Despite the increasing number of live shows by established hip-hop-related artists coming through the Low Country and Coastal Empire of late, there is no doubt that over the past year, one downtown venue has wound up at the epicenter of cutting-edge, underground rap shows and that venue may surprise you.
The Jinx, a West Congress Street music room and bar thats primarily known as a punk and metal club, has slowly fostered a strong Tuesday night clientele that is all about rap and breakdancing.
Thats right, I said breakdancing.
As if to prove the old adage that everything old is new again, popping, body-locking, and generally acting like Rerun from Whats Happening!! (and Whats Happening Now!!, for those of you keeping score at home) is all the rage once more and along with it, is the sort of adventurous, envelope-pushing hip-hop and rap that initially helped fuel that dance revolution. The Jinxs weekly Underground Hip-hop Night finds local DJs D-Frost and Selvis spinning records, working the crowd up, and then turning the stage over to the audience. Toward the end of the night, the show morphs into a freestyle Open Mic, with everyone encouraged to try their hand at rhyming on the mic, or taking a spin on some cardboard.
From time to time, the club will even bring in a touring hip-hop act that would otherwise never visit Savannah, but its a safe bet these groups wont be Lil Jon knockoffs. On the contrary, the type of hip-hop and rap The Jinx books is much more akin to indie rock in terms of how its made, marketed, and promoted.
One such act that is finding a niche for itself in this most unlikely of places is Atlantas Minamina Goodsong.
Pronounced Muh-NUH-muh-NUH, their moniker is a sly reference to an old song made famous by Jim Hensons Muppets, and its that same sort of playful, good-natured attitude that shines through in both the groups lyrics and orchestration.
The racially diverse quartet of three MCs and one DJ are all in their early thirties, and are set to release their fifth independent album, Four Farmer Circus, on August 9 the very same day theyre appearing at The Jinx.
That concept record, like their most recent discs, will drop on the small but respected label ArcTheFinger (home to a few other up-and-coming hip-hop projects, such as Psyche Origami). Its a dense, catchy amalgam of modern-day lyrical flow, tried-and-true old-school beat-box formulas, and a healthy dose of the unexpected that will instantly draw comparisons to the work of De La Soul, The Goats, and even Ween (three of the groups acknowledged influences).
The disc features cameo appearances by a veritable whos who of Atlantas underground rap scene, and with a freshly-inked distribution deal through RedEye, a series of high-profile live gigs with everyone from The Streets to the Black-Eyed Peas, and the knowledge that several of their instrumental tracks will soon be featured on episodes of Cartoon Centrals Adult Swim, Minamina Goodsong seem poised on the brink of some sort of breakthrough success.
MC Evan AD Wix (oddly enough, son of Georgia State Representative Don Wix) and I spoke by phone just before his group walked onstage in Pittsburgh to play their first in a series of shows on the current leg of the fabled Warped Tour.
Connect Savannah: You guys have played Savannah before, correct?
Evan AD Wix: Yeah. We were there last April. It was actually one of the best shows weve done in a while. It was a great crowd. We got a great reception. We really love Savannah, as well. Being from Atlanta, coming down there is like going on vacation or something.
Connect Savannah: Your band is pretty straight-up hip-hop, but youre drawing a wider variety of people than most hip-hop acts. Is that due to conscious marketing?
Evan AD Wix: Its not something that we do on purpose. Were like most artists. We just make the kind of music we like, and we hope it appeals to other people. I think a lot of it has to do with our personalities. We dont come across as thug rappers. Were kinda silly and lighthearted. We enjoy what we do, and we like to interact with the crowd, and that makes people comfortable with us. Weve also gotten a lot of support outside of the hip-hop community, through things like 99X radio in Atlanta. Weve played a lot of shows with indie rock bands, punk rock bands... We even played with a death metal band once! (laughs)
Connect Savannah: Does that work well?
Evan AD Wix: Oh, yeah. We appreciate all different types of music, not just rap. But our heart definitely lies with hip-hop, and specifically underground hip-hop.
Connect Savannah: Hows the tour going?
Evan AD Wix: Great. Weve been out for about three weeks now. For these Warped tour dates, well be appearing on what they call the Code of Tha Cutz stage, which is just reserved for alternative hip-hop. Well play Atlanta, and then well do four shows in Florida: Jacksonville, Tampa, Pompano Beach and Orlando. Then well hit Savannah.
Connect Savannah: Do you expect that most of the airplay youll receive for this CD will come not from mainstream hip-hop stations, but from edgy, alternative rock outlets?
Evan AD Wix: Yeah, pretty much. I think most of the stations we sent it out to were college radio or commercial alternative stations. Were definitely not opposed to being played on the Urban format, but were not locked into or banking on that.
Connect Savannah: Do you ever feel like youre under some sort of pressure to remain on the leading edge of underground hip-hop?
Evan AD Wix: Not really. I know we feel like we want to constantly grow as artists and musicians I guess we could be considered musicians but our music is a bit of a throwback to the old school. We feel an obligation to make great music, but not because of anything anyone outside the band has said or done.
Connect Savannah: This is the first record youve made where youve had any real input from your label during the recording process. Did that work out for the best?
Evan AD Wix: Actually, we did take some of their feedback and made a few small changes. Were all really happy with the way the album came out.
Connect Savannah: Whats the concept behind the CD?
Evan AD Wix: PGnut who is another one of the MCs and our main producer hes a huge fan of old cheesy horror movies. So, we developed a story about a creepy travelling circus. Throughout the story we change into these weird villains. As the album progresses, it gets darker and darker. Thats a change for us, but even though it might seem dark on the surface, its more of a spoof. Its kinda deadpan, like Leslie Neilsen.
Connect Savannah: I know your father is very involved in state politics.
Evan AD Wix: Ive actually worked in political advertising for quite a while myself, but weve all recently left our day jobs and have put our faith in the music thing. The label seems to be doing a good job with promotion. A long as we can live comfortably by making our music, thats all we care about, and it seems like things are moving in that direction.
Connect Savannah: What got you into hip-hop?
Evan AD Wix: I grew up playing a lot of basketball, and being around that and glued to the TV I was attracted to it.
Connect Savannah: So, is your dad a hip-hop fan?
Evan AD Wix: (laughs long and hard) I think hes comin around. He went to Vietnam and grew up in the 60s. I was definitely raised and still am a big fan of classic rock. He actually taught me quite a bit about how important it is to appreciate different types of music. Hes come to a few shows, and my whole family has been extremely supportive.
Connect Savannah: But hes not slipping you any rhymes?
Evan AD Wix: No, no. (laughs) Hes not tryin to break into the hip-hop game!
Connect Savannah: Any chance hed hit you up for a political jingle? Thats a whole new angle for his message.
Evan AD Wix: (Laughs) Thats true, ill have to mention that to him and well see what we can do.
Evan Minamina Goodsong play The Jinx Tuesday night as part of that clubs weekly Alternative Hip-hop night, which also features DJs D-Frost and Selvis and an Open Mic Freestyle and Breakdancing Showcase. The free show starts promptly at 10 pm and is open to anyone 18+.