much a middle ground between all parties involved. "That was the fun part," says Lazerbeak. "That's what I love the most, when you know what the record is but you still have like the time to fix any little thing that's not quite right. That's my favorite part. The hard work's over; you can knock out some easy, fun shit."
The group project stems less from the supergroup mentality than the desire to stretch the collective creative muscle with people skilled at their craft. Considering how central the act of eating and talking basketball was to the process (instrumental interlude "The Ballad of Cedric Ceballos" is a harp-infused tribute to the legendary blindfolded slam-dunk contest winner), this definitely comes off as a more unwound project than the name might imply. "We were highly motivated by food," comments Lazerbeak, and Crescent Moon is quick to agree. "It was serious. We had like a full card table with nothing but snacks. We were not fucking around."
Mixed Blood Majority have only performed once as a group, in November at Icehouse, and the members felt a tinge of nervousness. The new group energy rushed back into the seasoned performers in a way that was invigorating. "I've been rapping for almost 18 years now. I need a refreshing look at it," says Crescent Moon. In hearing the final product, it's clear they've each found it.