Micranots rise again

I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem are back in business

I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem are back in business

After nine years apart, Twin Cities hip-hop legends the Micranots have officially reunited to celebrate the digital release of their seminal Obelisk Movements. Out on Rhymesayers Entertainment, I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem's 2000 album just hit the web this week, and these vets of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene have rekindled their live creative partnership as well. "I actually backed I Self for a couple shows and had a good feeling about it, so it felt like the right time to start doing things again," Akiem says. At Saturday's show at the 7th St. Entry, the Micranots will perform the album in its entirety.

Ahead of the performance, City Pages spoke to I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem about their near-decade separation and how Obelisk Movements came to be.

City Pages: Before you guys signed to Sub Verse, the label that originally released Obelisk Movements, you were signed to 3-2-1 Records. What was that experience like?

I Self Devine: Things just dissolved. One day I woke up and nobody answered the phones. [Label Owner] Bigg Jus got on the phone with everyone from 3-2-1 who he wanted to transition [to Sub Verse]. I remember the first show we did in New York was us taking a Greyhound bus; we met with [Sub Verse] and then we flew back home. Imagine being in the industry [with] a label where the groups were established [while] coming into a label that had floor plans and ideas of what it wanted to be. Everything was gauged off of what we needed. It was good to get those resources, distribution arms, and connections.

CP: Looking back, are you happy with how Sub Verse handled the release of your record?

DJ Kool Akiem: Nope. I'll put it like this: The label was just getting started and there were a lot of difficulties, and a lot of marketing/promotion decisions we didn't agree with. Before we could do another album, it folded anyway.

ISD: The amount of money they wanted to give us for the next album was enough for an EP, so we couldn't get beyond that.

DKA: We felt the marketing should be spent in more of a guerrilla-marketing type fashion, and they tried making moves that were bigger than we were.

ISD: We had an underground aesthetic and they wanted to impress us. One time during CMJ in '98 or '99, we were put up in the Waldorf. I remember looking at the bill on the TV and seeing how much it was a night. I thought it was cool, but I could think of better ways to spend $1,000 than a night in a hotel.

CP: What was the story behind the Obelisk Movements cover art?

ISD: It was a collaboration between Kool Ak and I. We always believed we weren't necessarily just brought here on Earth, so it was to make some connections in the vein of Sun Ra. It was to prominently show some of the things we had been studying in terms of Kemetic studies. Kemet is the original term of Egypt. A lot of times, colonizers come along and rename things. So, again, the obelisk was a perfect example to use in relation to show where the music was at that time in terms of appropriation.

CP: Is there anything about the album you would change today?

DKA: Not a lot, but I think there's some things we would have changed about it back then. On that album, we had to work around [the label's] timeframe. We also had to look out for samples a little bit more. We just made choices differently. Now, it is exactly what it is and I wouldn't change it at all.

ISD: For me, I would have changed two things. I think when I was conveying to Akiem the BPMs I wanted the music to be in, I wasn't too good at counting BPMs and the music was faster than I would have liked. Lyrically, not necessarily content-wise but in terms of what I was able to do with my vocals, I feel Return of the Travellahs was some of my best vocal work. I think when you think about vocals, you think about a paintbrush, you have a medium, a fine one for details and a broad one for covering lots of space. I feel, on that album, I was using one brush the whole time. I think the best I had to offer vocally, meaning the different things I could do with the tonality of my voice, was on "Exodus."