Some people say you make rap for grown folks. What say you to that?
MaD SoN: Our music has matured and grown with us throughout the years. Being a great battle MC is not as important as being a great father and husband these days. We have always written music with themes that mattered to us at the time we wrote it. Our fan base has grown with us. We used to see teens to 20-somethings at our shows and now a majority of our fan base is 25 to 35 years old.
Big Jess: I like the fact we’re true to the music we make. We don’t write about a life we don’t live. We don’t party like we used to, so we don’t write about partying like that anymore. Our music tends to be on some “Grown Man sh*t”.
You’re one of the few Minnesota hip-hop groups not on Rhymesayers or Doomtree. Would you call yourselves underdogs?
Mad SoN: Everyone loves an underdog…but it can also get annoying after a while. We are definitely ready to shed that title. I’d rather us be known for making great music album after album. Being able to grow musically but still stay true to our positive message and themes. We are true DIYers. We write, record, mix, promote, and perform our own music. We have fans that stretch from California to Greece, from Canada to Japan and from Germany and Sweden. Not bad for a couple guys from Northeast Minneapolis.
How did you and Jess meet initially?
We met in high school. Jess had been writing/performing rap music since junior high — his dad was a incredible jazz/blues guitarist so he would record using his equiptment. I was a guitar player in a bunch of rock bands. My nick name was “Banger Mike” — ha. Jess hung out with the basketball players and I hung out with the freaks. Around our junior year, we started hanging out with the same crowd — the neighborhood hoodlums — and my rock taste turned towards hip-hop. Jess asked me to play guitar on one of his songs and that is what sparked my interest in making music with him. I wrote a 16-bar verse one day and used a karaoke machine to record my verse on Masta Ace’s “Terror” song. I played it for Jess and he was shocked when I told him that it was me rapping on the song.
So when did the band really start to form?
Tell us about the first time you recorded together and how it’s different now.
MaD SoN: We recorded the Prophecy album back in 1996 in Jess’ grandma’s basement (where he was living at the time). It was recorded on reel to reels and was a long process. We loved to record back then, and still do today. Today though, we have the ability to record on our own time without feeling rushed. We can bounce ideas back and forth with each other now when we want. Jess and I both put in an equal amount of writing the music nowadays whereas in the past Jess handled most of the production. Recording the final project at Jess’ home studio is always interesting. When we both combine our ideas it always turns out amazing in the end.
How do you define your style of production?
Big Jess: That’s a hard one. I listen to a bit of everything and somehow a bit of it gets thrown into the creative pot.
Are you happy with the amount of success the UPs have had?
Big Jess: Yes, I’m happy. Of course you want more, but we’ve done this for 10 years with no budget and no label. We’ve done pretty well.
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