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Straight from St. Paul: Twin Cities' rappers set stage for Midwest hip-hop scene

In the early 1980s, the Minneapolis/St. Paul club scene was split between the danceable funk of Prince and his family and the post punk of the Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum. As the '90s rolled in, the sound was dominated by Amphetamine ...

In the early 1980s, the Minneapolis/St. Paul club scene was split between the danceable funk of Prince and his family and the post punk of the Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum. As the '90s rolled in, the sound was dominated by Amphetamine Reptile's noisy roster and Trip Shakespeare's college pop rock.

With the dawn of a new millennium, a new sound is emerging from the Twin Cities. Fresh acts like Heiruspecs and Atmosphere are proving that hip-hop can survive and thrive in a Minnesota winter. Both outfits have new records on the shelves and both are proving there's more to Minnesota music than white-bread rock.

Heiruspecs first emerged as a compatriot of funky folksinger Mason Jennings, but established itself as one of the best live rap groups, sharing the title with nationwide notables The Roots.

The Minneapolis quintet fired first with the independently released "Small Steps" in 2002, but with last fall's "A Tiger Dancing" on Razor & Tie, the quintet served national notice of its intentions to take the mic.

The group splits time with club spinner DJ Rossco Wednesday night at the House of Rock's Club 9.

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While lyricist and head rapper Felix may be the front man, the group's strength is the in-your-face rhythm section of drummer Peter Leggett and bassist Twinkie Jiggles - a name that could only come from a Minnesota hip-hop-group or possibly an adult entertainment convention. The duo create a one-two punch that deliver hits while Felix and fellow mic master Muad'Dib spit out rapid fire lines.

Heiruspecs may deliver different beats than most Midwestern bands, but the group is more Minnesota nice than gangsta leaning as there's more praise and props for teachers and mentors than player hating.

"5ves" features Muad'Dib waking up to a lazy Sunday morning and taking stock of his neighborhood and his life. That easy-going vibe carries through the disc to "It Takes." That track and the next "Heartsprings" show off dVRG's influential keys and summon '70s soul and funk.

The group's organic instrumentation has been tapped to back fellow Minneapolis rapping pair Atmosphere at occasional live shows. The duo, mic man Slug and DJ Ant recently re-released 22 rare tracks recorded in the late '90s as "Headshots: SE7EN."

The duo's approach to music differs from the 'Specs as Slug's rapid fire rhymes benefit from Ant's programmed beats. On tracks like the bouncy "Choking on the Wishbone," his snotty vocal delivery would be comparable to Eminem's if the track didn't predate the conversion of Marshall Mathers.

Just like Eminem proved rap was color blind, Heiruspecs and Atmosphere show that hip-hop doesn't have a permanent address on either coast.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

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CD Reviews

"A Tiger Dancing"

Heiruspecs

Razor & Tie

3

Out of four stars

"Headshots: Se7en"

Atmosphere

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Rhymesayers Entertainment

3.5 Out of four stars

If you go

What: Heiruspecs

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: House of Rock, Playmakers, Fargo

Info: There is a $5 cover for this 18 and older show. (701) 232-6767.

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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