Midway Felix flies solo

After a 15-year run with Heiruspecs, rapper Midway Felix is on the precipice of something new: a solo career. Sitting in a dark corner of an uptown bar, the local legend smiles disarmingly as he explains the next chapter in a lengthy narrative with one of the Twin Cities' most influential hip-hop groups.

"This year, with Heiruspecs not moving as quickly as we have in the past, I'm just kind of like, 'All right, I've gotta pick up the pace myself,'" he says. "So this summer, I started working in earnest on an album, and that's probably three-quarters of the way done right now."

Titled Something Different and produced almost entirely by Big Jess from Unknown Prophets, the album drops this summer. It precedes another Heiruspecs record, due this fall. Fans won't have to wait months for a taste of new material, though: Felix's debut EP, The Slow Cold, is out now.

"I realized that as a solo artist, I don't really have my foot in a lot of doors, so I wanted to put something out right now in the winter," he says. He leans in when he speaks, his hands playing across the table.

The EP, which Felix says is inspired by the first hint of Minnesota winter in the previous months, is a seven-track collection, with guest appearances from the Lioness, Ashley Gold, and Heiruspecs' Josh Peterson. It's a crisp, tight offering — paced-out beats that are quietly energetic, as lethal as black ice.

"I don't feel like I'm repeating myself, which is nice," offers Felix in a lilting cadence with characteristic humility — the kind of thing that a decade and a half of hard touring and missed opportunities brings. More so than our frigid winters, that's the wisdom that The Slow Cold captures: how to take an honest look back in order to move forward. It's a sentiment that's certainly not exclusive to Felix, but it's hard to imagine anyone encapsulating the emotion better than he does in the lyrics to "Away From Here," the first song released from the EP.

"Miss the road a lot — miss the ocean at the coasts/Miss the hunger in the middle — miss the hours the most/Not mad at where I am or how I got here at all/They just say the ball bounces — got my eye on it all."

That youthful hunger, Felix says, is what still inspires him to this day.

"In some respects, I'm thinking about my band, because we had a lot of opportunities — and, I mean, we seized on a lot of opportunities, but there are some that we didn't...and about the younger generation of rappers. You know, I'm in my 30s," he says with a good-natured laugh. "I'm not trying to hide my age. It's inspiring to see these cats that are in their late teens and 20s have that hunger that I once had.... That's a lot of what has been inspiring me."

When Felix talks about local hip hop, his tone takes a different edge. His emphasis is on a segment of the community that doesn't get played.

"There's a huge part of the Twin Cities rap scene that is unheard. There's an 'underground' element that is still very urban, still way more black, still way more boys-in-the-streets type rap, and that does not have a voice in the Twin Cities as far as major exposure," he says, words tumbling out. "That's where I see the next wave coming from, a little more from the streets.... I think that they may have to make that noise nationally first, and then bring it home."

For now, the talented MC is focused on the future, and it looks as bright as it sounds on the closing verse of "Away From Here": "The new day is staring you down — glaring at you right now/It has eyes like a fire so bright you can't look/Your story never finished — start another chapter/Grab the new you and write a really good book."

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