Carnage the Executioner, this week's cover story, in his own words
Illustration by Ben Voldman
First thing's first: If you haven't already seen it, make sure to check out the story on the cover of this week's City Pages, an-depth profile of local rapper and beatboxer, Carnage the Executioner. Not only is he a greatly-overlooked talent in these parts, he's also led a remarkable life, which he opened up to us about for this story.
Ahead of Friday's release show for his best album to date, Respect the Name, we had a lot of conversations. Once you've read the profile, there's plenty more where it came from. So, below the break, check out some of the best passages -- on rapping, his family life, and social work.
On the meaning behind his rap name, Carnage the Executioner:
I wanted a name I could live up to stylistically. And I was a battle rapper. Carnage: you go through; you destroy it; you kill it; it's the aftermath of war. There's nothing else left... [Plus] I've seen a lot of carnage in my life. There's been a lot of destruction, a lot of hurt, shit you can't really repair. It could represent the life I've endured. And I survived the carnage. I was one of the lone survivors that a lot of the people who were in the same circle as me went through and didn't survive.
On overcoming his perfectionist tendencies:
I'm a perfectionist to a fault and in the music game being a perfectionist when it involves releasing a record being a perfectionist will hurt you more than it will help...People can tell you you're good a million times in your face, but if you don't feel that you're good on the inside, it's not going to manifest into action.
On not having "a traditional Minnesota sound:"
I don't know how a town that likes the type of music that the bigger rappers put out here will accept a record like mine. So that was part of [my self doubt], too. And feeling like maybe I wasn't dropping it in the right state. But this is the state I live in, what the fuck. Am I going to go somewhere else and drop my record? No, this where I'm at and I'm game and I'm good. Let's go do it.
Recalling an Ill Chemistry performance at an alternative school in Elk River last winter:
One of the young ladies who was in the audience came up and was like, "Is there any way you can tell me the line you talk about in that one 'Hold On' song?" There's a line I say, "It's difficult to put words to the strife that plagued the loser/The nobody who was in prison for a third of his life/Sharp objects embrace flesh 'til I feel synergy/Nothing cures a negative mood like self injury"... And she was like, "Because I've had some trouble with cutting and self-inflicted stuff and that song really touched me"...
That's the shit, that's why I quit my job: to go and do that on a different level. Because me talking to those kids like that, that could change something in her through music because music grabs people differently than when you're sitting down telling a kid not to do something.
On wanting to set a positive example:
I come from the school of say whatever the fuck you want to say and whether it's shock value--like, I used to say some stuff that makes me say, "Damn, how did I think of that?" [But] now I don't feel like I need to do that anymore, I did that already. And then the other part is, why do you do that?...I don't want kids who look up to me as a really positive influential force to find some of my old shit and be like, "Ah, he's a hypocrite." I don't want to be a hypocrite. I want people to be like, "That dude practices what he preaches."
In defense of his decision to forgo drugs and alcohol for most his life:
You have control of all your decisions and that's one of the reasons I never got involved with drugs, I never did drugs because I had seen what it did to people and I knew once you make a decision like that, that's a decision that you might not come back from and I can't justify that. Why would you want to be so drunk that you couldn't fucking stand up? I couldn't see it.
On the style of discipline in his mother's household:
We got our asses handed to us when we did something we weren't supposed to do. Just like bad slaves: If you didn't do what you were supposed to do, the master would be whipping your ass. So basically "whoopings" is what we would call them. So if you get a whooping that's not getting spanked; that's like you're getting torn the fuck up with whatever your parent found at that time to whip your ass with.
On the few memories he has of his absentee father, Maynard:
I knew him in Chicago. He was gambling on the street. I knew how to roll craps and shit when I was two... I knew what a good looking woman looked like at two or three. He would say, "She got some nice legs," so I grew up saying "I like legs! I like legs!" I used to say that all the time when I was young. And they used to think it was so cute that I had this long hair and I was a gambler and I was bowlegged and I liked legs and cheeseburgers... And I always wanted to sit by my aunt, and I wanted to sit in her lap, because I liked legs. So at an early age I learned to objectify women. People don't see it like that.
On how he came to adopt his foster mother as his own:
I thought no kid should have to work to have a relationship with their parents. So if [Gale, his birth mother] came around, I would be civil. But as far as me trying to further nurture a relationship that was never there, I couldn't do it. And the other part of it was I didn't want to disrespect my mom who was the one who put in the work for me.
Carnage's Respect the Name album release show is Friday, September 7 at Triple Rock Social Club. More info here.
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