EP of the Week – Altered States by Minnesota

https://i1.wp.com/i1.sndcdn.com/artworks-000034770472-un1aae-original.jpgTo The Floor starts out with heavy synth work giving an already gangsta-sounding sample an even harder, west-coast edge. 45 seconds in, this triumphant, sunny bass hits, adding to the modded vocals an even more interesting spin. The track is everything an Usher track aspires to be, especially when the really danceable beat ninety seconds in hit and sticks around for just long enough for you to find a deep groove. To The Floor seems to be an instant mixable hit for a number of different genres/set styles. It’s a strong leading track for the EP and definitely allows Minnesota to introduce himself and his signature sound.

Yoga Pants starts off with another LA-infused beat to bang in your car while (ostensibly) ridin’ dirty (the lack of g is important for some reason). The production value is impressive, and connects vaguely of EdiT. Not for any bad reason, but there’s a distinct nerdcore vibe that Minnesota brings to some of his work that makes me wonder if he’d ever been to an MC Frontalot, Y2Kracker or Glitch Mob show. And to emphasize, I like those artists, and have paid to see them all. I like what I hear, and this track combines a calm understanding of West Coast Hip Hop sounds and some clever usage of bass & kick drum. The vocal is used only when needed, and the final rhythms/chords after 3:30 are massive and triumphant, besides being most welcome.

Tokyo is my second favorite track on the EP. The continuing tradition of melding slick vocal samples and some chilled out bassy beats takes on an almost chiptuney vibe on this offering. There’s a sparkle to the tune that reminds me very strongly of Mega Man music, which, again, is nothing but the highest compliment. The addition of excellent bass & vocal samples of Snoop Dogg to this ethereal chippy track is something I didn’t know I wanted out of the Mega Man games I played for the NES more than a decade ago. Four minutes in, the West Coast bass comes back in and gives the chiptuney sparkle some muscle to really give the sound a little punch before it fades out.

Many more people think they can rhyme over a bassline than actually can these days. Zion I can. Float allows the very hip hop friendly beats that Minnesota drops to feature some excellent vocal work by his partner on their recently completed Shadow Boxing tour (that I reported on a while back). This very well made match takes the camera off of the beats and lets Minnesota’s work compliment the good flow & lyrical choices that Zion I makes, which, is hard to come by these days, especially if you’re getting your rap from the radio or some chucklehead rhyming over a drum & bass DJ.\

I’m not really sure how else to emphasize how much I like Indian Summer. Any single usage of anything remotely connected to Chrono Trigger (the SNES RPG masterpiece for those of us that don’t have “Video Game Nerd” stamped on their foreheads), whether it’s a sample, a game mechanic, the characters, or  the music make something a thousand times better in my mind. The soundtrack to this game was absolutely breathtaking, and the track that was chosen is the theme of the tragic sorceress you meet super late in the game in the Kingdom of Magic (OMG SPOILERS!), Schala. This is my favorite track off the EP, but let’s be real, this would’ve been my favorite track if the four previous tracks drove me to work in the morning. The production value on the sounds, bass, kick drums and ambient sounds is fantastic, and IT JUST KEEPS HAVING CHRONO TRIGGER IN IT. I’d say more about it, but then you’d be reading this and not pressing the button the soundcloud widget below this paragraph. Which you should do. Right now.

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Minnesota Bumps Bass at Brooklyn Bowl

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My social media feeds exploded with joy at the return of the L train Thursday afternoon. This lifeline to Brooklyn, which had been out of commission since Sandy sucker-punched Gotham, started running limited service in time for the Thursday night party cycle. When the trains aren’t running, people are just not going to party. At all. And there’s not a damn thing a promoter in the city can do about it. The return also allowed me to check out a DJ I’d been watching for about a year now, who was set to drop absurd beats at Brooklyn Bowl.

Brooklyn Bowl has carved out a nice little niche off of Bedford Avenue over the last several years. The combination bowling alley, bar, restaurant and open assembly stage has a lovely Thursday night party called Bowl Train curated by DJ ?uestlove (of The Roots), brings in consistently quality talent from out of town, and is also the world’s first LEED certified bowling alley. Because yes, in Brooklyn, even the bowling alleys are environmentally friendly. That means 100% wind power, a stage floor made of recycled goods, HVAC efficiency controls and locally sourced/brewed beers. The last point is super important. The best way to deflate the gigantic “eat locally” argument is when it is being delivered by someone who is drinking beer from Germany or whiskey from Scotland. “Drink Locally” is far more important than we give it credit, a thought I pondered as I picked up my glass of Brooklyn Weisse. The service was prompt and the dance floor was slowly coalescing. The crowd of flannel rockers, stoners, IDM geeks, ravers and the people that (somehow, you just knew, you didn’t know why but you did) only listened to dubstep all day, every day. Minnesota had taken the stage, and the bass was building.

The sound that Minnesota creates is one that requires the DJ to walk a very fine line. Few performers have really gotten this right in the past. EdiT, MC Front-a lot, MC Chris and YTCracker are a few of the handful of artists who are able to use hip hop lyrics, samples, beats, styles and atmosphere without coming off cheesy or as the sad little stereotype Fred Durst was. The ability to flow through the different sounds and keep the beat feeling vaguely menacing, while enticing at the same time is difficult to develop because if you fuck up, you look kind of like the biggest nerd ever. The thick rim glasses & t-shirt are a stark reminder that you’re listening to West Coast beats being performed by someone who’s name isn’t 50 Cent, or Tupac Shakur. It’s a bit like having your suspension of disbelief broken when you’re watching a movie. Interestingly, DJ Minnesota did not have any of these moments, something that made me so very happy, especially considering the gangsta-ness of his beats.

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