You could hardly call this a homecoming. An incursion, perhaps. A prodigal return, but without all the groveling.
Moodie Black left the Twin Cities in 2013 after a half-decade gutting out sludgy, obliterating noise rap. It wasn't a ceremonious end — Moodie auteur K. and his girlfriend/collaborator Jamee Varda sprang for Los Angeles after becoming frustrated with the lack of recognition and acceptance from the local scene. It was a necessary catalyst to K.'s music career, but it was still a crushingly difficult decision for him to make.
"We came to Minneapolis in 2008 because we thought that we were making progressive, independent music, and in Minneapolis, we'd be able to live off it," K. says. "And it didn't really work out that way. Not initially."
On Friday night, Moodie Black will play their homecoming show at Icehouse in Minneapolis, a city that K. once fantasized about living and working in before moving here and losing his illusion. It's the metropolis where he saw Hecatomb, Fill in the Breaks, and Rhymesayers building an inclusive, diverse hip-hop utopia that he tried — and ultimately failed — to join.
Moodie Black make confrontational music. Even in the post-Death Grips world of 2016, their music is caustic, demure, and sometimes abrasive — something that local audiences weren't ready for a decade ago. The pains of being a pioneer wore on K., and he let the frustration show on the mic.
"I never meshed well with the independent rap stuff, I was never on the same page as the audience," he says. "At that time, we'd play shows, and we'd clear rooms. I take a lot of responsibility for that, too. I just had a chip on my shoulder. I was saying all this crazy stuff on the microphone about the scene, what it supports and what it doesn't."
But Minnesota is home for Varda, K.'s girlfriend of a decade, and that, along with a confluence of other personal reasons, has brought Moodie Black back to the Twin Cities. But artistically, the avant-garde hip-hop collective isn't entirely the same as the one that left in 2013.
K. is still as outspoken as ever, but his lyrics have become more personal. He's been plumbing the complexities of the human experience, indulging in wayward tangents on identity. A big part of the shift has been K.'s podcast, Moodhouse, which invites counterculture luminaries to speak candidly about marginalized ideas.
"I don't deal with politics. I'm concerned with the human aspect, the before politics," K. says. "I just wanted to purge everything and be completely open about everything. I always talk about authenticity in our music, and I can't say that if I'm not gonna be about it. So, we've started having conversations about personal issues, and in doing that, it's changed the perception of Moodie Black."
K.'s trans-sexual identity has also become more of a tenet of the music. Though K. has been rapping about his queerness since at least 2014's Nausea — "Linen Feathers" from that album directly relays K.'s discovery of his trans-sexuality at the age of three — he's now at a point where he sees his position as a, in his words, "non-stereotypical trans person" to educate people on the fullness and diversity of the trans community.
"I've known I was trans since I was three or four years old, it's not new to me, but it's new that I'm introducing it to the music," he says, noting that male/female norms often pressure trans people into trying to pass for either gender. "There's not a lot of people I see on a daily basis like myself. I'm trying to educate on the fact that you can be trans-identified on any point of the spectrum. You don't have to pass. You can just be you."
K. hopes that more outwardly identifying and advocating with the LGBT community will help bring people to Moodie Black, though he acknowledges the perils of tokenism. He doesn't want Moodie Black to be labeled as "that trans rap group," and he's always existed in conflict with what's popularly branded as queer, anyway. So he's resolved to use his status on the outskirts of music, gender, and culture to help push all those things to wider definitions.
"I've always lived outside of the masculine-dominant culture," he says. "I've always walked between worlds, and the gay and the trans community didn't really know what to do with me. And on top of that, we make really aggressive music."
Moodie Black have spent a decade being on the cusp of a lot of things. They were on the cusp of the Minneapolis/St. Paul indie label boom. They were on the cusp of the noise-rap bubble, their position as trailblazers being usurped by Death Grips. And now, with the support of Deathbomb Arc as their PR agency, they're on the cusp of releasing what will be their biggest album ever — fall's forthcoming Lucas Acid.
Soon after Lucas Acid debuts on Fake Four, Moodie Black will tour internationally. They'll do interviews with music blogs and book bigger venues. Maybe they'll score a festival gig. Whatever it is, it'll be overdue success. And it somehow won't be quite enough.
Though K. says that Friday's homecoming show at Icehouse is the last gig they have planned for the Twin Cities, being back here has reawakened a dormant drive to finally and definitively win Minneapolis music fans over.
"I have this weird, twisted need to be accepted in Minneapolis," K. says. "Maybe it's shallow, but I worked so hard here for so long. I don't feel ownership over the scene at all, but I just want to be recognized for the contribution I made."
When: 10:30 p.m., Friday, June 3
Tickets: $8 advance, $10 at the door; more info here