he pantheon of hip-hop is stacked with dynamic two-man, MC & DJ groups. Eric B. and Rakim laid the foundation, Gangstarr invented jazz rap, and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth successfully paired fierce horns with mellow-yet-aggressive flows. E.P.M.D. brought the funk and are considered by many to be the greatest MC/DJ pairing of all time. If they had a comparable publicist, the Micranots - Minneapolis-based I SelfDivine and Atlanta-based DJ Kool Akiem - would be right there.
The Nots made considerable underground noise in 1996 with Return of the Travelahs, a 15-track ATL/MPLS collaboration originally released only on cassette, in an extremely limited run. The tape's raw, jazzy sound brilliantly displayed Self's penchants for hyper kinetic, double Dutch rhymes sparked by agility and purpose. Kool Ak's compositions proved to be a coherent fusion of booming upright bass-lines, sick horns, tight scratches, and obscure samples ranging from sources as varied as Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" and long-forgotten, twilight TV shows.
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The Emperor And The Assassin
Their 1999 EP Farward
advanced the game with a seasoned rendition of the stirring, time-traveling title cut, and the group's first 12-inch single, the forceful "All Live." With the following year's Obelisk Movements
, the Micranots explored the thematic connections between the stolen monuments of Egypt and Ethiopia and hip-hop's inverted obelisk, the turntable needle. On this LP, the duo's sharp politics took center stage with titular references to Marcus Garvey and Lee "Scratch" Perry, and a greater emphasis on keys and strings. Cuts like "Preparations," "Illegal Business," and "The Willie Lynch" showcased sharp commentary that transformed each track into a "rebel song of triumph" over urban stagnation and frustration.
The Micranots' latest LP, The Emperor and the Assassin, lives up to their high standards, as does I SelfDivine's side project, The Anti-Album. Both challenge oil wars, clone diners, and America's need to consume, and are chock full of the beats, rhymes, and strife that Micranot fans have come to expect from MPLS, the frozen city up I-35. •