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BEST HIP-HOP ARTIST Minneapolis 2006 - I Self Devine

Readers' Choice: Atmosphere

For a couple of months after its August release on Rhymesayers, I Self Devine's Self Destruction seemed to be everywhere. "Ice Cold," the lead single, blasted out of speakers at First Avenue during the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop, rattled from car windows on Lake Street, and went into rotation on local-music radio. Self had been admired since the early '90s, when the Micranots helped make live rap a club staple. But his solo debut was something new. "In my environment you might get fired at" wasn't just a beautiful phrase. The album was a challenge to anyone who ever thought that Minnesota exceptionalism—the advantages of local living celebrated by Atmosphere in "Shhh"—extended to the urban poor. Not many people harbored such illusions, but hearing somebody describe the "struggle" and tout it—over Jake One's scratched hiccup of a voice saying, "How's Minneapolis"—was bracing. (Naturally, it took an L.A.-born rapper and Seattle producer to record the definitive local hip-hop anthem.) The rest of Self Destruction benefited as much from Self's new eagerness to rap as it did from life, not theory. The album introduced a major new talent in singer/MC Mazta I, and reinforced the status of its primary producer, Ant. With a tour opening for GZA under his belt, Self might yet charm the national media with his brutal tangle of lyrics. For now, he's a local point of consensus.

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