Just 6 hours from the Canadian border, in the cold northern US city of Minneapolis, lies a tight-knit group of Junglists who have been holding down the DNB scene up there since the late 90’s. Leading the pack is MIA vocalist Kaspa MC, who is coming off a recent tour with his production partner Virgo. Not long ago the pair stopped off in Chicago at SOS Studios to record a video for their new tune, “Run This”, a collaboration with General Malice and Mr. Frosty.
We recently sat down with Kaspa MC to talk about the new video, northern midwest DNB culture and the progression of MC’s in United States.
What’s your name, and where are you from?
I go by Kaspa MC and I’m a Drum & Bass MC based out of Minneapolis Minnesota.
And what got you started in the DnB scene in MN?
Raves in the 90s…
Growing up raving in the midwest scene, when was the first time you made the connection between lyrical MC’ing and Electronic Music?
The first time I went to a rave I walked in and it was the JVC (Jungle Vibe Collective) at the 17th and Lake street spot, which was a warehouse space the JVC leased and did weekly raves , and there were MCs…. And it was the first time I had heard the music so right away I made the connection. It was Bumpyscrew, Brace, and Stun on the mic and I think Fakt or Catalyst DJ’ing. It blew my mind! So I was hooked from the jump. Back then the music wasn’t really on the radio or in the clubs. You pretty much had to get a mixtape from a friend or go to a rave to hear Jungle in the US.
What was your experience with MC’ing at that point? Had you already been mc’ing or was that what got you into it?
I had maybe thought about it before but yeah that’s what got me started rapping… DNB Jungle rave music.
Who is the first UK MC that you heard and what did you think of that?
The fist UK MC I heard was Skibbadee at a party called “Inside the Ride” which was the infamous Rave in a Cave in St. Paul MN. I saw Skibba for the first time and he was phenomenal! I mean, he’s rapping in a sandstone cave near the banks of the Mississippi where mobsters used to hide their liquor and shit, and it blew my mind! I had seen a few guys before thatyou know, some local guys and I thought it was cool and all, but when I saw Skibbadee it was a gamechanger. This was 1997…I wasn’t very old like maybe 14 or 15 years old. My sister used to babysit me and then bring me to rave parties (laughs) and then tell my mom that we were sleeping at her girlfriend’s house. It wasn’t like I was some super cool kid, I was just a young kid getting dragged out to these raves and I loved it. That’s when I went home and started writing rhymes after seeing Skibbadee.
Living in a place where Soundclash and Reggae culture was lesser known, were you met with some resistance along the way? How were you able to develop your own style here in the US?
I didn’t really know shit. I didn’t grow up in England. I didn’t grow up in Jamaica. I didn’t know about Soundclash [culture] until I got older. I didn’t know anybody else’s culture really. I knew OUR culture here locally. And I thought it was so real what we were doing. Honestly, I have to go back to Hip Hop I mean I was just growing up listening to Hip Hop as kid. Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Nas, WuTangWe didn’t really didn’t have a Jamaican influence directly. We were stoked on what the UK guys were doing, but we were just trying to do it our way. We just couldn’t do it like them. There were a lot of great guys that were growing up MC’ing around me that didn’t sound like they wanted to be British dudesno disrespect but they sounded like straight up American dudes fast-rapping. Just like people in the graffiti game have a different style on the West Coast than the East Coast… Well we have our own flavor in the Naughty North, in Minneapolis MN. So when people ask me about my style, I just say it’s the Naughty North Style.
So since we’re talking culture, is it true you’re from Newfoundland Canada? What sort of connection do you see between the ethos of that culture and what you do?
Yeah, I’m originally from Newfoundland Canada, so yeah I guess its a source of pride for me. But it’s not like there’s a Dnb scene out there that I’m repping or anything. The only reason I might mention that stuff in rhymes or whateverits just a source of pride for where I’m from.
So lets talk about new things on the horizon. It’s 2015. DnB has gone through so many phases and MC’s have gotten better and better. What are you trying to do?
Well I’ve been trying to push the people around me. And I’ve been reaching out to new people. I mean I grew up doing this before the internet, before Facebook, so its cool now to be able to look up any other MC in the world, research them, peep game on their style and then if I like them, hit them up directly. Or get on a collaboration and even at a minimum just be like “Hey you’re really dope. Keep making music!” So that’s something that is a priority for me right now. I want to continue reaching out to to ther MC’s and keep bigging up the MC game here in the US. Making singles. Mixtapes. Videos. Whatever it takes.
