Soundset Series: Up-and-comers MaLLy, Rocky Diamonds, and Duenday
Soundset, the hip-hop festival thrown by Rhymesayers and populated by some of the biggest names in independent rap, is just around the corner, and Gimme Noise will be running a series of Thursday blog entries up until the big day on May 29th. The festival is a good mix of big names and newer artists, giving local artists the opportunity to play alongside legends.
Here's a rundown of three of the up-and-coming rap acts playing the Fifth Element stage.
MaLLy has been making some serious noise around town lately: Co-signs from local institutions like Slug (who shouted out MaLLy on a guest appearance on the Current), Sims (who invited him onstage at his sold-out Triple Rock show with Astronautalis), and the Get Cryphy DJs (the crew did a show with MaLLy at SXSW), high-profile shows such as the upcoming spot with Guilty Simpson at 7th St. Entry, and write-ups in the Star Tribune and City Pages, to name a few of his recent activities.
"I always feel like I could be that next guy to really move things forward," says MaLLy. "I want [my music] to be something that Minneapolis can be proud of." After linking with soulful producer the Sundance Kid, the two have steadily released a series of free downloads collectively known as "Free on the 15th," and his rise since has accelerated considerably since his previous three albums, '07's The Letter, '08's The Moment, and 09's The Passion. MaLLy is building towards an album of primarily new material later this year, produced entirely by the Sundance Kid, entitled The Last Great.
The hungry rapper's approach to the standard hip-hop attitude is to live up to the arrogance (which he's deemed "HEIRogance" after his single "Heir Time") in his art but remain a real person on the day to day. "It got me thinking about Muhammed Ali, how he was always [talking shit], but at the same time, he understood that he was human and that he wasn't necessarily completely perfect," he says. "You're treated at a certain level, but you're still a human at the end of the day."
Getting the slot at Soundset seems to be just one stop on MaLLy's continuing path to success, and he sounded excited but ready to play among some of hip-hop's finest. "During Soundset and afterwards, I wanna continue to ride a wave. I wanna use it as a catalyst."
North Minneapolis's Rocky Diamonds brings a sound that is outside what some might expect from a Rhymesayers-built festival, but part of Soundset's M.O. from the beginning has been to bring a variety of rap to one place. The tatted-up rapper rocks the punchline-plus-swagger formula in a way that sounds fresh, and he makes sure to tell audiences to stop comparing him to the rest of the flock. He is more likely to rap about having sex with your girl and swagging the fuck out than some of the others on the lineup, but he sits squarely with other Minnesota acts in terms of work ethic and performance energy. Plus, there's the hint of that distinct Midwestern down-to-earth mentality behind the shine.
"I'm not an arrogant person; I'm super humble," Rocky told me in an interview "I feel like a lot of Minnesota artists automatically feel a certain way about me before they ever meet me. When we do finally talk and just chop it up, they're like, 'Oh, you're actually cool.'"
The factor that links all the disparate rappers and styles represented at Soundset is their independent hustle, and Rocky Diamonds is no exception, with an upcoming free mixtape "The Diamond Life" hosted by Don Cannon and Mr. Peter Parker in the works, a potential summer touring schedule, as well as several well-produced music videos (most of which have broken 10K+ views on Youtube) and countless promotional photos spilling from his Tumblr account. An upcoming stint at the Cabooze on April 30 is a good place to get a glimpse of what Rocky Diamonds will bring to the table at Soundset.
Matt Carter (Initial MC) and Matt Thornton (In2wishin) make up rap duo Duenday, a play on the word "Duende" which the two refer to as "soulful expression through music." Tracks like "Body and Soul Liberation," a chilled-out song with distinctly positive vibes, bely the reasoning behind the name, but they find just as much reason to express themselves about keggers and being great at rapping. Carter sums it up with the term "happy underground."
Fans of Kanser will find a lot to love here (Big Zach is an active supporter of the group), and the young dudes are eager to prove themselves to the Minneapolis scene. At Soundset, the Matts will be performing with DJ Gabe Garcia ("for that classic hip-hop feel"), but they've also played their share of shows with live band the Electric Children.
As with the other up-and-comers, Duenday are excited to be included and appreciate the look from the established Minneapolis heavy-hitters. "It's great that some of the people and labels within Minneapolis hip-hop care for their own," says Thornton.
Duenday's self-titled album, produced by In2wishin, dropped in November on No Static Records, and a new three-song project with beats from California producer Art Vandalay ("I didn't know what [his name] meant, to be honest, but Seinfeld fans love it," says Carter) comes out May 1 as a free download. Soundset looks to be a big opportunity, and the pair have plans to link up with artists and fans in addition to putting on a show.
"I have a billion things to say to everybody there," says Thornton.
SOUNDSET takes place Sunday, May 29, in Canterbury Park. More info and full lineup at SoundsetFestival.com.
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