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MN Hip-Hop History Enters the Archives

Plus new Niiice. news, Unknown Prophets return, and Ondara dares in this week's local music roundup.

Stage One

Great Days, Great Hip Hop

You can’t undersell DJ Stage One’s work as a chronicler and archivist of Minnesota hip hop. In addition to his local rap history book, The Bridge is Over  he’s also held three “A Great Day in Hip Hop” photo shoots over the years, in 2010, 2015, and 2021. Each photo gathered the hip-hop community for a lively group shot. The series riffs off the famed 1998 cover photo by the same name that St. Paul’s Gordon Parks shot for XXL magazine in 1998 in Harlem, gathering New York hip-hop greats. And that cover shoot was a homage to Art Kane’s photograph “A Great Day in Harlem,” which captured the jazz community of the era in 1958. So Stage One is certainly working within a tradition here.

All very interesting, but what’s the news peg here? Well, Stage One’s photos are being inducted into the Minnesota Historical Society There will be a ceremony at the Minnesota History Center today this afternoon from 1-3 p.m. There will be a talk and a slideshow; catch the rest of the details here.  

Niiice. Members Leave Unhappy

Two members of Niiice. have publicly announced that they’re leaving the formerly (quasi-?) local band, and on bad terms. In a joint statement, drummer Sage Livergood and bassist Abe Anderson expressed complaints with fellow Niiice. member Roddie Gadeberg that were somewhat vague but clearly distraught. “We have both been unfairly treated in this band as members and as friends,” the tweet reads. “We also have been very upset and uncomfortable with how Roddie has treated those close to them.” Earlier this year, Gadeberg announced that he and guitarist Zack Cummings were moving to Philadelphia, but that Niiice. would continue as a long-distance band. No word yet on Gadeberg’s response to their former bandmates, or on the future of Niiice.

Unknown Prophets Known Again

As Minneapolis rap was starting to break nationwide at the turn of the century, the Northeast crew Unknown Prophets was right in the pack with the best of them. The production/rapping duo of Big Jess & MaD SoN (aka Bump Opera) dropped a true classic, 2000’s self-released World Premier. Now, 11 years since their last release, the Unknown Prophets are back with a new single and video, “Sunrise,” shot by Dylan Overhouse and co-directed by Bump Opera. (The video drops at 8 p.m.) check out this This is the first release from an album in the works. Welcome back, guys. Can’t wait to hear more.

Ondara Leaps from Folk to Flash 

Kenyan-born J.S. Ondara, who relocated to Minnesota because it was the birthplace of his idol, Bob Dylan, had a good thing going in the folk singer-songwriter arena. His 2019 debut, Tales of America, not only established him locally, but also snagged him a Grammy nomination. So it’s surprising but also exciting to see Ondara leap into a new, very much not acoustic phase with his new album, Spanish Visitor No. 3, due out next Friday. He’ll preview the videos for the new album and discuss his transformation at Icehouse this Sunday. He’s doing an album release show in New York next Wednesday, which we’ll pretend not to hold against him, before disembarking on a European tour. For a glimpse of what Ondara’s up to now, here’s a video for “An Alien in Minneapolis,” from the upcoming album.