When the Midwest ruled the hip hop world

There was a brief moment in time when the Midwest was the hip hop capital of the world.
Minneapolis was probably the biggest town for these underground masterminds to record and perform live. First Ave. was the go-to place for the best hip hop shows at the time.
The underground from the east coast and the west coast seemed to merge in the area, creating some of the best music I can recall at the time.
Atmosphere, Sage Francis, Eyedea and Abilities, Buck 65, Sole, Dose One and Jel all came to this region and turned the indie world on its ear. They worked alone and in many collaborative projects.
The first one of these acts that caught my ear was Deep Puddle Dynamics (Sole, Dose One, Alias, Slug and Jel), who recorded one of my all-time favorite albums, “A Taste of Rain…Why Kneel?” The title is from a Kerouac novel, the recording was low-fi and the lyrics were on the more surreal side of the Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head.”
Later on, I would see Sage Francis perform at a dive bar in St. Cloud, something he could never really do these days with his ever-growing fan base. That was one of the coolest shows I’ve seen. He even had a relatively unknown opening act called Doomtree, which is now one of the most popular acts in Minneapolis these days.
But like all good things, time was not on their side. Soon these acts blew up, moved back to the coasts and, in my opinion, become somewhat stagnant.
But from 1999-2006, the Midwest truly was the hip hop capital of the world. Though great music still comes out (Doomtree for instance), the scene truly has faded away to that footnote in the history of music. But it is not forgotten.

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About Joe Froemming

I'm a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. Previously, I worked for the Worthington Daily Globe as a copy editor and before that, I had a brief stint as the Fine Arts Columnist for the St. Cloud Times. I was born and raised in St. Cloud, a graduate of St. Cloud State University and worked in record stores for 10 years before wandering into the world of journalism. I live in Bemidji with my wife Gina and our cat, Mac. All the papers and towns mentioned above are located in Minnesota.
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