On Tuesday, hometown rap hero Sean Anonymous and producer Dimitry Killstorm released Better Days. A longtime labor of love, the new album features an interesting cross-section of both local (P.O.S, Lizzo) and national (Def the Funky Homosapien, Aceyalone) underground hip-hop stars. But what's most important about Better Days’ release is the story of Sean Anonymous himself. The enterprising MC has been on one of the hardest grinds over the past decade, trekking across the country and becoming something of a goodwill ambassador for the next generation of Twin Cities hip-hop. Not to mention, he throws a heck of a birthday party.
In anticipation of Better Days and its two release shows Friday and Saturday at 7th Street Entry, we spoke to Sean about his new album, relentless touring, and what additional stresses his famed annual birthday parties entail.City Pages: Where did the title Better Days come from?
Sean Anonymous: Originally, I wanted to call it something super morose and depressing, Hide Your Blood something something. We made one of the songs, which became one of the first songs on the album, and the sample says “Better Days,” so I thought it was cool. Eventually, Dimitry and I liked the song so much that we thought it would be a good title for the album and influenced all the songs we made afterwards.
CP: You’ve been friends with Dimitry Killstorm, who produced the entirety of Better Days, since high school. Do you recall your first time meeting him?
SA: Yeah, I remember the first time I ever met Dimitry. I’m not even sure if we made any hip-hop. It was just me going to a friend’s house after school because he had a drum set, and I was really into playing drums. I went to Tony Phantom of Wide Eyes’ place when I was probably 17. I was probably 17 and Dimitry happened to be there. We drank a bunch of beer, and turns out those guy and I played a bunch of instruments, so we jammed a bunch of times. We would go back-and-forth, and probably the third time I was over there I noticed Tony Phantom had a beat machine. I think it was the SP-404. We started talking, and he was into all the local hip-hop that I was into. I was just amazed to meet somebody that was intot he same type of local hip-hop. Turns out they made beats, and I had no clue how to make beats at that point in my life. I grabbed a few beats from them, we freestyled for a bit and probably a week later they asked me to join Wide Eyes.
CP: You’ve done extensive touring, including Warped Tour and SXSW. Do you find on tour people now have a pre-conceived notion of the Minneapolis hip-hop sound?
SA: Definitely because, in Minneapolis, we’ve had all of these ambassadors for the longest time. Sometimes people expect you’ll sound like a Doomtree or an Atmosphere and if you don’t necessarily, you’ll find that some of these folks will be surprised. I’m so glad people are even looking at Minneapolis because when I first started doing shows, people weren’t looking towards Minneapolis that much besides if they were into Atmosphere or Brother Ali or later on the Doomtrees, who I have so much respect for and I’m so glad that they paved the way and continue to pave the way for all of us. But I’m happy to be part of this new wave.
CP: Del the Funky Homosapien joins you for “What Is Your Name?” How did you first link up with Del?
SA: I’ve been getting that question a lot and I wish I could say that he saw me at a show and was way into it. What happened was a friend of mine in Denver, who happened to be good friends with Del, I’d sent a few early mixes of album to him. It just so happens there was an open verse on a track with Hapduzn. He played it for Del and Del really liked the beat and the verse. My buddy called out of the blue — “How would you feel if Def the Funky Homosapien jumped on this track?” I thought he was joking, but it was completely legit. A week later I opened up my email and here’s a fresh verse from Del the Funky Homosapien who happens to be one of my favorite rappers and one of the first rappers who was actually weird like me. It was a real full-circle moment for me.
CP: One of you trademarks is your annual birthday show, which the past two years have been at First Avenue. Do you find organizing a show on your birthday to come with its own additional set of stresses that other shows don’t have?
SA: Completely and utterly. We always do our best to make sure it’s a super stacked bill. I’ve always been the one headlining, which pretty much means I cant party at all. Maybe some point in the future I’ll take a step back so I can have some time to be out in the crowd and mingling and hugging the people that I love. But yes, it’s completely stressful. But it’s necessary and once it’s said and done, after a successful show, I feel a sense of pride that I can’t get from anything else. At the same time, throwing any show can be a huge ball of stress, especially when it’s my birthday and I’m trying to find some rapper out in the back who’s smoking and doing rapper stuff, trying to make sure they go onstage. I’m taking more responsibilities upon myself. Not necessarily the thing that I want to be doing on my birthday, but when all is said and done at the end of the night and I get to have 800 people that I love saying “Happy Birthday” to me, it’s just the best feeling in the world and completely worth it.