Off-10 Challenges Intolerance Through Hip-Hop and Spoken Word In Jubilee

Unfuh Qwittable and G.P.jacob

Unfuh Qwittable and G.P.jacob

Off the heels of an EP release of the same name, this Friday the Northeast group Off-10 present their new show Jubilee at Intermedia Arts, combining their backgrounds as rappers and spoken word poets to create a theater performance focused on dissecting the machinations of intolerance and supporting a multi-racial uprising. 

Former Audio Perm members and brothers G.P.jacob and Unfuh Qwittable join live musicians for an immersive showcase of political art with a wide range of formats, aimed at creating a dialogue about race and oppression in America. Gimme Noise sat with the duo to discuss their work and the combination of their political and creative backgrounds.

What is Off-10 exactly?

G.P.jacob: Off 10 Publications is just our creative team; so our writing, our lyrics, our performance. The 10 symbolizes the 10 line in Northeast Minneapolis, it runs from downtown Minneapolis up Central to Northtown. It's a way to pay homage to that community. It's like the multi-racial working class, that was how we were raised and the ethic that we want to express was that working class ethic of getting at it every day. Having that hustle, people that have to do that just to stay alive.

Unfuh Qwittable: We've had a lot of different formations as a group for the last couple years, but Off 10 is what we're performing under.

G.P.jacob: We put out a video that's more about speaking on our principles and politics and wanting to do popular education. Rather than build an image around a moniker as an MC, it's about a movement. I think it's flexible. It's interesting to do different types of writing and different types of media production.

Unfuh Qwittable: Even facilitation and workshops, you can get into that field too under that brand.

Tell me a bit about your personal backgrounds with art and political activism, and how they've converged for Jubilee.

G.P.jacob: I kind of started writing and performing at the same time I was becoming politicized in a sense -- it was early college, late high school. I'm a first generation college student, so when I first went to school, all of a sudden I was surrounded by a different class of people and new ways of thinking. I realized that I'm seeing the people I came up with working every day just to keep a roof over their head, or really just don't have the same access to information that these folks have access to. So, I started asking questions about, 'Why is that?' 

It was always hip-hop that was the music that I grew up with, but I never gave myself permission to write until I got out of high school, so when I was starting to perform and starting to write I was coming across different literature... Trying to get at the political element of it. For me, it was a [way to] express myself and make music. We didn't grow up in an environment with healthy expression, it was violence that would come out.

Unfuh Qwittable: A big inspiration for me to write in the first place, the main things that inspired me to be creative in the first place, was wanting to tell my story and wanting to express my thoughts on society. Because ever since I was really young, I felt in tune to the injustices that was happening around me. That's where I get my urge to write from and express myself.

G.P.jacob: Jubilee's kind of going back to that base issues. Growing up in Northeast Minneapolis, it was super, super racially polarized. Northeast Minneapolis was historically super racist. We grew up around poverty, around addiction, around alcoholism, around anger and rage, and a lot of times it was expressed as racism. 

But also in the 90's, when we were growing up, it was a multi-racial environment too, so we always grew up in relationship with black folks, with Mexican folks, it was kind of like you had to be political from the jump. So when I got to school I started to learn about the legacy of the social movement that existed in our people, working class people, the labor movement.



What's the format of the show?

G.P.jacob: We're gonna be working with a drummer, a guitar player, and also a DJ, and it's gonna be me, Spencer and our other brother Ryan. It's going to start with Ryan's performance -- he's going to read some of the poetry and some of the essays that I was writing at the time that I was writing these songs also to express the whole politics of the show.

Brandon Allday's going to be DJing in the gallery beforehand and there's going to be some poets from the Be Heard slam series. Unfuh was a part of the Quest For The Voice slam team when he was younger that goes to a national competition every year, they need to raise money for their trip so they're going to be performing in the gallery.

Unfuh Qwittable: We're not shying away from the fact that it's very political. What we're bringing up is really asking agitating questions and calling into question racism, especially in our community, and questioning of who owns your education. Trying to spread political education on the topic and to agitate people to question their debt.

What drew you to dissecting whiteness itself as one of the prevailing themes of Jubilee?

G.P.jacob: I feel like a big part of what motivated the show, and part of why I feel like it's urgent to say this and release this music, is trying to provide an alternative to the Southern Strategy. I was never raised to know what that was. The Republican Party literally set out a plan to aim cultural messages at the communities like the one we grew up in -- the working class people, so-called white folks, European-Americans -- to literally shape our perspectives to say that the reason we were living through poverty, the reason why a lot of us were in debt, it was the immigrants fault, or it was the black folks fault.

Conservatives would stoke this [racial divide], and we lived through the violence of that scene. So trying to get out here and provide an alternative, like, no, black people don't deserve to be shot in the street, no it's not the immigrants' fault, your life can be more than just military service or working at the prison.

What for you is the strength of this particular art form to convey the ideas you're trying to get across?

Unfuh Qwittable: After this Jubilee cycle, Jake has another EP coming out that is a little less focused politically, more just showcasing the fact that we're MCs too. We're just rapping and practicing the culture. But I think it was appropriate to lead with this Jubilee because of the urgency, and to let you know Off-10 is on some other shit.

G.P.jacob: I know we're the land of white rappers or whatever... It's just to offer a different perspective. It's to speak about race upfront rather than run from it. Especially with the legacy of minstrelsy in this country. In times that are so racially polarized, we come from these different environments and we want to speak on these upfront.

G.P.jacob: That's the beautiful thing about hip-hop too, is like Zulu Nation, I think about the ethic of solidarity. I feel like that's what growing up in Northeast Minneapolis created in us. We came from an environment that was shameful, the amount of racism and ignorance that was perpetuated, but through that we learned, and I think that the younger generation stands on a real multi-racial ideology of community and solidarity. People come from different places, so it's a different process for people, but in every aspect I feel like a cultural revolution is really necessary.

What we need is truth-telling, and it's a beautiful form for truth-telling. To catch people's ears and move people's minds. That's exactly the strength of theater and poetry and music. I think about another tradition I draw from, the militant folk tradition, the labor tradition. I think about Woody Guthrie, and the power of stories. When you got the news and the mass media trying to sew all this confusion, here's some simple stories of shared experience where you can see each other across racial lines and build.

Catch Off-10 perform Jubilee at Intermedia Arts on Friday, April 10th; all ages, $5, 7pm.

The 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
The Best New Minnesota Musicians of 2014
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan