Going Up While Staying Down: St. Paul’s Metasota and Tek

Still the United Snakes, Land of the Thief, Home of the Slave
By    July 30, 2015


Jack Spencer asks, “what’s the plural of bae?”

In the heyday of the underground Twin Cities scene,  Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Eyedea, and many other standout artists created something by deconstructing New York boom-bap into an introspective and localized re-visioning of rap’s potential. But in struggling to define itself in opposition to the mainstream, much of underground rap intentionally closed itself off to new ideas, favoring recycled modes of creative production that felt flat over time. As the Internet reshaped conceptions of the mainstream/indie divide, underground rap’s idea of itself (as an alternative sound) eventually gave way to every artist’s dream: being creatively stuck.

Still, the Twin Cities scene can be a breeding ground for quality artists working outside of rap’s conventions, and continues to produce some of the more interesting artists in the modern underground world. Take St. Paul’s Metasota, for instance. He’s established an impeccable track record between his #BlackFriday album, his pair of Happy I’m Present projects, and his staggering Meta May series, which chronicled a month’s worth of tracks written, recorded, and released in a single day.

Along for the ride was Tek, a frequent collaborator who’s dropped several self-produced projects. His latest, Midway Motel, is the perfect example of a rap artist extending himself, trying out styles and loosening his personal parameters. The Twin Cities brand is one that aims for meaningful lyrics, and while for many that can mean boxing how the final product sounds, Tek intentionally grafted his lyrical acumen with his ever-adapting producer’s ear.

The pair recently dropped a quick four-song project that pinpoints their respective places as traditionalist innovators, the impressive #HurryUpAndBye.

The album begins with a condemnation of American racism, that contextualizes current tensions with a sample from the opening scene from Menace II Society. A common practice in the politically-charged gangsta rap of the early nineties, clips from 90’s black cinema recall an era when hardcore hip-hop played like radicalized protest music. But the song is the album’s most contemporary in terms of stylistics: Metasota sing-raps through auto-tune in triplets over a booming synth while Tek drops whooping ad-libs, slowly building his own monstrous verse that introduces booming trap drums before dropping out abruptly barely a minute and a half in.

Later, we’re led through stuttering jazz loops and samples of Soulja Boy talking about his iced-out, non-functional
wristwatch. Calling excessive consumption and retail therapy into question, “Wristwatch” uses a casual flow to be both self-reflective and combative. It’s a tone that continues to different degrees on “Everybody Knows” and “Scenario,” with atmospheric backdrops propping up gassed-up boasts.

#HurryUpAndBye is tightly constructed and consistently gains momentum over it’s 15 minutes. A subtle progression from the Twin Cities modern, post- boom-bap landscape, it’s hybridized rap that sounds distinctive to St. Paul’s industry-outsider scene.

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