Update: MPR/tpt hip-hop event postponed indefinitely

L-R: Kevin Beacham, Desdamona, and Toki Wright

L-R: Kevin Beacham, Desdamona, and Toki Wright

A coalition of members of the Minnesota hip-hop community have spoken out against a proposed event intended to be a celebration of the local scene. On Monday, an open letter to Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television was distributed requesting that the May 10 event be postponed.

Update (4/2/14): 89.3 the Current has responded to the letter, and the event has been postponed indefinitely while "continuing a dialogue between the institution, the organizers, and the community."

See also:

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The names at the bottom of the hip-hop community's open letter include co-host of the Current's hip-hop program H2, Kevin Beacham, who is expected to be an organizer of the event. Several names of members of a panel to discuss the event held last week at Intermedia Arts -- Slug, Guante, Desdamona, and Toki Wright -- also are on the letter. Their stated goal is "an intentional, sustainable, mutually beneficial partnership and collaboration."

The rest of the names on the document include BDotCroc, Keno Evol, Manuel Levins Holden, Tish Jones, Tou Saiko Lee, I Self Devine (Chaka Mkali), Mastermind, Brother Ali, and D'Allen White.


According to a detailed Local Current blog describing the planning process and mission of the event released last week after the meeting:

The goals for the May 10 event at the Fitz have not changed significantly since the planning began, but we recognized that we could do a much better job stating those goals publicly. Here are the key things we hope to provide with this event:
  • A celebration and sampling of some of the great things that the Minnesota hip-hop scene has to offer, presented in a way that honors and represents the community;

    • A performance-based event with some discussion of what drives and inspires artists, and what makes Minnesota unique; and
  • A boost in exposure for talented artists who may not be on the radar of the existing tpt, Current, and Fitzgerald Theater audiences.


The upcoming event at the Fitz is not a one-off occurrence for tpt and MPR; rather, we hope that it will be just one of the many pieces of dialogue that will take place this spring and summer.

The open letter, which circulated on Tuesday, notes that the public radio and TV institutions "should be applauded" for their willingness to reach out, but given the scope of the event, "more voices at the table, more elements of our community represented, and a more intentional, transparent planning process" are requested.

Gimme Noise contacted several members of last week's panel regarding the letter, but did not receive any replies.

"We want to continue this conversation and have a deeper dialogue with TPT and the event production team before any decisions are made," MPR said in a statement.

Here is the letter:

Update (4/2/14): The lineup for the event was expected to be announced on 89.3 the Current on Tuesday, April 1. But instead, the Current's Andrea Swensson -- one of the event's co-organizers -- posted an open response to the hip-hop community's letter.

"This is an opportunity and a positive step forward," she says. "If we're going to put on a show of this scale and make it something that the community can be proud of, then we need the time and the breathing room to do it right."

Here's the response, signed by Swensson, the Current program director Jim McGuinn, and MPR president/CEO Jon McTaggert:

Update (4/7/14): Here is a statement from TPT and MN Original:

We understand and are fully supportive of the decision by our friends and colleagues at MPR to postpone this production. Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) and MN Original look forward to continuing our good work with the hip hop community and Minnesota's entire artistic community. 

Dianne Steinbach


David Roth

The entire MN Original staff

Where the process goes from here is uncertain. In Swensson's words: "I don't know exactly what the next steps will be, or what this event (or events?) will look like after working more closely with the community. But I do know that I am eager, open, and curious to see what we can build when we all work together."

This is an opportunity for growth, compromise, and understanding for both sides. Intersecting the worlds of public radio and television stations with a raw and boundless Minnesota hip-hop landscape was never going to be easy, but it feels like both parties are on the right path.


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