Larry Lucio, Jr., who runs the organization, says it began over 10 years ago as a partnership between himself and Toki Wright. When they first started out, Amplified Life produced special events that used hip hop, spoken word, and other music as a vehicle for change. In 2002 they founded the Annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop, taking over First Avenue for a weekend. It prompted Mayor Rybak to declare Hip-Hop Weekend.
Since Toki Wright signed with Rhymesayers, he no longer is part of Amplified Life (though Lucio and Wright remain friends). As for Lucio, he continues to provide consultation for artists and artist managers. He also started youthrive: LIVE, which began as an assembly at North High School in Minneapolis to rally for a PeaceJam visit from Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, but has gone on to develop into a touring program that visits schools and correctional facilities regionally, and provides talent to organizations and conferences nationally.
Sunday's showcase features artists who not only have had professional success, but who "Still treat people right and contribute as much of their time as possible to helping youth through my programs or their own programs," Lucio says. "These are performers who are credible acts that you might see rocking at First Ave., but who also have the vision to know their audience and create performances for children."
Some of the big names include Bao Phi, "Who was repping Minnesota on HBO's Def Poetry Jam before most people even knew what it was," Lucio says. David "DEPth" Powell, founder of the TC Hip Hop Awards, will also be there, as well as Guante, who has won the National Poetry Slam two years in a row with St. Paul slam team Soap Boxing. Lucio himself will be performing with his crew the Palabristas, which won the Minnesota Spoken Word Association People's Choice Award for Best Collective and the Cultural Award. The DJ for the night will be PC, who produced Toki Wright's first single ("State of Emergency") off his Rhymesayers debut album.
Almost all of the performers are artists of color, but Lucio says race wasn't a determining factor in picking the lineup. More important was that the artists are saying something valuable. "I book people based on what they say and how they say it," he says. "Not everybody cares about this type of work. If a reader hears about this event and the first thing that pops in to their head is 'Kum Ba Ya,' or something else borderline corny like 'We Are the World,' tell them to stay home. They won't get it. And frankly, they're not supposed to. They should keep listening to the radio and letting other people think for them."
The Amplified Life Showcase, also features Muja Messiah, DEPth, MaLLy, Mike Dreams, Rodrigo Sanchez Chavarria, Heatherlyn, HC the Chemist, Lipset, Mastermind (from Guardians of Balance), Hypel, Orikal Uno, and TUSS/Usual Suspects, among others is this Sunday, January 30 at 8 p.m. (doors at 7:30) at the Artists' Quarter (408 St. Peter St., St.Paul). Tickets are $5.