So tell us about this new video you just dropped.
Yeah, the tunes is called “Run This”. I did it with Frosty, Virgo, and General Malice. I went to Chicago and filmed the whole thing myself. I mean I’m not the Steven Spielberg of jungle or anything but I had to make it happen.
So that was for MIA crew? Who’s all involved in that?
There’s so many states and people involved. But I’m really mostly connected with the guys in Chicago. I was homies with a lot of those guys even before joining the crew. Frosty, Danny [The Wild Child], Roger [RP Smack], Fonz De La Mota, MC Questionmark. I mean I knew a lot of those guys before I was in the MIA crew. All great people. I got lot of respect for the guys out in Chicago.
What do you guys mean by “run this”? What are you running?
Just like the style. The Naughty North style. Straight up. I mean when it comes to MIA…when I go to Chicago, I love the vibe. I wrote that song to pay homage to the crew. To give them an anthem. We were in the studio fucking around at SOS Studios in Chicago and I was like “Hey I want to make an anthem” you know? Something that’s cool for the whole crew to play and put on mixtapes. So that’s basically how I thought about it. Then I brought the idea up to my partner Virgo and some other friends and we kinda sketched some stuff out. Then we brought Frosty up from Chicago for a show, actually the final Konkrete Jungle Minneapolis show. And then we grabbed General Malice and Virgo and hit the studio and wrote everything in one night.
For so long in the DnB scene, the MC has always been secondary to the DJ, at least in the US. What is your vision for MC’ing in US Drum & Bass?
Sometimes as MC’s, we’re put on the bottom of the flyer. The game isn’t taken serious and I think part of that is that motherfuckers aren’t serious and a lot of people aren’t on the level that they should be. But this country is vast and there are pockets of people everywhereLos Angeles,San Diego,Toronto, Dallas, New York, Chicago, all around the U.S. that are really talented MC’s but we need to change the way that MC’s are looked at in American DnB and for me personally, I want to change DnB in America through the MC game. We’re known for being Hip Hop MC’s over here and I want to make that stand out in DnB and I want people to think about MCs when they think about American DnB. I respect all the forefathers in the UK that showed me how to do it right and showed me style and I want to pay homage back to those guys by having them be impressed by what we’re doing over here.
What types of things could promoters do to foster that culture?
They could make sure that the MC has separate monitors in the back behind the DJ and are run through the main board instead of the DJ mixer so that the levels are nice and controlled and it doesn’t fuck with the DJ. Also, if you’re not into the MC thing, that’s cool but you’re the representative of this culture and if you want to foster a scene without that aspect then I guess that’s on you, but its a shame for those who appreciate the art and want to keep it in the dance.
Do you think MC should freestyle all the time or come with some prepared material?
Well, even the greatest MC’s you’ve ever seen…They have pre written lyrics. Any of ’em. Now they could freestyle and go off the top but everybody has a bag of tricks. Don’t be confused thinking you can just freestyle and bs your way through this stuff. You have to have a bag of tricks and lyrics on the go. You have to put on a show.
Yeah exactly. You aint gonna show up to the DMC championships and just freestyle it completely! Nah man you gotta sharpen your game trump tight.
Any shout outs?
Yeah no doubt, big up all my MIA crewMr.Frosty, Al Fonz de la Mota, General Malice, MC Question Mark, Danny The Wild Child, DJ Oracle, Dj Quest, Selekta Steel, MC Tae, Mega Mike, Kode X, MC Rifle, RP Smack, Mizeyesis, Kit Liquid. Shots out to DJ Virgo MC Brace and all my Minneapolis posse. Gotta big up MC Astro and all the Two Tone crew, Big up Mighty Monks and all the crew in San Antonio, Large up Manny Vibes in SF, Shots out to Josh and Jeremy the American Jungle movie I heard is hitting the streets this year, Big up the Canadian crew, and shots out to Ragga Scum. All my friends and family and anyone who digs what I do.
Mike is the Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of the DNB Vault who, notably, was a long time writer for the now defunct KMAG while covering music and events from Warp Tour, NOFX, Dirtyphonics and Benny Page.